Abercrombie & Fitch only sells to 'cool, good-looking' people

Published: Saturday, May 11 2013 5:50 p.m. MDT

In this Thursday, March 28, 2013, photo, a woman works at an Abercrombie & Fitch store in Chicago.

Nam Y. Huh, AP

Enlarge photo»

If the shirtless male workers and sexual images on shopping bags didn't make it clear that Abercrombie & Fitch markets to a specific "type" of customer, then a statement by the company's CEO, Mike Jeffries, makes that known.

According to a recent article from Business Insider, any girl who doesn't fit into a size large isn't welcome at the clothing store.

"Teen retailer Abercrombie & Fitch doesn't stock XL or XXL sizes in women's clothing because they don't want overweight women wearing their brand," Ashley Lutz wrote. "Abercrombie is sticking to its guns of conventional beauty, even as that standard becomes outdated."

Compared to other retail stores geared toward the same demographic, Abercrombie & Fitch is the only company to refuse to provide anything larger than a size 10.

The analysis of Abercrombie & Fitch's size chart comes just after competitor H&M subtly released a plus-sized swim suit collection, which received much praise. Yet while several companies have recognized the importance of including such apparel, including American Eagle and Aeropostale, this clothing line hasn't budged.

Although Jeffries hasn't made any recent comments, he shared the following statement in an interview with Salon magazine in 2006:

"In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids," Jeffries told the magazine. "Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don't belong (in our clothes), and they can't belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny."

Confusingly, within the same interview Jeffries made this statement about race and sexual orientation:

"It's not gay, and it's not straight, and it's not black and it's not white. It's not about any labels. That would be cynical, and we're not cynical."

Robin Lewis, co-author of "The New Rules of Retail," told Business Insider that Jeffries' business plan is about more than simply not offering larger options.

"He doesn't want larger people shopping in his store, he wants thin and beautiful people," Lewis said. "He doesn't want his core customers to see people who aren't as hot as them wearing his clothing. People who wear his clothing should feel like they're one of the 'cool kids.’ ”

Lewis' opinion seems to be correct, as Jeffries gave almost the same explanation for the importance of his company's sexual attraction.

"It's almost everything," Jeffries told Salon magazine. "That's why we hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don't market to anyone other than that."

The controversy has sparked several responses, including a petition on change.org created by Benjamin O'Keefe from Gotha, Fla., which has already attained more than 5,000 signatures. O'Keefe makes the petition personal, as he explains his own past struggle with an eating disorder.

"As a young adult who suffered from an eating disorder, through much of middle and high school, I remember looking at the ads for Abercrombie & Fitch or combing the racks and not seeing anything that fit me," O'Keefe wrote. "But I know that I am not worthless; in fact, I am full of worth and it's time we show young people across the world that they are too.

"Instead of inspiring young people to make healthy choices and better themselves, Mike Jeffries and his company have told them they will never be good enough. Well he is wrong."

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