I’ve seen a lot of people passing around and linking to the story about Mike Jeffries, the CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch. Jeffries, who looks like a villain from Star Trek, apparently won’t allow plus sized women’s clothing to be sold in his stores, because he doesn’t want overweight people wearing his product. He’s also, in the past, stated that he only wants “cool, good looking” customers. He called his company “exclusionary” and said ” a lot of people don’t belong in our stores.” I actually agree with him. Many people don’t “belong” in an Abercrombie and Fitch store. That list includes: Adults, children, and people who have access to any other clothing and apparel establishment.
Here’s what I’m confused about: All the people on the Internet who have expressed shock and disappointment and vowed to never shop at Abercrombie again. So, wait, let me get this straight, the fact that this company and its executives are expressly shallow, superficial and exploitative comes as a SURPRISE to you? You’ve actually been inside an Abercrombie and not realized what sort of clientele they’re after? Quick tip: When the store itself reeks of cheap cologne, the employees aren’t wearing shirts, and they’re blasting music from bands with names like “Shout Out Louds” and “The Spill Canvass” at 1000 decibels, that should be a pretty good indication of what sort of world you’ve just wandered into. This is like if a strip club owner made sexist comments in an interview with Hustler magazine and you reacted by saying: “Hold on… This guy runs a brothel/strip club in a dingy shopping mall and he apparently doesn’t respect women?! What?! Man, I’m never going there again! I’ll only patronize nudie bars run by fine upstanding gentlemen!”
I hope we all understand what the Abercrombie schtick is all about. The jackass CEO, the overpriced merchandise, the soft core porn catalogues, the indie-pop music — this is all part of a marketing strategy. The company says “only cool people shop here”, because that will make people want to shop there so that they’re in the cool club. Pretty simple. Rarely will a business be so forward with that message, but many, many, many companies insinuate it with their advertising. Why do you think every iPhone commercial features young, successful, attractive, hip, well dressed folks? I saw an obese postal worker using an iPhone today but, something tells me, his demographic will never be featured in an advertisement. Is that because Apple doesn’t want middle aged fat people to buy their stuff? No, of course not. It just means Apple wants everyone to WANT to buy their product so they FEEL like young, handsome hipsters. Have you seen that Windows tablet commercial with a bunch of physically fit young people, in business casual outfits, break dancing? I’m guessing that, at most, only 1 percent of all Windows customers can actually break dance, and even they wouldn’t do it in slacks and a vest. But fashionable break dancers are cool. You can be cool just like them if you buy this! Abercrombie only sells to awesome people. If you have Abercrombie, that means you’re awesome! And so on and so on, until thousands of corporations have made billions by peddling this lie. And almost every person in this country is currently falling for it, in some form or fashion.
Face it, 75 percent of what we purchase does not fulfill a need. It fulfills a vanity. We are keeping up with trends, whether we want to believe it or not. So marketing departments have to appeal to that part of us with their marketing strategies. Abercrombie hits us over the head with the “You don’t need this crap but buy it anyway so you can be cool and trendy” message, but they aren’t the only company that sells its merchandise that way. Not by a long shot.