Hey Suburban Parents, Let’s Stop Spending Money at Abercrombie and Fitch

Not long ago, I followed my daughter to Abercrombie and Fitch in a suburban mall.  I and a legion of other middle-aged parents were fairly stunned by the throbbing background music and frenetic atmosphere. I was also fairly stunned by the high price of the clothes.

Abercrombie and Fitch is now in court because the company declined to hire an otherwise qualified young woman because she wears a Hijab. Apparently she didn’t fit the company’s preferred look.

Shabby treatment of this Muslim young woman is just the latest infraction. Abercrombie and Fitch has attracted controversy for its refusal to sell women’s pants above size 10, its icky soft-core advertising, its apparent race/ethnic bias in recruitment, its mistreatment of an employee whose prosthetic arm ran afoul of the company’s “look” policy, and—not least–its CEO’s casual description of its cool-kid marketing philosophy:

In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids… 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.

To paraphrase Barry Goldwater, every attractive all-American kid should deliver this guy a swift kick in the pants.

Our kids, particularly our daughters, are forced in so many ways to contend with a predatory commercial culture that reinforces the most crummy and stupid aspects of our adolescent culture.

As adults, this is partly our fault. We bankroll many purchases in stores that can’t be bothered to sell a pair of pants to somebody’s wonderful 16-year-old girl who wears plus-size pants.

I have no idea whether Abercrombie’s various policies violate various employment laws. I know that this company that doesn’t deserve my money. If every parent did the same, maybe the people hawking stuff to our kids would at least pretend to some basic decency.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is the Helen Ross Professor at the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago.