Apparently, back in 2006 Mike Jeffries, CEO of the retail clothing store Abercrombie & Fitch, said something stupid and insensitive. According to the petition, “In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” Jeffries said. “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, and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”
The Change.org petition points out, “Anyone who hasn’t been to Abercrombie & Fitch in the last few years has probably noticed that they don’t carry XL or XXL clothing for women and their waist sizes for men leave room to be desired” and urges A&F “to embrace the beauty in all sizes by offering XL and XXL sizes…”
Jeffries released this official statement on the A&F Facebook page:
Now, about that petition.
Let’s suppose that someone started a petition on Change.org urging the Big and Tall men’s clothing store to carry clothing for little people (aka, midgets). How dare B&T exclude little people? This may seem like a bizarre analogy, but the underlying concept is the same. The problem is NOT that “specialty” clothing stores target certain segments of the population, the real point of contention is that Jeffries’ comment redefined “specialty” such that anyone unable to fit into A&F clothing is now not popular and not-so-cool. What people can’t and shouldn’t be okay with is the idea that too many inches or pounds means “people don’t belong, and they can’t belong” in that segment of the population that is “attractive” or “all-American” with “a great attitude and a lot of friends.”
Jeffries claims his comments were taken out of context and misinterpreted. Yet seven years later, A&F only offers XL and XXL sizes for males.
We all say and do stupid, insensitive, offensive things from time to time. We all need forgiveness. We should extend to each other the same grace that we would want if we were in Jeffries’ shoes.
Let’s suppose that a lot of people sign this petition, and caught between a rock and hard place, A&F relents and includes size twelve and up in their female clothing line. What then? A voluptuous teenage girl discovers she can finally fit into A&F clothes, so she purchases a new wardrobe. Does this mean that she is suddenly “cool and popular,” “the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends,” who belongs? What changed? The girl? The clothes? The attitude of her peers? All three?
A&F clothing could lose its exclusive status if people see the label on bodies that don’t perfectly match the fashion industry’s airbrushed, magazine-worthy standards. This is the mindset behind the well-intended but misguided “Fitch the Homeless” campaign.
Greg Karber, who started the “Fitch the Homeless” campaign, wants to rebrand A&F clothing in such a way that people no longer want to purchase or wear it. So he’s encouraging people who own A&F clothing to donate their clothes to the homeless.
What kind of message are we sending to homeless people? Think about it. Isn’t this just another way of saying to the homeless person, “You are the most un-cool, unattractive person I could find, and if you wear this, then A&F clothing will become a disgrace.”
So a situation that already stinks now reeks to high heavens.
I won’t sign this petition, I won’t go find A&F clothes to give to the homeless, and I won’t purchase A&F clothing. And I do forgive Jeffries. He’s not a monster. Neither is Greg Karber. They’re just caught up in a system of ugly that goes deep into the core of the human experience, a system that propagates this lie: You can feel better about yourself by tearing other people down.
I close with the words of Van Morrison, which, to me, speak the heart of God as He looks around at each us of, each a unique masterpiece, and grieves as we wound each other – even with our good intentions:
Down those old ancient streets,
Down those old ancient roads,
Baby there together we must go
Till we get the healing done.