Word on Champ Elysees Avenue in Paris is spreading fast. If you are unattractive or have any visible human flaws, steer clear of a U.S. based retail clothing store on the avenue called Abercrombie & Fitch. The retail chain’s CEO Mike Jeffries, whose tight-as-a-drum flawless 69 year-old face defies gravity, has been extolling the virtues of only hiring attractive people for years. And an old 2006 interview with Jeffries from Salon.com has resurfaced lately with him stating he hires good looking people to attract good looking customers. Evidently this article caught the attention of France’s official human rights watchdog. According to Reuters, they are investigating Abercrombie & Fitch over concerns the clothing retailer discriminates in hiring based on appearance.
This is not news, just rather old news to us in the U.S. as it is well documented Abercrombie & Fitch has lost discrimination lawsuits in the U.S. and Britain as well. They probably build their fines and payouts into the cost of doing business. Why else would a preppy pink shirt or a pair of rubber flip flops be so overpriced? It must be the moose logo. The moose by the way, hearkens from the day before the preppy, flip-flop clad, surfer dude, tan, uber cool (to them), half clothed, model/exclusionary look at their stores took over. It was simply an outdoor clothing/camping/hunting store. No, the guns weren’t emblazoned with the moose logo, they were actually used to hunt moose.
A French commissioner for human rights spokesperson has said they understand that models would have different requirements than sales staff. They have concerns however, that sales staff should not be discriminated against due to appearance/looks. What Parisians will find out soon enough however is that it is common in the U.S. for Abercrombie to hire people as models and them have them sell. Or, hire less-than-beautiful people and hide them in the back room as if they are part of the stock. For stories of what Abercrombie & Fitch has gone through to try and maintain their Stepford-like store civilization, yet try and give the appearance of total diversity in appearance, you need only look to their lost lawsuits and horror stories of past employees. Just Google the company sometime and you will find enough complaints to fill an Abercrombie & Bitch book.
Parisians pride themselves on being experts in good living or having a certain joie de vivre. The parisian youth are forming lines to get into Abercrombie & Fitch but one can only wonder why? If they are curious about the store’s clothing, the goods are not made in America. If they are looking for quality, it’s not there. How far will their Euros stretch for a pair of rubber (ugh) flip flops? Will they love being doused in the store’s signature “cologne” as they hit the door and barely see (it’s damn dark in there) the salespeople and visible staff all looking alike and all dressing alike as if they were in prep school? Will they think it’s odd that a store staff has no diversity in appearance and all look the same in their Converse shoes or flip flops? Paris is typically a confident place that touts individualism and uniqueness but maybe Parisian youth will think it’s “cool” or maybe they might just write it off to more ugly American stuff, which in the case of their hiring policies has shown to be true.