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Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: Abercrombie and Fitch CEO Michael Jeffries

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Image from Flikr Creative Commons courtesy of FaceMePls

Last Friday, I wrote a post about how Abercrombie & Fitch’s CEO Michael Jeffreys’ message hurts us all, no matter how fat or thin, pretty or ugly, rich or poor, popular or unpopular. Yet, upon closer inspection, I am compelled to retract my statement. In fact, I think Jeffreys’ should be given serious consideration for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Bear with me.

The Birth of Fashion

At one time, early in human history, clothing served to protect humans from the elements and keep them warm. But, what many of you might NOT know was that everyone looked the same, running around in somewhat smelly saber-tooth outerwear.

It was really Ug who came up with the first line of saber-tooth necklaces to accessorize these early, boring designs. Ug later inspired Og to use the teeth of a boar as bracelets. Not only could one look smashing day OR night, but boar-tooth bangles gave the wearer the opportunity to brag and take credit for killing said object of accessory.

Og, being  brilliant entrepreneur, soon realized men of the tribe could also give gifts of HATS made of feathers to their mates for more nookie.

This was the beginning of fashion status, because any dude who could find a basket of clamshells and heaping handful of shiny rocks to trade Og for a feather-hat had a happy mate (and, of course, more nookie). Wifey could look better than all the other females while chewing on mammoth hide to make blankets…and maybe even some more fashion.

Og noticed that deerskin dresses were NOT exactly slimming, so the invention of the “belt” soon followed. The “belt” was just what human males needed to tell which of the tribe’s women had the best birthing hips.

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Original image via Cliff1066 Flikr Creative Commons

Fashion For the Ugly

As centuries passed, fashion was a privilege of the wealthy and helped distinguish between classes. BUT—and this is WAY more important—fashion was made to make ugly people pretty. See, the “blue-bloods” (royalty) believed it was best to keep everything in the family  *wink, wink* and, within a few incestuous generations, the royal families looked like they needed a banjo and some moonshine to go with the crown and scepter.

How else could the King Charles II of Spain distract from his face long enough to make more ugly royal babies? FASHION.

Boy, I hope she looks at this big red bow instead of my FACE.
Boy, I hope she looks at this big red bow instead. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Fashion Evolves into Art

As time went on, fashion still had the purpose of distinguishing social status and that hasn’t changed. It also had the purpose of making ugly people, regular people, pretty people and even gorgeous people look WAY BETTER. Why be pretty if you could be STUNNING?

In fact, the mark of a real designer is the clothes can make anyone look good.

But some fashion designers decided that the use of lampshades, mousetraps and Slinkies in clothing design was under appreciated. These designers couldn’t use models who looked like Marilyn Monroe or Sophia Loren to wear these designs, because we’d be too distracted by these models’ beautiful faces and curvy bodies and wouldn’t see the strategically placed Vita-Mix in their hats.

Thus we see models evolve into poofy-lipped coat hangars. We wouldn’t be looking at the 6’3″, 110 pound model and so we’ll appreciate the use of tin foil and paperclips as a skirt as art.

Ice Bag Hats are All the Rage
Ice Bag Hats are All the Rage

Thus far we can see fashion has had numerous purposes:

Shelter from the Elements

Status

Beauty Enhancement

Art

And this is Why Jeffries is One of the Brilliant Minds of Our Times

Jefferies has used his company Abercrombie & Fitch for an entirely new purpose, previously unexplored in fashion (more on that in a moment). First, let’s see how A&F stacks up on the “Fashion Litmus Test.”

Protection From The Elements

Since all clothing protects from the elements (even the hat made with a pipe wrench, Saran Wrap and deer antlers) A&F fits this purpose. Wear an A&F hoodie to keep warm or an A&F hat to keep from burning your nose at the beach. Fair enough.

Status

Okay, with their ridiculous prices, it does limit the demographic of people who can purchase said items to those with money (or to those willing to lose their hearing to purchase a tank top). Thus, it’s safe to assume that A&F fits the second purpose of fashion. Being better than other people.

