Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Why I Hate Abercrombie & Fitch

In the article written by Dwight McBride, Why I Hate Abercrombie & Fitch, I found the thesis to be “Abercrombie has worked hard to produce a brand strongly associated with a young, white, upper-class, leisure lifestyle.” (66) What McBride is saying is that the Abercrombie & Fitch has developed their look to please and satisfy white people and to show their superiority. Abercrombie’s approach for marketing their clothing is to show what Americans are suppose to look like and that look reflects that of the upper-class whites.

McBride divided this article into four sections to better get the message across. First he begins with providing background information about Abercrombie & Fitch and how it came to be in existence. A&F first started off as being just Abercrombie & Co. until Ezra Fitch, a valued customer of the company came one day to David T. Abercrombie, owner of Abercrombie & Co., suggested entering a business partnership together. Initially the company was a sporting goods store for outdoorsmen. Upon entering their partnership and changing the name of the company to Abercrombie & Fitch they shared many arguments of how or if the company should further expand and how to go about doing it. After much arguing, Abercrombie resigned his position and Fitch expanded the company by starting with its goods and location. The company begin to boom with much success and supplying goods and equipment to a wide range of famous people. Even during these times, A&F appealed to upper-class white men and women which showed in their catalog. “The advertising from any of its early catalogs even adopts and innocent, idealistic Rockwellian aesthetic in many instances.” (64) Eventually, Fitch decided to retire from the company and even after his retirement the company continued to blossom. There were times where it faced bankruptcy and was bought and passed from many companies to others each hoping to get the company out of the decline it was in and make a profit. But it wasn’t until Michael Jeffries took over the company and remodeled it more to his likes. This brings me to McBride’s second segment of this article which is the “look” of A&F that Jeffries created. Jeffries created the “Look Book, this pocket size (3.5x5.5-inch and approximately 30-page-long) book.” (66) This book showcased eleven photos and four of them being group shots. In the group pictures, there were only two African American models and everyone else appeared to be of white descent. The guidelines for the look of an A&F Brand Representative is “For men and women, a neatly combed, attractive, natural, classic hairstyle is acceptable. Any type of ‘fade’ cut (more scalp is visible than hair) for men is unacceptable. Shaving of the head or any portion of the head or eyebrow for men or women is unacceptable. Dreadlocks are unacceptable for men and women.” (70) Based on these guidelines which were created in the 1990s prevented the majority of black men from getting a job from here due to many wore the fade and shaved type of hairstyles A&F found to be unacceptable. Also, McBride makes mention of earrings and jewelry which the company found to be unacceptable and these targeted the African American community once again. But this certain look brings me to McBride’s third segment of the article which focuses on the “corporate culture of Abercrombie as it is represented by its stores, managers, and brand reps.” (62) Within this segment, McBride talks about how many people were discriminated against as far as employment within the A&F company based on the fact they did not fit the “look” of the company and how many people were fired based on the fact they were ugly. Skills and being qualified has nothing to do with the company and people advancing in it. So, in conclusion, McBride ends the article with his third segment which is his analysis. “Abercrombie, through its strategy of marketing ‘the good white life’ in what is already a deeply racist society, has convinced a U.S. public—whites (some young and some not so young), some people of color, and gay men—that if we buy their label, we are really buying membership into a privileged fraternity that has eluded us all for so long, even if for vastly different reasons.” (85) So in other words, McBride is saying that A&F has ultimately created the American look and has, through its marketing and its idea of what the A&F Brand Rep should look like, created a company where people who buy clothing from here feel accepted by the majority or rather upper-class whites of America.

While reading this article I question, “Why people/minorities would continue to shop at a place as discriminatory as Abercrombie & Fitch.?” But then I kind of satisfied my question with the thought of how people still buy Tommy Hilfiger clothing. It has been rumored that Tommy Hilfiger said on the Oprah Winfrey show that he does not want minorities to buy his products. I thought of this when McBride mentioned how Banana Republic and Ralph Lauren share a similar marketing system of appealing to the “upper-class American lifestyle.” (72) He also mentioned that “Ralph Lauren ‘diversified’ its ad campaigns…” (73) As well as “attempts to market and sell that lifestyle [upper-class American lifestyle] to everyone equally.” (72) McBride stated how Ralph Lauren picked up Tyson Beckford as a model for its clothing line which is similar to Tommy Hilfiger having superstars like BeyoncĂ© having a perfume fragrance under his company’s name. Many minorities still refuse to purchase Tommy Hilfiger’s clothing based on rumors of him being racists but they will support the superstars under his company. Going back to my question of why people/minorities continue to purchase clothing from a company that doesn’t want us amazes me. It is not like there are any minorities within the A&F’s company which minorities would support. I guess the answer would be that they are trying to be more American so they can be or rather feel more accepted by the majority.

This article was interesting to me because McBride brought out points that I never thought about before. Also, being that I have never been in the store to shop further, in a sense, provides somewhat of an explanation as to why I never found it appealing. As I was reading this article I begun to realize how many stores within malls I have thought of to be for white people and how I found others to be for a mixture of people.

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