How Abercrombie & Fitch’s Tradition Impacted Black Customers

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Fashion

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - AUGUST 25: An Abercrombie & Fitch signage is seen on a store on Fifth Avenue on August 25, 2022 in New York City. The Abercrombie retail store, which also owns the Hollister chain, announced that it expects it's full-year net sales to decline from 2021. The company had predicted that its 2022 sales would be flat or increase. Sales fell 7% to $805.1 million in the second quarter.  (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Graphic Resource: Getty / Michael M. Santiago

The 12 months was 2008.

And that year for my 14-calendar year-outdated self was characterized by a significant change in my wardrobe. It was the to start with time I at any time obtained a pair of Coach trainers to match my Mentor crossbody, and also a single of the very last moments I would be donning streetwear. In just a several months, as a substitute of window browsing for Coogi at Jimmy Jazz, we begun touring 30 minutes out of the town to store Abercrombie & Fitch and its subsidiary, Hollister.

In April, Netflix launched a documentary entitled “White Incredibly hot” chronicling rise and tumble of Abercrombie & Fitch in the ’90s and 2000s, but when the documentary dissects Abercrombie & Fitch as a pop tradition phenomenon in white suburbia, it won’t showcase the way Black young ones in Black cities embraced the brand name. But Black individuals were being, and keep on to be, instrumental in A&F’s success, from influencing buys on social media to procuring frequently on their own.

Search the names of comparable life style makes on Fb, and you may obtain old profiles of Black young children with social handles like HollisterKidd. During my large college decades, it was not unheard of to see Abercrombie & Fitch paired with Genuine Religion jeans and Cartier frames at a residence get together or a teenage female at Eastland donning Hollister with a Juicy starter necklace and Mek jeans. Chief Keef even rapped about Hollister in a track.

CHICAGO - DECEMBER 8:  Abercrombie & Fitch clothing is displayed in one of its stores December 8, 2003 in Chicago, Illinois. A recent report claims that Abercrombie & Fitch discriminates against sales representatives based on their

Graphic Source: Getty / Tim Boyle

Confident, my connection with A&F won’t seem like that of previous staff members in the “White Hot” documentary, but it will not suggest the earth of loaded white suburbia was a far-fetched idea for me either.

When “White Hot” prefaces that Abercrombie & Fitch packaged white elitism and privilege in hopes of advertising apparel, it doesn’t explicitly point out how the whiteness of the manufacturer coincided with the whitewashing of pop lifestyle in the ’90s and 2000s. Films, Tv set displays, and even novels depicted preadolescence and early adulthood via the lens of whiteness, thinness, and prosperity. In movie, there was “Clueless,” “She’s All That,” “Suggest Girls,” and “Convey It On.” On television, you could look at “90210,” “The OC,” “Laguna Beach,” and “Gossip Lady.” In the novels I study as a preteen, there was Lisi Harrison’s The Clique collection and Sara Shepherd’s Really Minimal Liars sequence.

Wealthy white teen tales ended up inescapable. What we all watched would inevitably come to be what we desired, and Abercrombie & Fitch just packaged the drive for prosperity and exclusivity at an affordable price tag issue. With customers naturally being drawn to wealth signifiers, it’s a no-brainer that teenagers who were being intentionally excluded in promoting would even now gravitate to A&F’s merchandise.

Of study course, the underbelly of the brand’s exclusionary promoting plan was a tradition of racism and sizeism. Discriminatory hiring techniques throughout the 2000s led to various lawsuits, an eventual $40 million settlement, and CEO Mike Jeffries’ exit.

But even though the documentary rightfully condemns the Abercrombie & Fitch culture of yore, it fails to examine the job that Black enthusiasts of the brand name played in making it a ubiquitous staple of the 2000s — irrespective of not getting represented or even welcome. Now, as the documentary brings that era back into the limelight right now, Black people are the moment again excluded from the conversation.

As the model forges a way ahead, looking to ideal its wrongs with extra inclusive sizing and obtainable styles, it is also rebuilding its romantic relationship with its Black people. Not only does A&F on a regular basis aspect Black versions and influencers in its marketing tools and on social media, it just lately hosted pop-ups at the worldwide residence place of work featuring community Black creators and entrepreneurs.

It is really a little phase ahead on a lengthy and winding road towards redemption with Black shoppers, a team who have been loyal to the Abercrombie & Fitch brand name for decades. And which is a story well worth telling.

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