I can’t explain why but I have been waiting for the Netflix documentary White Hot: The Rise and Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch since the release date was announced on Netflix’s Insta like a month ago.
Maybe it was to finally get the validation I’d been wanting since I was in high school, which was that yes, Abercrombie was for douches. Maybe it was to see if anyone still wore their jeans and shorts, like me (I love the way they fit, and also I was never their demographic so that makes me not a douch!).
Whatever the reason, the documentary debuted and I could not wait.
With a full schedule of shit to do for work, I turned on my iPad, clicked on Netflix, and took a trip back to the late 90s/early 2000s.
Here’s a little about how Abercrombie worked for me back then. I’m from a border town. A border town with a mall that has a Ross, a Bealls, and a vast amount of places to eat. It’s basically a food court with a few clothing stores in it. When I was in high school if you wanted name-brand clothes you had to drive 3 hours to the nearest “big city” mall where you’d find all the places to shop such as Forever 21, Wet Seal (holla!), and an overly-cologned Abercrombie.
At that time, the only thing I really knew about it was if you were rich and in the popular crowd, Abercrombie was practically a uniform. Obviously, I never shopped there as I was neither of those.
When I watched the documentary, I wasn’t surprised at all by the claims that they only wanted “cool kids” to work there so that “cool people” would buy the clothes. Uh hello, remember the models on their bags and on the store signage?
Just a bunch of cool kids hanging out in a meadow throwing a football and joking around. Nothing like the “cool kids” in my school whose outings included skipping out and going to the clubs in Mexico. I don’t remember any of the graphic tees being designed with puke stains but I didn’t wear their clothes back then so what do I know?
Anyway, these marketing tactics worked. Abercrombie became the brand to wear and the place to work, and even though I wasn’t into the brand in high school, they fucking got me when I was 19.
It all started the way it usually does: with a boyfriend.
Just like the former CEO of Abercrombie, my then-boyfriend was shitty. And because he was my first serious boyfriend, his shittiness made me insecure. That led me to do things I would never do. Things that would make me feel cool like the girls he was cheating on me with.
Things like get a job at Abercrombie.
Yup. He worked at Abercrombie. One of the girls he liked worked at Abercrombie. So I thought, I’m good enough to work at Abercrombie. And I was.
My experience wasn’t like the ones in the documentary, however. People were fired or not hired at all based on their appearance. Or, people were hired and scheduled to work on the night crew – the crew that no one saw because they were deemed unattractive.
Because of their discriminatory practices, the company faced a massive class-action lawsuit by more than 250,000 former employees resulting in a $50 million dollar settlement. Beyond their affinity for hiring pretty white folks, their photographer was also a perv, and some of the male models that didn’t accept his advances were ultimately let go from their modeling gigs.
Mike Jeffries, the former CEO whose only dream was to be young, eventually stepped down from the company but not before receiving $25 million. You know, how most of these stories go.
Today, the company is run by a new CEO and features a more diverse cast of models as well as plus-size clothing, something they’d refrained from in the past.
In the documentary, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit remarked that her mother had, at one point, asked her why she wanted to work there.
She didn’t really answer the question but we all know the answer.
To prove your cool status.
Or get a fat discount.
It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone is some version of an idiot in their late teens and well into their twenties. You have to be to think that getting a job at Abercrombie will show your loser boyfriend that you’re just as cool as the girls he cheats on you with (i.e. ME).
I’m happy to report that my time at Abercrombie lasted only a day. Retail sucks and the unreasonable amount of cologne in the air was nauseating and burned my retinas, so I never went back.
I’m even happier to report that while, yes, my then-boyfriend worked at Abercrombie, he worked on the night crew.
And he never got moved to the floor.
I hope he saw the documentary.
Picture from: shape.com