Abercrombie & Fitch: A company you love to hate. A company you hate to love.

Tk - A&F Small

If you hear the name  “Abercrombie & Fitch” or walk past the aromatic store at the mall, what comes to mind? With me, it’s always been disgust. I mean, who hasn’t heard the controversies including allegations of discrimination, sexualized teens in ad campaigns, and promoting an elitist attitude on the basis of looks or social status. Human dignity is under fire with this company! Can you believe that  “attractiveness” is a hiring requirement? No joke!

Founded in 1892 in Manhattan by David T. Abercrombie and Ezra Fitch; Abercrombie & Fitch was originally a retailer of fishing rods, fishing boats, camping gear, and tents.

Despite the high-end Hillbilly origins, the Abercrombie & Fitch brand image is heavily promoted as an international near-luxury lifestyle concept according the company’s own admission. The company began inspiring an upscale image after the 2005 opening of its Fifth Avenue flagship store alongside Prada and other upscale retailers. The company coined the phrase “casual luxury.”

Here’s what we know:

  • The company was found guilty of discriminating against African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, and women by preferentially offering floor sales positions and store management positions to Caucasian males.
  • Been accused of promoting the sexualization of pre-teen girls, for example by marketing thongs to 10-year-olds and padded bikini tops to 7-year-olds.
  • In 2013, an interview with the CEO, Mike Jeffries went viral when he stated that his brand is only suitable for “the good-looking, cool kids” and that there are people who don’t belong in his clothes – namely overweight people.
  • (Tulsa Ties) In a lawsuit filed; 17-year-old Samantha Elauf said she applied for a sales position at the Abercrombie Kids store in the Woodland Hills Mall, located in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The teen, who wears a hijab in accordance with her religious beliefs, claims the manager told her the headscarf violates the store’s “Look” policy.
  • A British law student, who was born without a left forearm worked at the company’s flagship store in London’s Savile Row.  She took A & F to court and claimed that although she was initially given special permission to wear clothing that covered her prosthetic limb, she was soon told that her appearance breached the company’s “Look” policy and sent to work in the stock room, out of sight of customers.

Tacky T-Shirts

  • “It’s All Relative in West Virginia.”
  • “L is for Loser” (next to a picture of a male gymnast)
  • “Who needs brains when you have these?”
  • “I had a nightmare I was a brunette”
  • “Wong Brothers Laundry Service – Two Wongs Can Make It White”

But what about the soft materials used in production?  The exceptional craftsmanship? With two teen daughters, I have found myself wandering around the store as of late. In a recent visit; I decided to hang around the clearance rack. I purchased a $14 sweatshirt. This isn’t just any sweatshirt…it’s a luxury sweatshirt (oxymoron?) by any standard.  With its 100% pima cotton….I’ve been wearing this top every weekend!  Honestly, nothing I have compares to the comfort, and of course, the style including the hipster NY skyline isn’t so bad either!

Is this guilty pleasure worth supporting—by way of buying— the nasty things that A & F have been accused of?

The company has made changes… good ones…especially in their hiring practices, but is it too little, too late? I think it might be. There is a new class action suit of more than 62,000 employees of Abercrombie & Fitch who are claiming that they were forced to buy A & F clothes to wear on the job as a uniform. Personally, that seems reasonable. As with a lot of companies in our country’s history where one suit leads to another leads to another (with plenty of attorneys ready to oblige), could it be that A & F are now victims of greed and exploitation? Big industries such as for profit education, health care, restaurants, mortgage companies can all relate to this and often for certain companies, the harm is too difficult to overcome.

Do you shop at Abercrombie and Fitch? Does their negative PR affect your purchasing behavior?

What does a company’s culture mean to you?

9 Comments

  1. Pam Martin on October 27, 2015 at 11:52 am

    The assault of the senses is more than I can handle just walking near the store. I would have an asthma attach and die if I actually walked inside.

    • Teresa on October 27, 2015 at 1:10 pm

      Some people like the smell Pam! LOL!! But I agree it is VERY strong.

  2. Leonda Clements on October 27, 2015 at 1:08 pm

    I do not nor have I ever shopped at A&F, because of their company’s culture. I am proud to say that while trying to find my 20 something son jeans I was ready to succumb to A&F (their jeans fit large muscular thighs, where most do not) and Chance refused. I on the other hand routinely shop at Hobby Lobby, eat at Chick-filet and denounce Starbucks all based on company culture.

    • Teresa on October 27, 2015 at 1:11 pm

      You have always been strong on your convictions, Leonda! I admire that. So many (myself included) have looked the other way if we want something bad enough! I’d be interested in learning what your deal is with Starbucks.

    • ronnie carlson on October 27, 2015 at 1:31 pm

      What is wrong with Starbucks? Because they had one day where they discussed race? They give a lot of money and resources to communities that are poverty stricken, and help implement sustainable economic practices that keep on giving decade after decade. Also, they are one of the only chains that offers health insurance for employees. Personally, that is a culture I would be proud to support.

      • Teresa on October 27, 2015 at 1:34 pm

        The great thing about living in America is being able to spend your money anywhere you want. I 100% support Leonda on this. Personally, I disagree with a lot of the political agendas that Starbucks have pushed for; but overall; they have created a healthy corporate culture for most employees including not only health insurance, but college options.

        • ronnie carlson on October 27, 2015 at 1:42 pm

          Interesting…

  3. Brandy Williams on October 27, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    You know I never knew some of those things about A&F. My son has worn their clothes for about 3 years with him wanting to be like the older cool kids who wore it to school. They have since pulled all of their kids stores from Oklahoma and I stopped buying when they did. Kids have enough to worry about these days with social media selfies, likes and comments, they sure do not need to apply for a job and be told “you are not good looking enough”. When I am shopping I certainly do not care about what the employee’s look like. As long as they are clean, friendly and good at their job it should not matter if they are “good-looking’. Ugh!

  4. Jessica Render on October 27, 2015 at 1:56 pm

    When I went to high school in the early 2000s it was really popular to wear A&F clothing, it was a definite status symbol. Almost so much so that people could tell who was “cool” (by Jenks HS standards) and who wasn’t just by walking down the hall and looking for the logo. As I was a pretty big contrarian at the time (yes, even worse than I am now ;)) I always refused to wear it based on the idea that clothing made you special, I didn’t want to be associated with the people who cared about that.

    When the stories started coming out a few years ago about how the CEO only wanted “cool kids” to wear the brand (lol), I wasn’t particularly surprised. The brand has always just given off elitist vibes. Not a fan.

    I don’t regularly go out of my way to research a company culture and values before I spend money, but I would make an effort not to give money to an organization that I know goes against my core values.

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