I’m sure you’ve seen this. The Abercrombie and Fitch CEO made some troubling comments about only wanting thin, attractive people wearing his clothing line. This was done in an interview 7 years ago but for some reason is all over my facebook today. In case you missed it:
“CEO Mike Jeffries said in a 2006 interview with Salon that he wants only cool, attractive, skinny people to wear his clothing.
“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 told Salon.
“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” he told Salon. “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.” –Excerpt from Fox13now.com
Wow. These are words from a grown ass man. Who knew he was being quoted. These are words a successful grown up decided to say, in an interview. Wow.
First of all, I want to assure you that if these words enrage you, I understand. It is on this side of the last couple of years that I would have flown to my keyboard to type a cutting letter. With fury filled hands I would wring out all of the emotions that fill me up when I read something like this. But now I don’t have that.
I don’t know this guy. He doesn’t know me. His comments have absolutely nothing to do with me. And all those feelings I would have been having before have little to do with him and everything to do with how I feel about me. I would have been irate, but that anger would come primarily from all the years I felt exactly the way he describes. I felt too fat to belong. I felt like a loser. I was not a cool kid.
This kind of bullying, which is the only way I think this can accurately be described, would have brought me emotionally right back to high school. Which as a grown up, is infuriating. Here I am, minding my own business, grown-upping it up and along comes the homecoming king of Abercrombie to call me a fattty. So now I’m mad he’s being mean and I’m even more mad I feel effected by it.
But here’s the deal- he didn’t call me anything. His words need not apply to anyone. For words like that to hurt you have to agree with them. And this is one grown up lady who does not agree.
Instead, I feel sorry for this guy. Genuinely. I was the kid in elementary school that told the other kids to stop calling names (I was also kind of a loser for this and a teachers pet, whatev). I was never mean to someone because of their appearance of social “status” and neither were any of my friends. And while I’m not like, the patron saint of outcasts, this ability to look further than social status and body type has only enriched my life.
I believe most people get there. I’m often told by people who are older than myself that their high school reunions got much better with every passing decade. As people age, common experience becomes a bonding factor far more than who sat at what lunch table. Most people experience loss, difficult times and deep joy which often results in a wisdom that allows for seeing more of who others are and less of what “category” they would fall into, again, in high school.
I actually feel badly for this guy. Something about running Abercrombie in this way has enabled him to not move forward as a grown up. If he operates his life with the same rules as he does his business, think of all the unique/interesting/hilarious/genius/bad ass people he is missing out on the experience of knowing. And even if he manages to only surround himself with high school cool kids– newsflash– these people are not all assholes. So the most awesome of these people have lost a lot of respect for the guy, if they even continue to associate with him, after these comments.
I’ve followed a few links to other responses to this guy. Most of them have attacked his appearance. Again, totally understand this urge but I don’t think it’s helpful. If we respond in this way we are 1) role modeling the same crappy, juvenile name-calling behavior he is and 2) we have joined an argument. It’s like that old adage, “wise men never argue with fools, because people watching from a distance can’t tell who is who.”
These days I’m not outraged by this guy. To be honest, my outrage in the past would have had everything to do with (insert name of popular guy in high school that treated me like shit) and nothing to do with this guy. I’m actually bored. And sad. It’s not shocking that a grown up stuck in a high school cafeteria mentality would make such statements. I went to high school, it’s not news that people think this way. It’s kind of sad to me that this guy is stuck there. But that doesn’t have to have anything to do with me.
I’m happy these statements are making rounds on the web. For the first time in my life I can actually fit into clothes from this store. Knowing what kind of culture the CEO wants for this company it is surely not one I want to contribute to. I hope you feel the same. If enough of us decide that, perhaps he will have a change of heart or at least a change in his bank statement that will cause him to take pause.
But let’s not chime in about his hair (or whatever). Let’s let this foolish statement stand alone. This is not an argument, and it certainly isn’t personal. It’s just one guy living in the high school cafeteria. Let’s not go back there with him.