In My Opinion

Small-sized or small-minded?

May 25, 2013 

Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries is in a lot of trouble for telling a reporter that his stores cater exclusively to the young, thin and beautiful – “the cool kids” – and that’s why you won’t find an XL anywhere in the women’s section. Jeffries believes, unapologetically, that any young woman over a size 10 couldn’t possibly be cool or hip. Definitely NOT A&F worthy.

Jeffries is a middle-age mean girl, slamming his book bag into the only chair left at the popular kids’ lunchroom table just as the plump outcast approaches.

Yeah, he’s kind of a creep.

But what if he’s also kind of a marketing genius? Because, honestly, when was the last time anybody talked about Abercrombie & Fitch quite so much? I mean, that is, since the notorious bedbug infestation in a Manhattan store back in 2010. Bedbugs found the famously dark store the perfect place to hang out and suck the blood of the tiny, hip patrons who entered its cavelike dressing rooms to try on $50 T-shirts made in Chinabekistan.

Saying “A lot of people don’t belong in our clothing,” Jeffries is reinforcing the notion that only Very Special People indeed can wear clothes from A&F. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if the store didn’t get a bump in sales.

I think this guy is nobody’s fool and he hasn’t exactly protested the quotes from a seven-year-old interview floating around. He must be wondering what the hell took so long.

(”Hmmm. I was an odious, self-important horse’s butt seven years ago when I said the same thing and nobody blinked.”) Maybe we’re just more sensitive these days.

Last month, Target was accused of being insensitive to plus-size women after labeling a kimono maxi dress “manatee gray.” It wouldn’t have been so bad except the same dress was called “dark heather gray” in standard sizes.

It’s not as bad as it sounds. Target uses “manatee gray” for plenty of standard clothing designs, just not this particular plus-size maxi.

Wisely, they decided not to save this manatee.

Target immediately apologized, adding, “We hope that all of our plus size shoppers will feel free to come by and enjoy a free 64-ounce frozen Coke and a couple of 12-hour-old rotisserie hot dogs on us.”

Yeah, they didn’t do that.

While I feel completely at home in Target, I’ve never been able to stay in Abercrombie for more than a minute or two. The music is too loud. It smells funny (insecticide?) And, yes, it’s depressingly dark. Mike Jeffries would be elated at the sight of my old-ish size 12 backside scurrying back into the bright warmth of the mall where I can mingle with my own kind at Ye Olde Toffee Town and Fried Butter kiosk.

I have a sense that Jeffries is enjoying the negative publicity. His middling mall chain is “exclusive” again. Where are the bedbugs when you need ’em?

Celia Rivenbark is an author and humor columnist who lives in Wilmington.

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