An Open Letter to Mike Jeffries, CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch

Dear Mr. Jeffries:

I just read an article about Abercrombie & Fitch in which you justify a lack of large sizes for girls and hiring staff based on looks 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.” You were also quoted as saying, “A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong.”

At first, I had no words. Then after some thought about this article, once the anger wore down and I could focus my attention again, I came up with some.

We live in a world now where bullying is finally being recognized not as a “kids will be kids” issue, but only mere footsteps down from a full-fledged hate crime. We live in a world where bullying has caused teens who feel inadequate, unloved, and friendless to end their lives at very young ages because societal pressure and peer pressure have forced them into believing they’re “not good enough” and “don’t belong.” And people are finally taking these issues seriously.

Conversely, we live in a world where girls are surrounded by celebrities and models and pop stars who are cute and thin and have shiny hair and perfectly made-up faces and wear designer clothes and are acting in ambassadorial roles for young women. We live in a world where young girls are reading fashion magazines and viewing  ads for expensive, trendy clothing which feature tall, thin airbrushed female ideals, and when you’re 12 or 13 you don’t yet realize that these standards of beauty are just that: ideals, and cannot and will not ever be lived up to.

It’s ironic, actually, that a world so obsessed with beauty can be a world so filled with ugliness.

And then you come in, Mr. Jeffries, into this picture where cruelty from the people that, in your twisted mind, “belong” is ramped and in the forefront of people’s minds, and you come into this picture where idyllic beauty in a global society is equally ramped and in the forefront of people’s minds, and you reward both: you reward cruelty, and you reward idealized beauty, by allowing only those who fit your bill of what constitutes ‘beauty’, to wear a brand of clothing that is by all accounts ‘cool’ to 20th and 21st century teenagers. You are unabashed about it, making your world view, to the naïve young impressionable mind, seem like the gospel truth. In my mind, your truth is as follows: Only thin girls can be beautiful and popular.

Evidently, Mr. Jeffries, you have never been a teenage girl who doesn’t fit the standard of what society believes to be beautiful. But it seems you also have no empathy for the experience either, so please let me enlighten you. You feel constantly shunned and worthless simply based on your weight and the way you look. You keep a diary in the sixth or seventh grade in which you write about how no one wants to spend time with you because of how you look, and you feel like doing exercise to try and get in shape so you can make friends. You try on cool clothes that will never fit you. And every single time you try something on that doesn’t fit, you’re reminded that it’s not just your peers who are telling you that you don’t belong: it’s society as a whole. You are told – through forceful exclusion – that people like you are not accepted, not welcome, and designed to fit in.

What you fail to fully understand, Mr. Jeffries, is both what constitutes ‘cool’ and what constitutes ‘beautiful’. And neither of those can necessarily be boxed into the clientele you’re creating for yourself through frank, open exclusion. Because although you seem to have it in your head that beautiful people are always what you consider ‘cool’ and “ugly”, “fat” people are always friendless and alone, you’re sadly mistaken.

It makes me sick, sad and appalled that you’d even go and make the kinds of statements you made. It makes me angry that you are enforcing beliefs that, in the 21st century, should be long stomped-out and forgotten. It breaks my heart that teenage girls who are just coming into their own and learning to love themselves might go into an Abercrombie store because their money is as green as someone 30lb lighter than them, try on an over-priced t-shirt, realize it doesn’t come in their size, then lose faith in themselves as a worthwhile human being. When the truth is, you’re not worthwhile as a human being for coming up with this sexist, prejudice, discriminatory, tasteless garbage, you sadistic, shallow old prick.



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