A bombshell in the fashion world this week, business insider and author Robin Lewis told the world what the CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch looks for his his customers: “Looks”.
For those who haven’t read or heard about it on the news, click here.
The Micheal Jeffries exact quote that has caught a lot of attention: “In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. 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.”
When I first read that, my first thought was: “Wow, are there really 68 year olds still stuck in High School when a majority of people gladly left and moved on ages ago? I know a lot of “uncool” kids who have grown up to be amazing, interesting, successful members of society who say getting out of High School was the best thing that could have every happened to them. It meant that they began to matter as human beings, valued for what they had to offer and not what they looked like. I guess in some places, say Abercrombie & Fitch stores, that outdated mentality still exists.
My elementary school experience was a lot like that, and I was part of the 80% “uncool” kids, bullied and tossed aside . I’m fairly lucky, by High School, most of my peers were getting over that mentality. I was finally accepted, and we all spent more time having fun all together over sitting around judging others or trying to label some as better than others.
I have also been overweight my whole life, and I’m quite used to walking through shopping malls and passing by all the stores going: “Nope. Not that one. Not that one either. No. Not a chance!” Those are all the stores that don’t carry my size. I’m not “good” enough to shop at most stores, and those stores do not want to be seen with “fat” shoppers in them anyways. It used to make me angry, really angry. Now I just walk past those stores with the realization that they don’t deserve my money. I’ll spend it where I’m valued for my unique sense of beauty, and we’re I’m accepted.
Of course this story really resonated with me. And it resonated with a lot of people. It seems open letters to Mike Jefferies is the new trending topic of the Internet. I love that people are doing these, in fact, here are some examples:
Here is one written by a friend of a friend of mine. She posted it on Facebook and I even shared it on my wall, as I was really touched by it.
“Abercrombie and Fitch– size: uncool
Actually Mr Michael Jefferies, I must tell you, you are wrong. Some of the most beautiful people I know wouldn’t fit in your clothes. I wasted years of my life, nearly losing my life entirely, to ensure I could be one of the “cool” kids. Like you, the physical was so important to me because it had been what set me apart from everyone else. The “cool” kids harassed me, broke me down, ostracized me, made me hate myself. Yet I still longed to be like them because I felt it was the only way to make myself a worthy person again. Yet when I finally succeeded, I found myself so unhappy, more depressed than I’d ever been. I had won the battle to be thin like the “cool” kids. But I had lost my health, happiness, respect for myself, and had implanted in my mind a battle for control over my body that still continues even today. I fought again, this time, and for the first time, I fought for my health and for me. I realized for myself what I’d always applied to other people: beauty lies within. The coolest people I know, yes some are quite slender. But some are not. And my life would be missing someone important if any of those people were not there. Yes that includes those who you deem to be “uncool”. You see, to me they are all gorgeous and cool, and have so much to offer in the world. They are amazing people. I don’t measure those closest to me in terms of their size. That doesn’t matter. A person’s beauty comes from within and what they bring to the world. It is clear to me that your world must be missing a lot of true beauty, if you’re setting a size limit on anyone who you let into your life. So to be honest, I pity you. The concern for external beauty is just a cloud blocking the light that the “uncool” have to offer. I hope one day you realize that you have an amazingly successful business, that would not falter if you opened the doors to everyone; if you embraced beauty in all sizes, and recognized the beauty inside as well as what’s on the outside; and seeing that external beauty extends through all body sizes and is not limited to those with a small waistline. I’m sure many people would be proud of you if you chose to market your business to everyone, for it would mark a change in your attitude and a clear growth as a person. Until then, I just hope you manage to find peace in the life your leading, because I know by only letting certain “sizes” in, you’re losing a lot of happiness other “sized” people could bring you. The uncool are cooler than you may think, trust me. The measurement of a clothing size does not measure the value of a person. I can fit into your clothes now, but once upon a time I couldn’t. But I can promise you that I was just as good a person then, with a lot to offer to the world, as I am now. The ability to fit into your brand doesn’t define my ability to make an impact on the world and be “cool” to those around me– and it never will. Best of luck to you.
So, here is what most astounds me, in a world where Fashion labels are driven by their brand, what sort of Brand is Mike Jeffries building for his company?
Not only are a majority of people sizes 14 and up, but I’m pretty sure a majority of people have been bullied by some version of “the cool kids”. Or lost someone to suicide, or seen their child slowly die of an eating disorder. When I hear the phrase “The cool kids”, I cringe. I don’t think its wise to have that level of negativity attached to your brand, no matter how much you profit from the exclusivity of it.
To me, Abercrombie and Fitch symbolizes those that are mean, arrogant, materialistic, narcissistic, inconsiderate, selfish, self absorbed and uncaring. And I have no respect for the brand, and very little to those that buy it.