Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Fake cool vs. real cool - The Story of Mike Jeffries

My face scares small children. Buy my clothes.
A firestorm of controversy erupted today when an article appeared in the Business Insider claiming that Mike Jeffries, the CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch, didn't want fat people wearing his clothes. Now, the article didn't actually quote Jeffries on this. But his attitude towards who he wants in his clothes is hardly a secret. In a 2006 interview on Salon.com, Jeffries was quoted as saying:
In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” he told the site. “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.
Not to mention, the store does not carry any clothing in a size larger than a 10 except for a few XL and XXL in Mens, presumably for beefy body-builder type guys. So, whether they said so in an official document or used offensive language to do or not, selling clothes only to smaller people is clearly their business model.

If you are bracing yourself for a big tirade about fatty-hate, you can relax. I'm not planning to do that. For one thing, no clothing store can be all things to all people. It's cost prohibitive. Chico's doesn't carry my size and neither does Lane Bryant. That's life. They all pick who they want to sell clothes to.

But the real reason I'm not going to rant is that I think Mike Jeffries is kind of sad and pathetic.
He thinks he's one of the cool kids, but he's not. Because cool kids, really cool kids, the ones with a "great attitude" and a "lot of friends," don't give a crap about all the stuff he thinks is so important. They certainly aren't obsessed with wearing a certain kind of clothing. They also aren't so worried about what other people think that the idea that someone who isn't "attractive" and "all-American" might wear what they wear keeps them up at night, as it appears to do for poor Mikey.

Cool kids, in fact, do not shop at Abercrombie and Fitch. In my not so humble opinion. They shop at Thrift Shops. Or maybe they go to H&M where the company recently used a "plus-size" model for a swimsuit ad, not to make some big statement or with lots of fan-fare and a big press release, but just because.

Jeffries reminds me of those kids from the "other" fraternity in Animal House. They had to torture the nerds because deep down they were insecure. They looked on the outside like they had it all. But at home their dads belittled them or even beat them. Or, even if they had perfectly nice home lives and weren't living with some secret, they deep down thought they didn't deserve the life they had and that, somehow, if they weren't careful, people would find out. So they had to date the 'right' girls and god-forbid they were seen being nice to a dweeb or a nerd just in case someone thought that maybe they were a dweeb or a nerd.

I imagine Mike Jeffries as being like that. In Jeffries case, he has these "standards" for "beauty" that you have to meet to work in his store. Standards he doesn't actually meet. That must really kill him every time he looks in a mirror. Maybe the fact that this store is doing well makes up for it now, but here's the problem with catering to the fake cool crowd:

They are fickle and mean. The "new" A+F will be in for about 2 seconds and then it will no longer be "cool" to shop there. The fake cool kid will find some new trendy store to ooh and ah over.

That's because the real "cool" kids are all listening to Mackelmore and they think paying $120 for a pair of cheap, not very well made jeans is being "swindled and pimped" and they won't do it. They'll by a cheap pair at JC Penneys, rip them themselves and then paint them to be Galaxy Jeans. Like my kid and her friends do.

So when Mommy Blogger, Jen, of PeopleIWantToPunchInTheThroat asks "Are you cool enough to shop at Abercrombie and Fitch?", the proper response is: 

Hell, no! We're WAY COOLER than that!
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