Why Abercrombie is becoming less sexy

April 27, 2015 10:31
A shopper carries an Abercrombie & Fitch bag. The company is dropping sexually suggestive marketing as part of a dress code change. Photo: Bloomberg

Clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch is looking beyond a dress code change and covering up perhaps for good.

No more half-naked men, also known as beefcakes, who used to greet customers at the company’s stores in the United States.

“By the end of July, there will no longer be sexualized marketing used in marketing materials, including in-store photos, gift cards and shopping bags,” the company said in a statement on Friday.

The change comes after the December departure of chief executive Michael Jeffries, who took over in 1992, after the company’s shares fell by about 39 percent over the past 12 months, The Guardian reported

“I believe now is the right time for new leadership to take the company forward in the next phase of its development,” Jeffries said as he left.

Christos Angelides, president of the Abercrombie brand, and Fran Horowitz, the Hollister brands head, are looking to turn the company around by scrapping Jeffries’s legacy -- a “look policy” as well as the shirtless models.

The death of the Abercrombie & Fitch dress code and other changes are part of a plan to cater more to shoppers, the two presidents told Bloomberg, adding that for too long, stores and clothes were tailored to Jeffries’s whims.

For now, the stores remain the same.

On Saturday afternoon, an Abercrombie & Fitch store in the SoHo neighborhood of New York City was darkly lit like a nightclub.

Music was pumping and the smell of cologne lingered in every nook and cranny.

Inside, foreign tourists browsed, clearly oblivious to the changes that were coming.

“I’m French,” said one visitor, waving off questions.

When pushed, she shrugged, saying it didn’t matter to her if the store’s employees were called models or brand representatives. The store’s employees, however, seemed to care.

“I personally like [being called a brand representative] because I am not a model,” one female employee said.

Dressed in all black and wearing black eyeliner and mascara, she said she was excited about the new dress code because it would allow for more freedom.

One of the main reasons that the store’s dress code had come under scrutiny was a US Supreme Court case in which Samantha Elauf, a job applicant, accused Abercrombie of religious discrimination.

The hijab, which Elauf wore to a job interview, violated Abercrombie & Fitch’s “look” policy because it was black and because it was considered to be headwear, like a hat or a cap.

As a result, Elauf received a one out of three rating for “appearance and sense of style” and was not offered the job.

Since Elauf’s job interview, which happened in 2008, the company has loosened its look policy to allow headscarves and for black clothing.

“It’s been a while since we weren’t allowed to wear black,” the female New York employee said.

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