Ah, but the third….

Beauty Enhancement

By his own admission, Jeffries’ admits their designs have no power to make average people look better. He contends that A&F seeks only beautiful people to wear A&F clothes, that he wants “models” in their “fashion.” Plain, ugly, boring, unpopular, fat, shy, individualistic, or poor people need not apply.

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Straight from the horse’s….mouth. Yeah, mouth. (Meme from FB)

Art

I think we can all agree that A&F is not going to give Chanel, Prada, Versace, or Bulgari any real competition.

A&F and Its “Models”

First of all, Mr. Jeffries’, in case you are unaware of this fact, models are supposed to be PAID to wear the clothing for a designer. Thus, freeloading off the beautiful people is just in poor taste. For the beautiful, popular people out there, I sincerely hope you will see how you’re being used (and at least demand a discount).

And…make sure I have this correct.

Since A&F clothing can’t make regular people look better, and Jeffries’ doesn’t want over 67% of the United States wearing them, essentially what Jeffries’ wants is for gorgeous people with six-pack abs and killer bodies…to PAY exorbitant prices TO HIS COMPANY to model for them for FREE.

Man, that is pretty sharp. And to think, all these other designers have been actually paying models all these years. Wow, I sure hope the other designers don’t catch on to this indentured servitude business model.

No, Really, Jeffries IS a GENIUS

Aside from figuring out a way for beautiful, popular people to pay his company to model for free, Jeffries has given a new purpose to fashion…one never properly used before.

Fashion As WARNING Label

Hey, we have warnings on cigarettes, alcohol, and even food. There are warnings on medications and even a warning not to blow dry our hair while showering. Yet, to this day, we’ve had no proper way to label narcissistic jerks with the emotional depth of a sea cucumber.

A&F is here to help humanity.

Think of all the time and money we will save!

A&F Fashions will Revolutionize Dating

Guys, you won’t have to waste time taking a gal to a $100 dinner to watch her treat the staff like they’re dirt on her feet. Her A&F blouse was an easy warning label to take her for a quick $4 Starbucks coffee instead…until you can pretend your dog died and get the hell out of there.

Gals, no more wasting weeks or months to see if a guy is kind and has a good heart, thus boyfriend material. If he’s still sporting A&F after all this? Probably going to be a tough relationship. There won’t be enough room in the front seat of his car for him, his artificially inflated ego, and you.

So prepare to move on and date other good-looking popular guys who refuse to be used as free models. OR…get used to riding in the back seat…and walking three steps behind…and sharing all the mirrors. And if a huntsman knocks on your door holding a box and a knife? Your date’s realized ur prettier than him and it’s his way of “breaking up.”

RUN.

Abercrombie & Fitch Making Life Simpler for Us All

Think how easy it will be to spot the mean girls in high schools, the jerks at sporting events, the bullies in bars? Since the attitude of A&F is clearly, “We wear this because we are better than you” we won’t have to waste any time or emotional energy dealing with self-deluded @$$hats.

Three Cheers to Abercrombie & Fitch!!!

Thank you for making our lives SO much easier. We are so busy these days and so much is expected with balancing work and school and family. It really does take a lot of emotional energy to weed out the narcissistic @$$clowns in our lives, but you….you *sniff*…you have saved us.

If we now date some guy or gal with a wardrobe from Abercrombie & Fitch, we are no longer going in blindly. Thank you for your contribution to humanity. Sure, we could give a Nobel to someone who cured CANCER, but Jeffries’ figured out how to properly label jerks.

Tough choice, I know.

CAUTION:

Use of this clothing has been known to cause extreme swelling of the head, an unusual paranoia about gaining weight or being seen without makeup. Wearing these designs can cause bullying and a consuming need to feel better than everyone else. A&F designs are merely articles of clothing and are not meant to fulfill emptiness in your soul. If you choose to wear A&F clothing and experience any of these symptoms—mocking of fat people, picking on poor people, over-obsession with level of popularity—please stop wearing immediately and consult a friend or acquaintance who wears Wal Mart clothes for a reality check.

