During the infamous ‘high school years’, every individual goes through a phase where he or she tries to find a place in the complex structures of society. As they get older, the teenage pettiness of being ‘cool’, ‘dressing in THE brands’ and ‘acting the part’, tones down and life becomes consumed with educational commitments, starting a career and becoming an adult. Yet while this may be true for most, some adults do persists to follow the teenage mantra – and now that can actually dress the part in Abercrombie & Fitch, a brand that has publicly declared that it only wants to sell its clothes to people that look ‘cool’.
Have you ever watched those ‘all American’ high school movies or TV shows, in which they include various personality and style stereotypes? Personally, such films make me very grateful to have dodged the American style high schools – While I have been told that in reality they are more normal than portrayed, such films pick up on the essence of a divisive teenage society. Thankfully, Malta was never subject to such direct segregations since kids are indirectly forced to mix from a very young age.
Despite this, every school has the ‘cool’ kids that every other wants to emulate and be friends with. I distinctively remember this to be also present during my time at the Maltese high school equivalent (Junior College), where you were only considered to be ‘cool’ if you dressed in certain brands – Diesel, Levi’s, Miss Sixty, Energie, Firetrap etc.
It is quite infuriating that Mike Jeffries, chief executive at U.S. clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch, publicly admits that he only wants to “sell clothes to skinny, attractive people”. In 2006, Jeffries mad the following remarks in an interview:
“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, and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”
Unbelieve-it! If this is what our society has come to, then it is about time we start questioning its level of integrity. A&F clearly want to propagate the ‘high school type’ bullying tactics, judging people on the basis of their appearance.
During my teenage years, I too had spent a lot money in overpriced stores in order to become more ‘socially accepted’. In retrospect, it was quite foolish of me to stoop to that level, yet the teenage years are a time for self-understanding and discovery were such mistakes are bound to happen! As an adult, I have become more focused on improving my approach to interacting with people as opposed to presenting myself in a well perfumed and branded package.
A&F have stopped stocking XL or XXL women’s sizes (men’s sizes are still stocked for bulked up athletes, who are obviously considered to be cool and handsome) as they do not want their clothes to be worn by the ‘uglies’. Furthermore, A&F stores only employ people that are easy on the eye (see above), who represent the customers they want to dress. If you Google A&F employment controversies, you will find a LONG list including:
- Punishing employees in Milan with push-ups and squats
- Forcing employees to buy its products to wear them during their shifts
- Not hiring Muslims becomes they HAVE to wear their religious head scarves
- Discriminating employees on the basis of their race
- Sending an employee with a prosthetic arm to the storeroom so she would not be seen by customers
It is absolutely vile of A&F to make such candid remarks, especially when you consider the US to have one of the highest rates of obesity in the world. Apart from this, teenagers nowadays are subjected to a constant onslaught of what ‘should be and not be’ beautiful, so having a brand that embraces this ideology is even more worrying.
In a society shaped by the skinny, muscled, clean shaven, toned and wrinkle-free – or as I call them, the 0.001% of the world population, I do not accept that a brand excludes adults from buying their clothes because they do not belong. Thankfully, I live in a city where no one really cares what you look like but more about who you are. Such an outlook desperately needs to spread to other parts of the world (Malta included), so brands such as A&F can fade into the background.
It is common knowledge that it is socially unacceptable and degrading for men to look at a woman’s chest when speaking to her. I also think it is equally degrading and socially unacceptable for people to look at my chest for a branded logo and decide whether or not I’m worth their time.
A&F (and sister brands Gilly Hicks and Hollister) can keep their overpriced and tacky ‘All American’ clothes. I’d much rather go for something cheaper and logo-free, and spend the rest of the money on a holiday! And for all those individuals who shop at A&F, you can either feel privileged to be considered ‘cool’ enough to wear their apparel, or you can ask yourself if you feel that you are better than anybody else on the basis of your looks.