I called this blog "In Defense of Jeffries" but before you rip me a new one, hear me out.
Let me begin by saying that I pretty much have always disliked Abercrombie & Fitch. I have never liked what they stood for even before what they stood for was spelled out for me so clearly. It is not my style. I realize I am pretty far outside their demographic (by about 20 years now). I never liked the image they portrayed, it is an image that I personally never wanted to be associated with. I am indifferent to a lot of clothing brands, it is rare that one would rub me the wrong way like A&F always has, even when I was younger and more closely associated with their target market.
With that being said, I think all the controversy about Mike Jeffries is being blown way out of proportion.
I read a lot of blogs by (mostly) women fighting back about his discrimination of overweight people. I read these articles and agreed with every word they said. What a jerk! How could he say those things? How does he get away with this? You go girl! It reinforced what I thought about the brand anyway. Yay! Hate!
Then, I did something crazy. Instead of relying on Facebook memes (and there are some funny ones!) and blog posts for my information, I read the actual article about Mike Jeffries that is causing the controversy. Despite what some these blog posts insinuate, he never said that he or his company hated fat people. There is a lot of misguided information that is being perpetuated based on assumptions made by people who only read the media headlines, skimmed the surface of the information available, and relied on other people's opinions in order to form their own.
“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. 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 [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either."
At worst, I think Jeffries is so far removed from reality that his knowledge of what "popular kids" are like is based solely on television shows like 90210 (Can I reference the 1990 version or does that date me too much?). I can guarantee that cool, attractive, popular kids with great attitudes come in all shapes and sizes. Anyone who thinks that only model-beautiful kids are popular spends too much time watching teen dramas on TV. Personality usually breeds popularity.
Abercrombie & Fitch has a target market. All retailers do. I read that they don't make women's pant sizes over size 10 and tops over size large. It is really not that unusual. Have you ever heard of the store 5-7-9? (Wait, am I dating myself again?) They only sold sizes 5-7-9 (I think 0-3 too, but that would have made for a silly store name). Were they discriminating against people who wore size 11 and up? Were angry bloggers writing open letters to their CEO? No. Lane Bryant only sells large sizes. No one is upset about that. But would people be upset if their CEO said in print that skinny was ugly and they didn't want to market to that crowd? They probably would.
I do not think that it is their business practice that is making people angry. It is the fact that he admitted it with such arrogance, and then the media got a hold of it and twisted the story for their advantage.
A lot of companies target certain niche demographics and there is nothing wrong with that. It is business. It is called marketing. A lot of companies market their brand as aspirational and try to create an exclusionary brand (usually the exclusion is to the people who can't afford it). This is nothing new or unusual.
Is Jeffries a jerk? Yeah, based on the article I read, I'd say so. Is he a jerk because he doesn't sell larger sizes in his stores? I am going to say no. Maybe he should not have said it so arrogantly, as to cause so much stir. But then again, he probably did it on purpose to cause a stir. Any press is good press, right? Is all this a publicity stunt to garner interest in the retailer? Maybe. After all, even I am talking about it and I can't stand this brand.
Besides, Jeffries made me laugh once, don't we all remember the time he offered to pay "the Situation" from Jersey Shore to STOP wearing his clothes? And that guy has defined abs. HA!
If you disagree with me, be easy on me in the comments. Remember, I am a middle child, I am sensitive. :)
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