All right, I am finished picking on Jeffries’. At least this has been good for important lessons in life and a good laugh. We all can use more laughter.

I always liked A&F clothes, but this stinky attitude that’s now been attached to them? BOO! HISS! We can want to look beautiful without throwing others under the bus. Beauty is all around us, and hopefully more companies will start seeing that.

What are your thoughts? For the pretty people, do you think you should at least get a DISCOUNT instead of being used as free models? For those of you who previously liked Abercrombie & Fitch, does Jeffries’ attitude make you want to donate your A&F clothes…but then you’d feel sorry for whoever bought them?

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Meme from Facebook

I wasn’t going to blog at all this week. Have been taking a break and refueling. But when I came in from being away for a week, one of the first articles I saw was regarding Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Michael Jeffries’ “marketing campaign” for the preppy clothing line (quoted in the meme above).

Jeffries is being hailed by some marketing experts as a brilliant visionary, but I wonder how he would be perceived if he was excluding people of color or sexual orientation. What would people think if he only wanted “white kids” or “straight people” wearing his clothing line?

Don’t get me wrong, A&F has the right to define their demographic, but we as consumers have a right not to buy clothes from such an uncreative designer that has such a warped vision of beauty and a skewed sense that Skinny=Popular & Cool. Even Perez Hilton weighed in on this matter.

A&F’s marketing campaign is as deep as a puddle, so as a former copy writer, I thought that maybe I could offer some assistance:

We at Abercrombie & Fitch are seriously uncreative fashion designers. It takes true talent to make larger people look equally amazing, and we simply lack that skill and prefer to take the easy route. Hey, it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to make a Size 00 woman look attractive, but to design clothes that make a size 14 woman look just as hot? Wow. We’d totally have to go back to school for that, and then we wouldn’t have time to spray our cologne all over the mall like a crop-duster.

I know this might seem strange, but I don’t think I am all that offended that they don’t carry larger sizes. A lot of stores don’t. But these other stores are at least smart enough not to use Mean Girls Marketing.

The Real Problem with Abercrombie and Fitch

What is troubling about A&F’s stance is that body size is somehow equivalent with beauty, a great attitude and popularity. If you are over a size 10, then clearly you can’t possess any of these qualities. Conversely, if you are so thin you disappear when you turn sideways, then you must be AWESOME and have it all together.

I think Jeffries’ stance hurts all kids on all ends of the size spectrum.

I was never a cool kid *shock face*. I know!

I was the geek who none of the A&F crowd noticed until they needed help with their Chemistry or Physics homework. High school was very hard for me. I owned three pairs of pants and four shirts and it didn’t take long for the A&F crowd to hone in on this. Many of them made it their life mission to point out I wasn’t like them and that I was not much better than gum on the bottom of their Cole Haan shoes.

In my experience, the people who wore these clothes weren’t popular because they were awesome people; they were popular because they ruled the school like Machiavelli. They were pretty on the outside, but mean to the core. Why?

Hurting people hurt people.

It wasn’t until years later that I realized their behavior stemmed from a profound brokenness. If they didn’t have the trendy clothes, if they were so FAT they had to wear a SIZE SIX, they had no identity. They had to purchase it. The labels promised what they had no power to deliver…meaning. Authentic identity.

While kids like me were having fun making our own bad Kung Fu movies and holding all-night Monty Python marathons with fellow members of the Chess Team, those “cool” kids were puking in the shower, drinking themselves into a stupor, or snorting cocaine so they wouldn’t get too fat for their designer clothes.

Yes, There is the Obvious

I know a lot of us are offended by Jeffries’ attitude toward those of us with a fair share of fluff. That’s easy to be angry about. We know this country is facing an obesity epidemic and we do have to get that under control.

Being too overweight creates all kinds of health problems, but there are plenty of amazing, beautiful, intelligent, kind, wonderful people who can’t fit into A&F clothes.

Yet, I don’t think this is the most insidious part of the A&F message.

