Home Beauty Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Might Possibly Be A Scumbag

Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Might Possibly Be A Scumbag

by Erika Nicole Kendall

It’s always interesting when you get insight into the minds of marketers.


This interview with Abercrombie & Fitch’s CEO is no different:

Abercrombie’s attitude towards plus-sized women derives from CEO Mike Jeffries. Robin Lewis, author of The New Rules of Retail, spoke to Business Insider about the kind of people Jeffries wants advertising his brand.

“He doesn’t want larger people shopping in his store, he wants thin and beautiful people,” Lewis said. “He doesn’t want his core customers to see people who aren’t as hot as them wearing his clothing. People who wear his clothing should feel like they’re one of the ‘cool kids.’”

Lewis said that the only reason Abercrombie offers XL and XXL in men’s sizes is to appeal to large athletes.

In a 2006 interview with Salon, Jeffries confirmed that the communication between hot people is his primary marketing tactic.

“It’s almost everything. 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,” he said.

Jeffries also told Salon that he wasn’t bothered by excluding fat people. In fact, he said that not limiting his ideal demographic would make his clothing less desirable.

“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” he told the site. “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,” he told Salon.

One might wonder why Mike Jeffries only wants to be in the company of good-looking people. That curiosity will end after seeing what this freak looks like. [source]


A few things:

1) Male athletes are allowed to be XLs and XXLs. Female athletes, however, should be rail thin. And, allow me to remind you of what an athlete looks like. (Hint: it looks like a lot of things.)

2) Marketing perpetuates stigmas and stereotypes that we engage in on a daily basis, but on a daily basis we embrace stigmas and stereotypes that we see in marketing. That’s why the only time you see a Black woman in a commercial – certainly not in an Abercrombie ad, because even with that $1 trillion in that collective wallet, y’all aren’t buying Abercrombie – is if she’s selling you chicken, pancakes, or scrubbing your floors. It not only perpetuates the centuries-old belief that Black women are only “present” in positions of servitude, but it reinforces it.

Why am I saying all that? This:

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.

Attractive, all-American kid. Who’s that?

Pardon me while I search Google for “Abercrombie ads.”

Abercrombie ad on Google

Abercrombie ad on Google

Oh. Well.

3) There’s also the matter of this:

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 […]

Look at that spread of ad images. Look at it. This is a major corporation’s idea of what looks good. What do you see?

Listen. People always wonder why I, as a weight-loss blogger, someone who blogs about losing weight, would take such an affront to fat-shaming. If anything, it should make me happy that I can now shame people for being fat!

I take aim at fat-shaming because it is low-hanging fruit in the overall battle for people to embrace the idea that yes, people can be “different” and still be appealing, attractive, valuable, and a positive contribution to society outside of frying their damn chicken and scrubbing their floors. Differences exist, and it is okay to find “different” appealing and attractive… whether “different” be different skin colors, different body builds, different hair, different heights.. whatever. Adults are creating this marketing, and are teaching teenagers a thing or two about what it takes to be “attractive.” Uh… huh.

4) “He doesn’t want his core customers to see people who aren’t as hot as them wearing his clothing.”

His customers should feel like shopping there makes them feel like they’re one of the cool kids. He facilitates this by ensuring that no fatty fat fat fatties can shop there. And, of course, starting at size 12 is where you can be safely considered a fatty fat fat, and shouldn’t enter the doors.

How is this not spectacularly disgusting?

Look. I don’t know if this is a call for moral or responsible marketing, or what. All I can do is register my nausea, and wonder out loud, how many more companies are going to cop to this?

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Ashley May 9, 2013 - 7:36 AM

Might? You know it’s certifiable! This is the company that was successfully sued for preferring white employees for sales positions and relegating minorities to back room and overnight positions because they didn’t fit the “Abercrombie look.” A&F definitely takes the cake for admitting their preferences and actively alienating undesirables, but it’s always been something they’ve been very proud of – that’s why their stores are all dark with those giant green blinds bookended by giant posters of shirtless men on them so even just passing by makes you feel unworthy of even knowing what’s inside in the store.

