request that came through on a group text to the Crosby
kids and their spouses struck like a knife to my heart.
read the message from my daughter-in-law with the brand
new teenager, “Abercrombie is making a comeback with
the kids. Anyone have any used/old Abercrombie??”
understand my visceral reaction to this seemingly
innocent request, you have to understand my relationship
with this Ohio-based clothing company.
these entrenched negative feelings for Abercrombie &
Fitch first and foremost for how it used risqué
marketing to sell its overpriced elitist clothing to
young people everywhere.
far from the only one in our local communities who had
serious issues with A&F back in its heyday.
Illinois, in 2002, the Naperville School District
teachers union called for a boycott of the company for
the way it showed youngsters in revealing positions and
various stages of dress in its catalog, as well as the
way it featured stories on topics like group sex and
around that same time, a teacher and principal at West
Aurora High School took up the cause in front of the PTA
after a teacher, knowing how popular A&F was with
kids, purchased a gift certificate for a student
assistant — only to discover it featured a naked model
with her hair barely covering her breasts.
another of its many controversies, the brand also got
lambasted for selling padded bikini tops to girls as
young as 7, and also marketing thongs to little girls
with phrases like “wink wink” and “eye candy” on
the idea why so many educators and moms were up in arms,
and why the company began getting so much bad publicity
across the country.
another reason I hated the brand: It reeked,
intentionally so, of moody exclusivity, an attitude
embraced by its one-time CEO who once said in an
interview, “We want to market to cool good-looking
people. We don’t market to anyone other than that.”
as one former nerd described it, the uniform of the mean
is, there are no A&F hand-me-downs on my side of the
family, not because my crew wasn’t cool or
good-looking enough. We could afford to wander through
those cavernous dark stores with their heavy blankets of
cologne, pulsating club music and life-size posters of
scantily clad teens.
couldn’t afford to buy anything.
the above are the reasons I was glad to see the brand
fade in popularity.
say its decline had a lot to do with retail struggles in
general and the fact millennials and Gen Z shoppers were
spending less on apparel and more on experiences. Plus,
it is harder for companies to keep up with the
ever-changing desires of youth who are heavily
influenced by so much visual information on Instagram
would appear that, unlike other beloved brands our kids
treasured — I’m still mourning the extinction of
Toys ‘R Us and Geoffrey Giraffe — Abercrombie has
found its groove again, thanks to a new CEO and
marketing strategy that is touting a more “authentic
tone” and more “effortless American casual theme.”
many of us older moms may not be jumping up and down at
this surprising comeback, it seems to be triggering a
trip down memory lane for younger parents who still
fondly recall spending their babysitting money — not
to mention a good chunk of Mom’s and Dad’s paycheck
— in pursuit of hip.
some are pursuing it again by rummaging through their
time I walk by the store in the mall I feel like I’m
back in ninth grade,” posted one 30-something on
does this mean the halls of the high school are going to
smell like A&F cologne?” asked another. “If so,
I’m going back to high school.”
I guess I
shouldn’t be so annoyed. From all I’ve read, A&F
is dedicated to a kinder, more gentle, marketing
strategy. The company, which built its name by dictating
what (and who) is cool, got a taste of its own medicine
when young consumers, who dislike logos and don’t want
to be told what to do by brands, decided A&F was
to one business article, the company has moved from a
“brash brand to a somewhat confused brand to a much
clearer and more focused identity” — one that is
touting quality and affordability.
everyone deserves a second chance, right? But before I
even think about stepping into an A&F store or
checking out its new look and attitude online, I know my
heart — as hardened as a mean girl’s — has to
soften like a chambray shirt-dress or a long suede
perhaps, I can buy all that.