Tuesday, January 24, 2006


I've mentioned it before, but I'll repeat that I'm quite aware of the mixed feelings that some in the gay community (and beyond that, the community at large) have toward Abercrombie & Fitch. On the one hand, I genuinely like some of their clothes and its hard to deny that they feature a heck of a lot of homoeroticism in their advertising. And when I dropped by one of their stores this Christmas season, I enjoyed seeing the hot, shirtless hunk they had modelling at the entrance.

On the downside, the A&F phenomenon has helped young men develop the type of distorted body images that women have struggled with for years. And in the gay community, at least, I know many have the sense that A&F has revived the whole "clone" phenomenon of the 70s, where many have abandoned their individuality in an attempt to fit into the A&F marketing image.

In any event, Slate has just published an article on Mike Jeffries, who essentially transformed A&F from its stodgy, boring roots into the powerhouse that it is today. After reading the article, I come away with the same mixed feelings about Jeffries that I do about A&F. On one hand, I respect the vision he had in turning A&F into a cultural icon. At the same time, he's unapologetic about the exclusionary aspects of the brand:

"In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. 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. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don't alienate anybody, but you don't excite anybody, either."

Realistically, he's right and you can't really blame the guy for knowing his market and excelling at what he does. Still, in the back of my head, it bothers me. Maybe its because when I was in high school, I probably wouldn't have been one of those "cool kids." Or maybe its because Jeffries is damn creepy looking.


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