Labels Lie and People Die

For years, I was naive (like Jeffries). In high school and college, I wanted so much to be like those “cool” kids. Yet, years later, I was astonished how many of the “popular kids” were dead. Some were homeless because of hopeless drug addiction. Others were in and out of rehab and mental facilities.

So many of the kids I assumed to be the “All-American kid with a great attitude and lots of friends” committed suicide because death was the only way they could see to end their inner suffering so cleverly disguised by distressed denim.

Why did these kids choose to end their own life?

No designer label could give them what they so desperately needed—love, meaning, and genuine connection.

I was guilty. I’d bought into the marketing lie—that these kids with these clothes have everything. Now, being older and wiser, I am deeply saddened. What if I’d had the courage to cross the A&F line and realize that “cool guy” was hurting? Would he still be alive?

His Name was Matt

I cry every time I think of him (crying now as I write this). I had such a crush on him, but I didn’t have the right (clothes) to talk to him. I didn’t have enough money to be his friend, or the right “look” to be his girlfriend.

And Matt committed suicide and I’m angry. I will never be able to tell Matt how awesome I really thought he was. I couldn’t see beyond his clothes to notice his drinking and drug problem. I was blinded by the glare of his designer label, the glare that hid the growing darkness that was consuming him. I took his A&F clothes at face value. They became a barrier I couldn’t cross.

Hey, he’s wearing Abercrombie and Fitch, so everything in HIS world is FABULOUS.

Her Name was Adrian

She was a cheerleader, and I was afraid to talk to her. She died because she drank so much alcohol, she asphyxiated in her sleep. She drank to numb the pain hiding behind her trendy clothes; pain none of us saw.

This Crisis Runs Far Deeper than a Box of Krispy Kremes

I believe we are a country in crisis, not only because we struggle with our weight. We are in crisis because we are too easily drawn into the lie. Thin and beautiful people hurt, struggle and are lonely, too. An $80 t-shirt can’t fill the void. Just go to author and former fashion model August McLaughlin’s blog and she talks about this very issue.

I believe Abercrombie & Fitch has every right to limit their market. They have the right to believe their clothes are only for the pretty people. BUT, they do not have the right to define our humanity.

To all of my Fellow Fluffies…

Y’all are awesome and Jeffries is an @$$clown. You are beautiful and every one of you have something special to offer this world. Ignore idiots. Don’t buy the lie that you aren’t special because you can’t wear their clothes.

BUT, don’t buy the lie that those who sport the A&F line are okay. Some of them are profoundly wounded. The designer label could be their way to hide the hurting and broken person below.

To all of the Beautiful People

Yes, we love looking at pictures of you. Being beautiful and thin on the outside is a gift and one you can be proud of. I hope you will be as saddened by Jeffries’ stance as I am. You are more than your Size 2 jeans.

Many of you are artistic, creative, intelligent, kind and good and that should matter. You are awesome on your own without A&F’s help. For Jeffries to assume his clothes make you YOU should just be insulting.

Dare to Cross the A&F Line

I end with this this letter to Abercrombie & Fitch, which says it all. I know that the good life, the rich life is discovered when we look for beauty everywhere. The world is filled with it, and often it isn’t wearing a pair of overpriced capris. I challenge each and every one of us to be brave enough to cross that A&F line—either defect from it, or reach out in spite of it.

What are your thoughts? Were you as upset and saddened by Jeffries’ message as I was? To the popular crowd, are you insulted that Jeffries assumes his clothes is what makes you worthwhile?

Were you the geek who struggled to fit in? What are your thoughts about this growing narcissism we’re seeing? The rise of body dysmorphia? What do you think is dangerous about this consumer culture? To the parents out there, what does this make you feel in regards to your children?

Or, am I out of line? Am I reading too much into this. Hey, I AM a writer. We over-think almost EVERYTHING :D. Feel free to disagree, I just ask you do it respectfully.

I love hearing from you!

And yes, comments count for my contest, but I am not mentioning my books here because this issue is not to market me, but rather to talk about a growing problem we all need to address.

We are not alone.