Netflix Documentary “Abercrombie & Fitch”
Beautiful people, have never been as valuable as they are today – social media holds us a filter mirror. At the same time, the demand for diversity and inclusion is more urgent than ever. Abercrombie and Fitch endorsed the opposite: exclusion, and miscalculated completely.
Founded in midtown Manhattan in 1892, Abercrombie & Fitch was originally a fishing tackle store. In addition, tents and guns were brought to the wealthy athletes, and soon camping utensils were brought. Keywords outdoor sports. Among the illustrious clients were the great writer and great game hunter Ernest Hemingway and Teddy Roosevelt, the twenty-sixth president of the United States.
Sales numbers were correct, and a similar movie with Rock Hudson (“A Goldfish on a Leash”) made the company known beyond national borders and fishing circles in 1964. But it would be a long time before the fashion company became anything more than a boom.
This period actually lasted about a quarter of a century before the once well-positioned company became a modern money machine that replaced the golden donkey. Needless to say, Abercrombie & Fitch was once a strict patriarchal business – by men to men, so to speak – because in the 1960s and 1970s, businesswomen were an absolute exception.
First of all, the company, which comfortably lived off the excess testosterone of an elite white male, ran out of breath – in 1976, Abercrombie & Fitch, which had already moved from David Abercrombie to Ezra Fitch in 1907, was forced to file for bankruptcy.
In 1988, Oshman’s Sporting Goods, the new owner of the brand, sold Abercrombie & Fitch to Limited Brands owned by American businessman and billionaire Leslie Wexner, who appointed Michael Jeffries as CEO. He is the main figure in the company’s history. Limited Brands divested itself of all shares after its IPO in 1996, allowing Michael Jeffries to do as he pleases. And the ideal of Michael Jeffries was a male, young and handsome. He is married and has a son: a footnote.
Synonym of preppy look
Jeffreys took on rebranding the Old Men’s Brand and soon turned it into the world’s most popular brand for 18-22 year olds. Abercrombie & Fitch switched to the preppy look, which until that point was dominated by three other American brands: Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren and Nautica.
Michael Jeffries threw the familiar hierarchical arrangement into the sea, and at no time did Abercrombie and Fitch become synonymous with the preppy appearance, which is closely related to the so-called wasps (for white Anglo-Saxon Protestants), which consist primarily of members of the grouping of the middle and upper classes.
Michael Jeffries’ preferences, as well as those of Abercrombie & Fitch are perfectly expressed in the original English title of the Netflix documentary: “White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch” refers to the intended target group, which is supposed to be white and hot, Very white and handsome. Asian, Latino or black? They did not fit the picture.
Male torso, topless and defined
Marketing promoted the founding of an American elite who was filled with health and lifelong hunger and whose photographic pride had shaped the images of the all-white rising company like no other; Bruce Weber was also married, and like Michael Jeffries, he was more interested in men than he was in women.
Jeffries and Webber were of the same heart and soul in this regard, which means they were “in the closet” and not “outside the closet,” i.e. hidden and not openly gay. While Jeffries now lives with a man, the star photographer, who has since fallen out of love with his alleged assaults, still doesn’t come clean about his sexual orientation. But male models and birds have long been whistling from rooftops. By the way, the Netflix poster shows a bottle of the brand’s cologne. Male torso, topless and defined, the way Bruce Weber loved it.
The Netflix documentary was directed by a woman, 38, Allison Kleiman, who won a Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival for her documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry. In “White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch” she gave the floor to those who were disqualified from the company because they weren’t white. Which Abercrombie & Fitch, of course, wasn’t willing to admit.
Instead, the flower was used to let them know that it wasn’t because they didn’t have the wrong skin tone, but because they weren’t pretty enough to be in a storefront. Not as pretty as Olivia Wilde, Taylor Swift, and Heidi Klum, and certainly not as pretty as the prototype Channing Tatum who pitched for Abercrombie & Fitch early on in her career.
The movie is about how lists should be kept about employees’ appearance, who was nice, who wasn’t, who had to work in the back of the store or was allowed to work in the front – or suddenly didn’t get any shifts at all. The company later branded the salespeople up front as models in order to get out of the exclusion case, as the accusations about the exclusion became louder and more unambiguous.
Abercrombie & Fitch consciously saw itself as a brand of “cool kids,” those in charge of high school because of their cuteness. Unremarkable, fat, skinny, and otherwise kids were not part of the brand’s image, as Michael Jeffries publicly admitted in an interview in 2006. What he failed to do: Apologize. It has paid off.
The ideal remains “young and thin”
What a treacherous message to nearly 20-year-olds who often remain unsure of their influence and have not dared to protest for a long time. Against racism and discrimination by the brand that has importantly self-wrote the model of beauty for all American children on the US flag and took the right to define who died as a typical American and who did not.
As we know, pride comes before the downfall. Did the fashion industry learn from the deterrent example? It is doubtful. Although social media invites influencers and activists into the scene, the song of praise for diversity, inclusion and body positivity that dominates international hit rallies continues to display a bigotry. The most clever and intriguing insight into this movie about the excesses of presumption comes from Robin Givian, the former Washington Post fashion editor and Pulitzer Prize winner.
Ultimately, brands want to sell their wares, the more the better. It’s not just Americans who are getting fatter, while “normal weight” people are getting older. But no one wants to be old and fat, the ideal is to be young, thin and handsome. Just like the ready-made cast of models at Abercrombie & Fitch in the ’90s and early 2000s. And attractive customers, please, since then, who have paid for their duties without asking stupid questions.