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Abercrombie & Fitch (the company that owns Hollister) have announced that they are finally retiring from the “appearance and sense of style” hiring.
The semi naked, aloof look has been a trade mark for Abercrombie since 1992. However, the company claims it is now going to take a more relaxed approach. Changing the name of store employees from ‘models’ to brand representatives’ and allowing a more individualised dress code in the hope to attract a more diverse clientèle.
The radical change comes after the departure of Mike Jeffries, CEO of the company, late last year and rising competition from stores such as Forever 21 and H&M.
It was Jeffries who was responsible for the ‘looks’ policy which stipulates that all employees “represent Abercrombie & Fitch with natural, classic American style consistent with the company’s brand” and “look great while exhibiting individuality”. Workers must wear a “clean, natural, classic hairstyle” and have nails which extend “no more than a quarter inch beyond the tip of the finger”.
Creating an idealised image of clean-cut, frat-boy hunks and a conventional, cheerleader-type look for girls, affluent, youthful clique, in brightly coloured sweatshirts and logo’d T-shirts.
This resulted in 10,000 applicants being turned down in 2005 for not fitting the Abercrombie identikit enough to work on the shop floor.
Today the brand is unrecognisable from its roots as a gentleman’s outfitters and outdoorsmen’s shop which opened in 1892; dressing the likes of Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earheart and Katherine Hepburn. As well as selling a gun to Ernest Hemingway and blazer to JFK as one of its accolades.
However, this clear link between youths and sex appeal has in the past not gone unnoticed.
The company has repeated been under fire over their vision of a ‘perfect employee’.
In 2009 the London store found its self in the mists of a tribunal after being accused of “hiding” a sales assistant in a stockroom because her prosthetic arm.
A spokesperson for the brand says, “Store associates will not be hired based on body type or physical attractiveness, and we will of course continue not to discriminate on any protected category.”
The key change to the image will eliminate sexual advertising from all its products.
However, many believe that it is all too late for a company that has backed its self into a superficial corner.