For those not familiar with the views of Michael Jeffries, CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, here are some of his greatest hits. A 2006 interview with Jeffries published by Salon has been revitalized since a reference in a recent Business Insider article has grabbed the attention of social media users. In the interview, Jeffries said with regards to his marketing strategy:
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.
Jeffries noted in the same article that Abercrombie does not offer women's clothing in XL or XXL, and the largest pant size offered is a size 10. For those who cry gender discrimination because men's sizes are offered up to XXL, marketing strategists speculate that this is only to appeal to athletes. Jeffries has made it very clear that, "Abercrombie is only interested in people with washboard stomachs who look like they're about to jump on a surfboard."
I think most of us can agree on one thing here. Michael Jeffries is a jerk. But the Internet is up in arms over these comments, demanding an apology, and some even calling for an expansion of Abercrombie's lines to include plus sizes. Honestly, I do not think this is the best approach. Instead, I think we should be thanking him.
Thank you, Michael Jeffries, for making such tiny clothing. I can only assume based on their size that your apparel is primarily marketed towards middle school students, lap dogs, and elves. You saved me a very unnecessary trip to your store. Although I might need to reconsider this. There is a very cold Shih Tzu on my street for whom I think your size medium sweater would be perfect.
Thank you, Michael Jeffries, for only hiring the best looking people for your store. I realize that your logic is that if good-looking people see good-looking people working in your stores, they will be drawn to purchase your clothing like moths to very attractive flames. I am just glad that, due to the working conditions of your stores, the ridiculously good-looking people you employ are brought down a peg because they reek of Abercrombie perfume. Seriously, thank you Michael Jeffries. Maybe I couldn't get a date with that hot guy in the food court, but neither could your size 2 female employee who smells like the inside of a seventh grade girl's closet.
Thank you, Michael Jeffries, for drawing attention to a whole market that other brands can clamor to fill. According to the article by Business Insider, 67 percent of consumers fit in to the "Plus Size Market." While many popular brands like H&M, American Eagle, and Forever XXI are beginning to offer "plus" and "extended" sizes, several of these brands are introducing the expansions quietly, or only offering these sizes online. Thanks to Michael Jeffries, people are mad. This is your chance, other brands, to step up to the plate. Introduce a good looking plus size line that consumers actually want to wear, and do it with a bang. Michael Jeffries dares you.
Thank you, Michael Jeffries, for articulating your very questionable attitudes. You made it so easy for so many people to consciously choose not to shop at your store. When you first marketed a line of thongs targeted at middle school girls printed with slogans like "Eye Candy" and "Wink Wink" in 2002, you clearly did not alienate enough people. You pushed the envelope further in 2006 with the Salon interview, and I am so glad that those words might come back to bite you. When you see a statement like, "I don't want our core customers to see people who aren't as hot as them wearing our clothing," it makes it so much easier to bypass your smelly storefronts.
And finally, thank you, Michael Jeffries, for being such a character. According to Benoit Denziet-Lewis, the man who conducted the Salon interview, you say "dude" a lot and your office looks like a summer camp. I'm not even mad that you can't accept that beauty is not contingent upon size. I just kind of want to see your life as a reality show. Maybe there is an open slot following "What Would Ryan Lochte Do?".
Internet community, we could get mad at the man who refuses to move past a 1950s standard of beauty and who admits to a marketing strategy that intentionally sexualizes minors. Or we could resolve not to shop at Abercrombie anymore. We could shift our business to brands that celebrate a wider range of sizes. There seem to be two factors that underlie Jeffries's marketing strategy -- targeted advertising and a seriously unresolved inferiority complex from Jeffries's adolescence. The former, we can sabotage by just not letting the advertising work. As for the other, I say we pitch "Sh*t Michael Jeffries Says" to the executives at Bravo and see where this thing takes us.