It sickens me to hear about what Abercrombie and Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries has said about his clothes. They’re “exclusionary” and meant to clothe popular kids only, and anyone who’s overweight or uncool just frankly isn’t meant to belong to the elite, super cool Abercrombie squad. Talk about creating cliques in the fashion industry. So if Abercrombie is the cool kids, does that make the Gap the official outfitter of the nerds and the squares? It’s not all about wearing a brand. Wearing some two-bit thirty-five dollar white and navy tee-shirt bearing a giant ‘A’ and a giant ‘F’ on it from Abercrombie doesn’t make you look cool. No, no. Now, on the other hand, if you really want to look cool, you might want to try having a unique, personal style that integrates aspects of your personality and plays up your most beautiful features. Now that’s what makes you look cool. Cool, comfortable, and collected. You’ll never look better. Even you, popular kids and high schoolers. I see you out there wearing striped long sleeve henleys and your low-rise jeans and your brown leather flip flops. I’ll excuse your momentary lapse in judgment, but just this once. If I had the money, I’d refurbish your wardrobes and invoke your right to go confidently in the direction of your fashion dreams.
Aside from the CEO being a complete scumbag, let’s assess what an experience inside an Abercrombie and Fitch store is actually like. Let’s take, for example, the one in the Garden State Plaza, the mega mall of Bergen County that’s really more of a burden than a blessing to visit. The first indicator of trouble upon entering the store is that it is so incredibly dark in there, much like it is in Abercrombie’s SoCal sister, Hollister. I’d like to take this moment to point out that I once tripped in a Hollister in my early teenage years and knocked over the queue line to further my case. The lights are pretty dim, and the store’s interior is a muted and boring black and white, leading me to believe that the poor ambience is just a way of masking what you’re really getting yourself into when you invest in an article (or articles) of Abercrombie clothing. Quite frankly, it’s fucking dangerous in there, and if you can’t see where you’re going and God forbid you fall and hurt yourself, you run the risk of being branded uncool, so say goodbye to that overpriced, tight cardigan and hide your face in shame. The second key factor in the Abercrombie experience is the smell of cologne or perfume suffocating you from the moment you walk by the store. Abercrombie fragrance might actually smell good in a normal spritz or two, but it smells like every bottle of perfume in the place was sprayed into a super fan that was subsequently used to diffuse the scent all around the store. Kiss your brain cells and your dignity goodbye. Oh, and try not to pass out, because that wouldn’t be cool or all-American either.
But the biggest issue I have with all this hoopla is that I know what it’s like to try to fit in and be cast out. Having Armenian and Italian ancestry, it’s kind of in my DNA not to have a stick-thin figure. I struggled with my weight when I was fifteen or so. I ballooned up a couple sizes when I went to high school. Part of it was genetic I guess, and part of it was stress-eating. Granted, going to Catholic school meant wearing a uniform, so I never needed too many school clothes, but on the weekends, I wanted to wear what everyone else was wearing. I’d go into Abercrombie and Hollister with my mom, and I’d pick out these cute baby-doll tops and these pretty, embellished tank tops with built-in bras and I’d just torture myself by trying them on. And when I couldn’t pull them over my considerably sizable chest or when they would cut me off in weird places, I’d just stare at myself in the mirror ashamed of my body and intimidated by the clothing. “If this came in an extra-large, it would fit me,” I would insist, and my mom would pitifully agree. But no, there was no larger size I could buy. The best I could do would be an overpriced t-shirt with a tacky logo on it that would stretch and eventually become worn out, but most of the time, I’d leave empty handed and downtrodden.
Today, I own exactly one article of Abercrombie and Fitch clothing. It’s a red and off-white striped cardigan with a flimsy flower on it and the signature navy blue moose on the bottom, distinguishing me as one of the “cool kids.” I’ve lost a good twenty-five or thirty pounds since 2008. I’ve had the satisfaction of trying on clothes in Abercrombie and finding that they were too big on me. But I think the most important part of it is that I realized that I’m not meant to be pin-thin. While I’m still chubby, I believe that the extra pounds have given me some beautiful curves–and not to mention great boobs and a “ghetto booty” as an old hookup once complimented me on. When I heard that the cretin CEO of Abercrombie had made those comments, it made my heart sink that even when I wanted to fit in, there was someone out there who genuinely didn’t want me to because I didn’t have the right body, look, personality, or whatever it was. In order to stick it to this disgrace of a businessman, we all need to love our bodies and our individual styles. We shouldn’t push ourselves to fit the standards set by pricks like Mike Jeffries when we should be creating and abiding by them for ourselves. Being well-liked or cool isn’t something that we can superimpose on ourselves with a label; it’s something attributed to us when we accept and do right by ourselves in a culture that has become so invested in what other people think.