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The World of Abercrombie: Hotties Only

Abercrombie CEO Mike JeffriesKnow what I hate? Vapid, shallow types who give far more thought to how things look versus how they feel. Maybe I’m a wuss like that. Some over emotional, touchy feely guy who’s less interested in what’s on the outside and more interested in what’s on the inside. Or maybe I’m some played-out cliché. Or maybe I’m just a guy who refuses to judge a book by its cover (speaking of played-out clichés).

Either way, you know what question I ask my kids a lot, regardless of the situation?

“How did that make you feel?”

Oh. A group of girls excluded you at lunch. Wow. How’d that make you feel?

Oh! You got an A? Sweet! How’d you feel when you found out?

It’s my way of telling my kids that my interest in them my love for them goes well beyond the surface. It’s also my way of telling them that the way they feel on the inside matters more than just about anything else. It’s what matters about their peers more than anything else, too; the way they feel on the inside.

My oldest is 11, and she’s just starting to bump into “mean-girl” moments. Whenever she comes to me recounting one, I listen carefully as she explains how the encounter made her feel. When she’s done, I remind her of two things:

First, she must always stand her ground when she’s in the right. And second, the person in the wrong is probably doing little more than reacting to the way she feels on the inside, which is exactly why that person doesn’t deserve my daughter’s scorn; that person deserves my daughter’s sympathy.

It’s my hope that such an approach will help my little girl develop a broader worldview, one that not only takes her own perspective into account when assessing any given situation, but also the perspective of others. Because if so, she’ll be a kinder and more tolerant person. And I don’t want her to turn into some mean-spirited adult who’s quick to exclude, who’s quick to label, because labels are almost always attached to the way things look. And that’s an unenlightened perspective from which to see the world.

Abercrombie CEO Mike Jefferies disagrees.

You see, his company doesn’t stock XL or XXL sizes in women’s clothing because, according to Ashley Lutz of Business Insider, Abercrombie wants only “the ‘cool kids’ [for customers] and they don’t consider plus-sized women as being a part of that group.”

That’s a pretty strong statement, and to be honest, I was skeptical when I read it. Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s beyond lame that Abercrombie doesn’t stock XL or XXL for women, especially given how popular Abercrombie is among the teen crowd. I mean, just think if you were a little girl who couldn’t fit in a large? How awful would you feel on the inside if many of your friends wore an incredibly popular brand that you, quite literally, weren’t allowed to wear?

Here’s the deal. As the father of two little girls, I’m very much in touch with body-image issues that many young women face. In fact, it’s not an exaggeration when I say that I’m raising my girls with that very thing near the fore of my consciousness at all times. I can’t even begin to tell you how often I measure my words when describing something anything to be sure that I don’t inadvertently say something that might be misconstrued.

Because when it comes to body image issues, I’ve seen the needle and the damage done. So I’m doing my best to teach all my children that beauty knows no one size.

But for Ashley Lutz to suggest that Abercrombie is so blatant in their size discrimination? That seemed a bit much to me. I mean, maybe not carrying plus sizes is an industry standard, right?

Wrong.

Abercrombie’s two major competitors, H&M and American Eagle, both offer larger sizes in their women’s apparel. And H&M has even introduced a plus-sized model to their lineup.

Still, surely there’s no definitive statement one can find that would paint Abercrombie callously enough to suggest that they don’t feel plus-sized women are “cool,” right?

Wrong. Back in 2006, Mike Jefferies explained to Salon just how crucial sex appeal was to Abercrombie’s strategy.

“It’s almost everything,” he said. “That’s why we hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that.”

WOW, right? But wait, there’s more.

“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.”

I’d love to give you a more recent quote, but when asked by Business Insider why the company doesn’t offer XL and XXL in women’s apparel, an Abercrombie spokesperson (who, I’m guessing, is some super-hot vixen equipped with a tight, little ass) said the company wasn’t available to comment.

I’d also love to tell you that the CEO of a big-ass company didn’t use the words “cool and popular” and “not-so-cool” to describe the different types of high school students, but I’m afraid he did just that.

But, hey, I’m a grown up, right? And if I’m going to teach my kids to always keep the perspective of others in mind, perhaps I should do the same here, right?

So what could possibly make Mike Jefferies have such an antiquated and, quite frankly, adolescent worldview? Arrested development? A very shallow upbringing?

Or maybe he’s fallen victim to a little thing I call the pornification of America. Where very little matters other than how things look. Where reality TV is anything but. Where characters thereupon have become stars which dot the ever dimmer constellations of our pop-culture sky. (I’m looking at you, Kardashians.)

By my own line of thinking, Mike Jeffries and the other decision makers of his company don’t deserve my ire. They deserve my sympathy, and they really do have it. Because I simply can’t imagine bouncing through life with that much superficiality coursing through my veins.

But, and also by my own line of thinking, I know I must stand my ground whenever I’m in the right, as is so clearly the case here.

So shame on you, Abercrombie. For sending a horrible message to a demographic that has it hard enough already.

And for making my job even more difficult.

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