My new(ish) flatmate has been looking at graduate programs recently, which has gone swimmingly for me because she had the good fortune of stumbling over the Abercrombie and Fitch stall. Thankfully, A&F had the good sense to hand out some reading material for prospective employees. It is full of hairless people in various stages of undress and, perhaps more importantly, some really great insight into what exactly drives the “experts in cool, All-American casual wear”. Since I know you’re all super-keen to know these things, I’m going to go through the booklet with you so that you can be all that you can to be. (We all want to be All-American frat-boy dudebros right? Good. Cos that’s where this is headed.)
Let me tell you man, this book is 25 pages of pure gold. There are four chapters: Lifestyle Brands, Company Growth, Social Responsibility, Store Opportunities and each of these chapters is illustrated with the kind of wholesome hairless models that I assume A&F wants staffing their various branches.
So according to the first page of Lifestyle Brands, which I have already kind of mocked, A&F is committed to “grow up with” their customers and “market the most aspirational lifestyle to each of our customers.” I wasn’t aware that a lack of pubic hair and an overabundance of flannel shirts counted as an aspirational lifestyle, but there you go. The next 8 pages are dedicated to the most pretentious of product descriptions.
First up, there’s the actual Abercrombie and Fitch brand.
Next to the dumb looking model with the unreasonably square jaw, is a paragraph about what it means to wear Abercrombie and Fitch. “Rooted in East Coast traditions and Ivy League heritage, Abercrombie and Fitch is the essence of privilege and casual luxury.” ‘Privilege and casual luxury’ is a fancy way of saying “able to pay $60+ for a plain white t-shirt. “A combination of classic and sexy creates a charged atmosphere that is confident and just a bit provocative. Idolised and respected, Abercrombie and Fitch is timless, and always cool.” I wasn’t aware that baggy grey sweat pants constituted the kind of combination of classic, sexy and timeless that worked together to charge the atmosphere, but what would I know?
The next chapter deals with abercrombie kids (no capitalisation).
I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that model looks like a child. This model looks like a 25 year old with an underdeveloped face. Anyway, apparently abercrombie kids is the “essence of privilege and prestigious East Coast prep schools.” Well that’s embarrassing. “With a flirtatious and energetic attitude, abercrombie kids are popular, wholesome and athletic.” How old are these kids? I’m so confused. Apparently they’re “the signature of All-American cool” but I don’t even know what that means. Send help?
Then again, if the pictures are anything to go by, perhaps I am not the target demographic. So the next one should definitely be for me, then. It’s Gilly Hicks – ladies’ underwear that is apparently specifically Australian.
So, Gilly Hicks is apparently the “cheeky cousin” of A&F, is inspired by the “free spirit of Sydney” and makes knickers for the “young, naturally beautiful and always confident”. If we’re not naturally beautiful or perpetually confident, does that mean that we’re not allowed to wear the undies? Because aside from the implication that you need to be naturally beautiful to buy (something I will come back to later), I do not know a single woman who is ALWAYS confident. And I say that as someone who REALLY likes their own face.
Lastly, we have Hollister. Hollister boy is the only model wearing a t-shirt in this pamphlet, which makes me wonder what he’s hiding.
Once again, the words “effortlessly cool” are used to describe the brand, which makes me think that they’re putting a lot of work into something that should be effortless. “It’s all about hot surfers and beautiful beaches. Young and sexy with a sense of humour, Hollister never takes itself too seriously.” Judging by the look on that model’s face, I would say that Hollister takes itself very seriously. Either way, they aim to “bring Southern California to the world.”
The next chapter is Company Growth.
The happy smiley lady accompanies a page on the direction A&F is taking with their shopping experience. I think this is my favourite part:
“Regardless of location, all of our stores have an exciting, fun and high energy environment, reinforced by great looking, talented people who share our committment and passion for the brand. Our in store experience appeals to the six senses: Sight, Sound, Smell, Touch, Taste and Energy… The customer is greeted by great-looking, friendly models who offer excellent customer service…”
Right. Couple of things A&F. First of all, your committment to hiring people who are better looking than me is not an appealing point for your store. Also, it seems kind of morally reprehensible to put that in your manifesto for prospective employees, especially since your prescriptions for “great looking” seem pretty narrow judging by the people you’ve chosen to put in this booklet. Like… they’re all very good looking, but they all kind of look roughly similar. Especially the boys. Secondly, there are not six senses. And if, theoretically, there were six senses, the sixth sense would not be “energy”. It is stupid and you sound stupid.
The next chapter is Social Responsibility.
I almost fell over sideways when I read this because the idea that Abercrombie and Fitch is a thoroughly socially responsible brand is ridiculous. Under the heading of “Diversity and Inclusion” A&F lists its achievments, which include a scholarship program, a 100% rating on the Corporate Equality Index, making it officially LGBT-friendly and a bunch of charitable donations. There’s also some stuff about sustainability. But let’s be real, Abercrombie and Fitch has like, the WORST human rights record known to man. They’ve been accused of firing staff or refusing point blank to hire them for refusing to remove their hijab, they’ve been involved in several accusations of sexual harrassment by models, they’ve been fined for failing to accommodate disabled customers, there was a $40 million class action law suit for discrimination against black, Latino and Asian workers. The list goes on and on. I fail to see how that’s socially responsible. But all of that is helpfully left out of the little book, so I guess you can pretend it’s not happening.
The next chapter is Store Opportunities, which basically just talks about what you need to do to be eligible for the store program, which include “diversity awareness” and a bachelor’s degree. (Possibly also some moral blinkers but whatever.) What was the point of this blog? That Abercrombie and Fitch is terrible with a very narrow idea of beauty that’s laid out in black and white in their graduate program and I’m not even sure how that’s legal. Don’t fucking shop there. It’s the worst.
Also, I hope you really enjoyed my narcissistic selfies throughout this post. Suck it Abercrombie and Fitch. I’m fucking adorable.