Alana Morton May 14, 2013 - 8:24 PM

Someone else has hit back and it was a really nice way to do it too! 🙂 They are distributing A&F clothing to the homeless. Another demographic that I’m sure were not the preferred type for A&F! Booya!

See the story here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/14/abercrombie-and-fitch-homeless-brand-readjustment_n_3272498.html?utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false

NL Thompson May 9, 2013 - 9:31 AM

I’ve never shopped in A&F. But it’s amazing how this man’s obvious insecurity about his looks (he’s had some plastic surgery – Google his picture) and his opinion that only good-looking folks matter in this world has been adopted by a company. At least he cop’d to it. Now it’s up to folks on whether or not they will continue to support this stupid mindset with their dollars.

Kay-Tee May 9, 2013 - 9:33 AM

Just another reason to be more selective with where and how you spend your money. I am thankful that I can sew … so I don’t have to worry too much.

But also – I try and patronize smaller businesses – and support black businesses….not all…but the ones that are really trying to step up their game and give a better product.

People need to shed huge spotlights on these creeps … but more importantly – speak with your wallets…and don’t shop there – period.

Keiji May 9, 2013 - 9:42 AM

Speaking of exclusionary behaviors and holding one group above another….for the past year or so people have been so focused on childhood bullies, but where do you think they picked up the habit? They see adults relishing bullying and establishing hierarchies with reality shows that are meant to allow the watcher to make fun of the subject and feel better about themselves (Honey Boo Boo, Bad Girls’ Club, Housewives, etc–another problem I have, they are all making fun of women…), while clothing, cars, and smart phones are all flaunted to show off “Hey, I’m better than you”. I think if we are going to teach children to value each other instead of the possessions they have, we have to begin with ourselves.

Alisa May 9, 2013 - 9:58 AM

I’m willing to bet money that Mike Jeffries was excluded, taunted, and bullied by the “cool kids” when he was in school… I bet he was one of those kids he works so hard to exclude. I’m so disgusted by this that I can’t even form an intelligent rebuttal. I think I’ll come back later.

hrsparks May 9, 2013 - 12:45 PM

I was thinking the same thing.

MizFit May 9, 2013 - 1:10 PM

You’d win that bet. All you have to do is Google him. He’s the butt of many jokes. At nearly 70, he looks like Lurch from the Addams family had too much bad plastic surgery. Clearly, there are great self esteem issues at play there.

He only hires male models for his staff and dictates what they wear down to the underwear. Was sued because he allegedly fired a seasoned pilot to hire a younger better looking one.

This man has serious mental issues.

Mika May 9, 2013 - 12:08 PM

So…A&F is not vanilla? What is so exciting about rugby shirts and jeans? I don’t feel as if I am missing out on anything by not shopping there. In general, I don’t feel left out by clothing brands that do not market to my brown, thick self. I don’t understand why companies would want to turn down my money though. *Shrug*

Erika Nicole Kendall May 9, 2013 - 1:25 PM

Henleys, girl. Henleys.

*jazz hands*

Kristina Walters May 9, 2013 - 12:51 PM

Wow, this was an eye opener. As a size 14 myself, I know that whenever I go in there with my two boys, I never see anything above an 8. The problem is that as long as people keep buying they have no reason to change.

Noelani May 9, 2013 - 1:02 PM

People are entitled to their opinion, but so are the rest of us. I will be honest, I use to wear this brand a lot in my twenties. Didn’t know I was funding this fuckery. I should have though when they kept putting out that WASP kiddie porn catalog.

I’m done supporting these adult bullies. You know they pass this thinking on their children are our children has to go to school and deal with these assholes! So tired, but I’m a live my life and support brands run by decent human beings. Where’s Calvin Klein when you need him?

