Monday, May 13, 2013

Christie Versus Abercrombie

If you look like this you must have lots of friends
The news was full of weight-related stories last week. Governor Chris Christie had lap band surgery to lose weight despite telling Letterman he’s “the healthiest fat guy you’ve ever seen”.  Also this week, Mike Jeffries the CEO of Abercrombie came under fire when he explained why their stores do not carry larger sizes.

Let’s start with Christie, the last time I wrote he told Barbara Walters it was “ridiculous  that people found him too fat to be president. Next thing you know, he has lap band surgery and in an effort to keep it secret even had the surgeon come to his office for the pre-surgery medical visits. The secret gets out and Christie says his motivation was that he wanted to be there for his kids. Oh and there just so happens to be a presidential race in 2016. This is a guy who had a doughnut on Letterman and mac and cheese during the soft foods post-op phase were these "for his kids" too?

And then there’s Mike Jeffries. I should really congratulate him. I have thought more about Abercrombie this week than ever before. There is an Abercrombie store close to where I get my hair blonded; I only know this because of the line of teenyboppers monopolizing the sidewalk. Perhaps, if I were cooler, I would get on that line. Their CEO told Salon magazine:
We hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that.”
In case you’re already nauseated it gets worse…
“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids.” Candidly, 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.”
Abercrombie only goes up to a women’s size 10, for men they have larger sizes to account for athletic, big guys so that’s fair, right? Aside from exclusionary this sounds silly in a country of larger people but this is definitely not the only clothing brand with their sizes capped. If you walk up and down 5th Avenue, where the store I mentioned is located, this is far from the only 12-less store. However, I’m still a little confused. How does being small indicate that you have “lots of friends”? Maybe they ask questions at the door, thus the line. Can you imagine a scale and a questionnaire to assess weight, friend volume and All-Americaness prior to entry?

Bad plastic surgery seems to be "cool"
We can’t get around it; most of us care about and notice size differences. When I compare these two examples, one really rubs me the wrong way and it’s the Christie situation that bothers me a lot more. For years he has said his weight is not an issue or doesn’t get in the way of him doing his job. With the possibility that he may run in 2016 it became an issue to the voting public. Christie sneaks around, gets surgery and when the fat cat is out of the bag he cites doing this for his children. How about saying you realized you needed to take action? Then again, I guess sneaky is more acceptable than 400 pounds when it comes to the White House. As far as Abercrombie, I can guarantee you that the line snaking out of their 5th Avenue store is just as large, despite the press, this week. Sadly, there are a lot of young people who want to be that cool kid. Though I can guarantee CEO Mike was never one of them, maybe that’s where some of this stems from.
Did you hear about these two stories? Which do you find more troublesome? 


  1. It's always sad when someone tries to make up for their high school woes by being a jerk.

    And I can't get within 20 feet of an Abercrombie without breaking into hives from the strength of perfume they pump out into the surrounding air.

  2. Promise you wont judge me too harshly but I worked at abercrombie (kids store!) in HS. Hard to pick which is worse, their policies or the nauseating cologne -- The dude is a pig/idiot but even 10+ years ago their "hot or not" policies were no secret. i AM surprised by his pic... yikes, but way more shocked by the Christie news. Hope he can use this opportunity to make some real changes - no need for another Paula Dean food role/roll model

  3. The Abercrombie story is by far more disturbing to me. Just the things that the CEO actually said, like people who aren't attractive (subjective anyway) and thin and popular don't matter. And as you point out, those things aren't necessarily correlated anyway. I remember some thin, unpopular people from high school as well as some overweight popular kids. Though I guess they didn't wear Abercrombie - and not just because I'm too old for it to have been around for my high school peers to wear.

    I wasn't really that shocked about Christie's surgery. I don't know if he did it for political reasons or really for health reasons, and it's hard to know if it really was a last resort or an easy way out for him. I hope he really does get healthier.

  4. I dislike Abercombie for a number of reasons including 1. I wear like an XXL there, 2. It's too noisy, 3. Whatever smell they spray is too strong, and 4. It makes me feel old.

    I get what Mike Jeffries is saying about his marketing strategy. I think many companies market that way - maybe he's the only honest one about it? In any case, I agree that he's a marketing genius for making these comments to get in the press....

  5. Everyone acts so shocked by Mike Jeffries' quotes, but all he did was SAY out loud what goes on inside many many many conference rooms on a daily basis. What do people think a modeling casting call looks like? Statistically, attractive people make more money and are far more successful than unattractive people. In American society a huge part of being attractive is being THIN. This nation is so comfortable with all of the "subtle" messages we get by the thousands every single day, but God forbid a CEO actually state the honest truth. Thin people sell clothes, so we sell clothing to thin people. (Yeah he is evil and ugly, but he is telling the damn truth).

    I don't know what it feels like to be the kind of weight that Christie is, but I do know how I have felt about my own weight and I wouldn't want any of it to be the center of conversation. Did he miss an opportunity to send a powerful message? He did. He has an amazing platform to change himself and inspire change in others, and he skirted around it by doing the easy lap band and closeting the whole thing. He could have done the jogging in public thing, the eating right at press dinners thing....slowly wittled it down and everyone would have seen! But being fat is embarrassing and maybe you just get to the point as a public figure where you just want it gone and you don't want the focus to be on your weight but about your political views...etc..?

  6. By "great" you mean to take action? I'm not anti surgery but the hiding, never really owning that his weight does affect other's perception of him etc.

  7. OMG I never thought about the scent but you can smell it around the corner in the lobby of my hair place. It's vile.

  8. Well it figures, you meet their criteria. He is sort of all-american looking I think- too much plastic surgery. You're right Christie should follow up the surgery with really making himself healthy not just lighter.

  9. While the CEO's remarks were shallow but I guess I don't have high hopes for the Abercrombie CEO unlike Christie (as you said maybe I'm too old).

  10. you're an xxs Ameena, plus there is no XXL there. The sizes are for 12 year olds, don't despair. Mike was honest, probably too honest but I'm sure the "cool kids" liked it. Sounds like a mean girls comment.

  11. Have to agree with you that the CEO said what many other companies do without saying. Would've liked the jogging in public thing, even if only for show or to legitimize his surgery (I'm easily won over).

  12. Sam @ Mom At The BarreMay 14, 2013 at 11:09 AM

    I think people are over-reacting to Mike Jeffries comment. Why are we shocked? As has been mentioned before, there are many others marketing their products the same way. And honestly, they have the right to market their products to whomever they want. If you disagree, don't buy from them. I think it's simple On a personal level, I have never been a fan of A&F. Uninspired, overpriced, and the velvet rope at the door is just too pretentious.