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Abercrombie and Fitch Controversy

Updated on August 3, 2015
Thanks to a new campaign, Fitch the Homeless, Abercrombie and Fitch may be facing a huge PR nightmare.
Thanks to a new campaign, Fitch the Homeless, Abercrombie and Fitch may be facing a huge PR nightmare. | Source

Recently, the CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch came under fire for controversial comments about the clothing they make and who they market their clothes to.

But this is not the first controversy Abercrombie and Fitch has faced.

Find out what controversies Abercrombie and Fitch has had in the last few years and how the public is fighting back against the company and its image.

History

Abercrombie and Fitch started out in the late 1800's as a sportsman's clothing company.

Many famous politicians, actors and actesses and wealthy people bought their sports clothing from the catalogs.

But as the demand for this type of clothing decreased, AF found itself in dire financial straits.

CEO Mike Jeffries entered the picture in 1992 and helped turn the company around, pitching the clothing as high fashion to the teenage and pre-teen crowd.

Abercrombie and Fitch has had some rough spots along the way since Jeffries took over.

Abercrombie and Fitch started as company that sold sports clothes.
Abercrombie and Fitch started as company that sold sports clothes. | Source

Drinking 101 in the 1998 Catalog

During the summer of 1998, Abercrombie and Fitch sent out a catalog containing controversial material.

Included in the catalog were:

  • a spinner for drinking games
  • recipes for drinks
  • tips on sex in the dorm room
  • the history of streaking

While Abercrombie and Fitch claimed to market their items to young adults, young people as young as eight tended to patronize the store and receive the catalogs.

After the public outcry grew, AF pulled the catalog.

Controversial T-Shirts

In 2002, AF printed a series of T-Shirts containing cartoonish pictures of Asian people with exaggerated racial features.

Many customers, especially those of Asian ethnicity protested the clothing.

AF noted that they were surprised by the outcry and that they thought Asian people would think the shirts were funny.

In 2005 AF came under fire again for controversial t-shirts marketed to young girls. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the t-shirts had offensive phrases on them such as: "Who Needs Brains When You Have These," "I See that You've Already Met The Twins," and "Do I Make You Look Fat?"

Girls and parents around the country protested in front of the stores and boycotted them.

Abercrombie and Fitch seems to welcome controversy.
Abercrombie and Fitch seems to welcome controversy. | Source

Thongs for Kids in 2002

In the Spring of 2002 Abercrombie and Fitch also sparked controversy by selling thong underwear in girl sizes.

Not only was the underwear a thong but it also had phrases such as "eye candy" and "wink wink" printed on the front of it.

Many parents protested the company's choice to market this kind of product to young girls.

Disciminatory Hiring Practices 2008

In 2008, AF had a lawsuit filed against them claiming discriminatory hiring practices.

The lawsuit claimed that AF rarely hired ethnicities other than caucasian and that when they did, the minorities were not given the opportunity for sales positions where they would be visible to the public.

The lawsuit was settled for 40 million dollars in 2009 and AF also agreed to change its hiring practices to include more diverse staff.

Push Up Tops for Kids in 2011

Abercrombie and Fitch came under fire yet again when they sold a padded bikini bathing suit top marketed to children who are seven or eight.

The bikini top also said that it had "push-up" triangles.

After parents complained about these types of marketing techniques for children, AF changed the label descriptions of the bikini but did not actually change the bikini itself.

It still had padding and push-up wires.

Clothing for the Cool Kids 2013

Recently, a petition at Change.org noted that Abercrombie and Fitch should start carrying larger sizes to fit more people.

This brought to light a quote that the CEO made in a Salon.com interview back in 2006.

In the interview Jeffries said that he only wanted to market to the "cool kids."

He noted "A lot of people don't belong (in our clothes), and they can't belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely."

The public outcry this time was been palpable.

As society worked to become more inclusive and accepting, AF continued to define its brand by a very narrow set of standards.

This is something they had a right to do, but was it good for business?

The CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch claims that they are marketing their products for the cool kids.
The CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch claims that they are marketing their products for the cool kids. | Source

Controversy Good For Business

As you can see from the multitude of controversies over the past couple of decades, AF doesn't seem to learn its lesson.

Or maybe it learned it too well.

Controversy is good business;"There's no such thing as bad publicity."

Staying controversial keeps their name in the news and the brand in the forefront.

But the latest controversy may have changed that as more people seem to be becoming less tolerant of what are perceived to be discriminatory practices.

Fitch the Homeless

This most recent Abercrombie and Fitch controversy has brought about some interesting responses.

From Glittersnipe's "Abercrombie & Fitch, Y'all Suck" to reactions on Twitter, Facebook and Google+, consumers are disgusted by the exclusionary tactics and the objectification of women and girls.

One person came up with an idea to fight back against AF's "cool kid" image.

Film maker Greg Karber tweeted this: I was so mad at Abercrombie & Fitch I made a video to change their brand. (Note: Video was removed due to a copyright claim).

After that, others picked up on the idea and tweeted about it.

The hashtag #fitchthehomeless began taking off.

As of May 14, 2013, #fitchthehomeless had been tweeted at least 2100 times and the message was still spreading.

Abercrombie and Fitch has not responded to the campaign or the latest controversy.

What do you think of Abercrombie and Fitch as a company?

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