Selling “youth, sex, and casual superiority”

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. 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.

Mike Jeffries, CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch

“Abercrombie & Fitch chief’s ‘cool kids’ comments draw outrage,” Los Angeles Times, latimes.com, 2013.

In a 2006 interview with Salon.com, Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries revealed the company’s formula for success: targeting a small market of people who fit into even smaller sizes. Jeffries also made it clear that consumers who buy A&F clothes are not just buying clothes – they are also buying into and representing an entire lifestyle ideal.

When the interview resurfaced seven years later, Jeffries came under heavy fire for his implications that consumers who are not thin enough to fit into A&F clothes are also not cool enough, not pretty enough, not young enough, and not ideal enough to wear the brand. Wearing the label of the “casually flawless” “all-American youth” is a privilege reserved only for those smaller than a size 10. In the case of A&F, a consumer’s freedom to wear what they want is thwarted by the company’s “exclusionary” vision.

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