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

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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 "Abercrombie is sticking to its guns of conventional beauty, even as that standard becomes outdated."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."

University of Utah graduates and owners of Beauty Redefined, Lexi and Lindsey Kite, chimed in after several posts on their Facebook page regarding Jeffries' choices for his company.

"Abercrombie's CEO has just reinforced the truth and necessity of Beauty Redefined," the post said. "Thank you, Mike Jeffries! Ladies, we must not let profit-driven media makers sell us lies about our value and our worth. We are capable of so much more than that."

Sara Taney Humphreys, an writer for the Huffington Post, questioned if the statements could in fact be true in her article, "A Message to Abercrombie's CEO from a Former Fat Girl." After taking a second glance and realizing that Jeffries had actually made such statements, Humphreys concluded that such a man must not have had children of his own.

"He's never had his 8-year-old come home in tears because another kid teased him in front of the rest of the class. He never had to watch his daughter cry herself to sleep because she somehow felt that she didn't measure up, that she wasn't good enough due to the shape or size of her body."

The message of self-worth is not only important for teenage girls, but for their mothers as well. This month Dove held self-esteem workshops during the 2013 Mom 2.0 Summit in Laguna Niguel, Calif. In a report from Farah L. Miller with the Huffington Post, Miller expressed the important role families, rather than culture, can play on young girls.

"Listening to them, I realized that I need to model confidence for my daughter because she is learning from me, yes, but also because putting myself down hurts her," Miller wrote. "It means tackling what's on the inside, being as secure in my own skin as I want her to be in the world."

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