Friday, May 17, 2013

Ubercrummie

I am sure by now most of you have been tuned into the drama that is Abercrombie & Fitch.  Their CEO, a darling of man named Michael Jeffries, when questioned about not offering sizes larger than "Large" offered this public relations nightmare of a reason: "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."

Does Mr. Jeffries have the right to offer the sizes he wants in his store?  Is this all not a public relations gaffe but one that is brilliant in its offense?  Who doesn't want exclusivity?  When you're in high school and Jenny who is a size "0" (what the hell is a "0" anyway?) and Mary who is a size "14" come in wearing the same $38 t-shirt emblazoned with a company logo who would you rather emulate?

I am not in the business of thin bashing (although my previous remarks on a size "0" say otherwise) or fat shaming.  We are the size we are.  I am bashing the Machiavellian Marketing of Jeffries and the Stupidity of the average teenaged shopper.  Paying $38 for the privilege of advertising a clothing company across your boobs is insanity.

I was a teenager once, despite what my daughters believe.  Our Summer fashion crisis were shirts from Banana Republic that had their logo and an exotic animal sketched on the back.  Each month a new animal shirt was "released" for purchase.  Girls would flock to the then tiny store at the local mall and compare who had what animal.  If my weary mind serves me correctly the shirts sold for about $10.  Needless to say I did not own one.  My mother offered the same argument I am laying out here:  why are you paying to advertise for a company?  This is not a sour grapes essay, by the by, did I envy those girls?  Sure.  Then it wasn't a "size-ism" issue, it was a financial divide the clothing company was creating.

A&F does both and does both brilliantly.  Most sane parents would look at a blue t-shirt, whatever the saying or logo, and scoff at paying $38.  The fact these items now don't go beyond a "large" (I am guessing an approximate size of 8/10) creates a new layer of divisiveness.

Some interesting things have been born of this story, namely a college student, Greg Karper, made hay of Jeffries 2006 interview (weird how this is coming to light 7 years later) and created a YouTube video gone viral.  Karper's campaign against A&F includes donating all of the brands' items to the homeless.  On the surface, donating gently used clothing to the homeless is an Awesome Thing To Do.  One could make the argument the cool kids only get to wear A&F but now also do dirty, grimy, underfed homeless people do too.

Taking clothing discards as part of a social/political campaign and giving them to the discards of society, well that doesn't sit too well in my stomach.  Why?  It is the intent behind the action.  It turns, what could be a feel good action of donating to the less fortunate into a sideshow of sorts.  Remember the story early last year about the South by Southwest Festival using the homeless as WiFi hotspots?  Oh, well the homeless are sitting there doing nothing anyway, why not use a human, a human being, as an inanimate object useful to the not unfortunate masses?

In the end, Jeffries and Karper come out winners for their causes.

"There is no such thing as bad publicity" - P.T. Barnum

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