Noelani May 9, 2013 - 1:05 PM

Sorry for the typos, I’m just so perturbed by this. It disgusts me.

cecelia May 9, 2013 - 1:44 PM

This is old news. All you have to do is walk in the store, see the advertisements for his line. Whether you were his clothes or not, the idea that as greedy as people are he would turn down a dollar because of someone’s appearance. One thing that you do not have to dispute is the size of his targeted consumer – I don’t think he makes clothing over a certain size of cut.

Nadia May 9, 2013 - 3:04 PM

My favorite post so far. So much truth here…

LA Davidson May 9, 2013 - 5:52 PM

Everything about this rubbed me the wrong way because children/teens already have enough self esteem issues and here he comes with more things to tear them down. It reminds me of that TLC song, Unpretty.
Don’t forget A&F has other stores Ambercrombie Kids, Hollister & one called Gilly Hicks (never heard of it) but if you are looking to hit them in the wallet I say boycott all of their brands.

Annette May 9, 2013 - 6:08 PM

After taking a look at his pictures it seems like he has some major issues. He is in his own little bubble. Also it looks like he has had plastic surgery and too much of it. He comes across someone who wasn’t accepted by the in crowd or wasn’t considered one of the beautiful people.

Now he will be accepted by creating an environment that he will be a part of. He is living in an America that is so isolated and pre 1960’s. Abercombie & Fitch’s settlement for racial and sex discrimination was 40,000,000 dollars which is his yearly salary. So how serious is he as CEO about inclusion. Still spewing ‘elitist’ statements. I understand about nitch marketing but this isn’t it. African American, Asian, and Hispanic all go to colleges. All American is basically jeans and a tee shirt which most college kids wear. Why excluded those of other cultures that love the look. Just petty.

Rine May 9, 2013 - 11:09 PM

Erika, this article is pretty interesting (and disgusting) but your words have re-sparked a question in me I’ve always had about marketing and advertising.

I have read that you also work in advertising. I was wondering if I could shoot you the question in a private message or email. Let me know if that’s okay or not 🙂



Erika Nicole Kendall May 10, 2013 - 11:48 PM

Sure. E-mail works fine.

The Mighty Quinn May 10, 2013 - 9:17 AM

Thanks for addressing this. I posted this on my facebook page a couple of days ago, after I spit out my coffee when I took a look at his mug. I did not not know about their lawsuit, which makes me dislike them even more. I was that all American kid in high school and guess what? I’m Black AND fat! A friend actually posted the article to her page, which she found on a people with disabilities website because surely, they are not of his demographic.

The post about the bullying is dead on! I have been saying for years, we could not POSSIBLY be serious about doing away with bullying when everything that is popular in our culture involves, the denigration of of someone. We love assholes (House, Charlie Sheen).

Anyway have a great day ladies.


luvluldylocs May 10, 2013 - 9:28 AM

just pray for him he not understand his wrong GOD have mercy on him

Sheera May 11, 2013 - 12:45 AM

I’m going to be … … not nice for a moment. Have you seen a picture of Mike Jeffries?

I hope so because if A&F are only looking for people that are “attractive” and either not want to hire those not attractive (while simultaneously relegating the minorities to the back room) they may just want to relegate HIM to a back room.

IJS … beauty is in the eye of the beholder and this one has beheld that Mike Jeffries is quite unattractive and fat is not the main trait of attractiveness (or not).

Jessica M May 12, 2013 - 7:35 AM

I had a friend in college who was part of the class action law suit and actually received a settlement from this! Crazy! I was surprised that they kept him in the back because I thought he was a very handsome guy. Classically handsome at that.

sleepymind May 13, 2013 - 4:13 PM

Actually, I find the people in the AFCommercials quite unappealing for a number of reasons. First, they all look the same! If your partner were to look like them you would not be able to find him in a crowd or notice things that make that person unique and special about them. Secondly, I personally find people who are caught up in the passion of doing something, even if their face is crunched up, sweaty or red so much more attractive than this “I am good looking and I know it.”-face of the AF-models

Tiffany June 24, 2013 - 1:26 AM

The unfortunate part is that I’m not surprised by the CEO’s comments. I’ve always gotten that kind of vibe from A&F store, just one of those “We are better than you” vibes.

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