Abercrombie and Fitch and the Ugliness of North American High School Culture


Recently, the CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch published a statement that explains why he hates fat chicks.
Here is the link to the post:

I have some comments and thoughts on this considering that I attended a North American high school and worked in Hollister for one summer as, what they called, a “model”, standing by the door saying hi to people in English.

First of all, bravo to A&F on the brand image building. It is truly amazing how you used the ugliness and unfairness of human civilization to commercialize your concept. And I have to say, I am very impressed by the techniques you used to mesmerize people into buying your ridiculously overpriced products, with your cheaply paid student employees.

I did not over-think it when my manager told me that there is no XL in the women line of clothing. But reading this news really made me angry and upset.

Saying that you only market towards to “cool kids” in school is just not cool. After spending two years in a Canadian high school, I truly understand why there are so many anti-bullying messages and why this is such a big topic in those societies. When I arrived as an “exotic” exchange student, I personally did not have too much trouble trying to fit in. At least I did not mind which group I end up in. People were nice and friendly to me, and to others. But underneath the Hi’s and Hello’s, there is so much segregation and “popular/unpopular” culture going on. “Cool kids” only hang out with “cool kids” and those who are “uncool” will just forever stay underneath the shadow. Everybody grew up in one environment. Almost from birth all the way to high school. Ever since they were in kinder gardens, different groups have formed and they are almost unbreakable. If you “accidentally” fell into the “nerd” group, the “ugly group” or the “poor group”, your life is almost changed. They stick with each other, they seek comfort and a sense of belonging. They judge each other, they gossip and rant behind each others’ backs. This not only decides their popularity in school, it, actually, to some extent, decided their personalities, their looks, their values, their skills, their abilities to communicate and many other things. There are those who are beautiful, sociable and athletic, then those who are not as good looking but still athletic, those who are average looking but smart, those who are ugly but smart, those who are artistic and “weird”, those who are artistic and good looking, those who are nerdy and love gaming, those who read too much, those who are disabled, those who are exotic, those who are on exchange, the germans, the chinese, the koreans, the japanese, and some times even within one group, so many subgroups are formed. It is madness. Never have I seen so much ganging up together and hugging each other in order not to fall in the abyss of popularity. Everybody tries to grab on to something or someone to survive in this brutal, superficial society.

I always joke that if I were to have my children growing up in North America, the minute he can walk and talk, I would send him/her to play rugby, talk to to potentially beautiful kids and buy him/her a car when he/she turns 16. I learned that “fitting in” matters too much and it shapes their personalities, their happiness and their success too much. I definitely think that I will turn into a horrible parent, but it is the reality sometimes.

Compare to North America, schools in China, at least from my experiences, are completely different and this type of culture can not grow. First of all, almost every time you upgrade, you go to different school. In urban cities, there is almost no definite circle can be formed in school. Kids know, that probably in a couple of years, they will leave and find new friends. Also, they focus quite a lot of their time on school as competition is fierce. Second, kids come from different backgrounds and sometimes, different cities (especially in my case as Shenzhen is “THE” immigration city in China). Therefore, they hold less judgment and discrimination towards others and they do not mind too much whether you are poor or rich. This sense of purity and innocence is kept. Another thing is the class system. Everybody is assigned into one class and they basically stick with each other. Every class has a diversity. No specific group of people are gathered together and this, made kids hang out with people no matter they are ugly, beautiful, fat, short, tall, nerdy, athletic or etc. Third, because there are so many students in the same school, it is almost like a mini university sometimes. You can go to this school for 6 years and still have no idea who the guy in the next class is. This also eliminates the judgment and the culture of “popularity” to form.

Back to A&F, they used the superficialness and their ultimate pursue of climbing up to the top of the crowd to market their products. They have brainwashed people that wearing their clothes means they are cool, good looking and popular. They hire beautiful people to work there(only part-time), paying them a relatively cheap hourly salary for a high-quality crowd like them, simply because working there is a stamp of approval saying that they are “Cool”. This marketing psychology is manipulative but brilliant. But this core value they want to pursue just annoys and upsets me.

Nowadays, the sales of A&F products are decreasing in North America and in some parts, they are almost dead. I think people are starting to realize that being a douche bag and arrogant is just not “cool” anymore. Actually, from my experiences in Canada, high school kids are encouraging acceptance and friendliness in their schools and less and less bullying or discrimination are happening. The new “cool” kids are those who are kind, nice and friendly.

As a result, A&F are switching their markets in Europe and now in Asia. It found its new paradise. As the economy and living standards in Asia rise, people are pursuing more and more of these “upscale” North American culture. When I was working in Hollister, sometimes I was in charge of the cashier. The line up is always ridiculous and almost every bill I take is over 1,000 RMB. Same thing happens in Hong Kong. But what people do not understand sometimes, is what is behind all these superficial, good looking people, perfume smelling stores with fabulous decorations and dim lights that make you dizzy. They are so smart in marketing. This whole illusion they create gets people into a short period of self-consciousness. They feel inferior sometimes compare to the models and , the need of purchasing just to catch up to be a cool kid inflames. Spending thousands of dollars does not seem like such a big deal.

2 thoughts on “Abercrombie and Fitch and the Ugliness of North American High School Culture

  1. Perhaps another and more truthful reason is that they only want girls built and shaped like twelve year old boys. And when the prevailing stereotypical image of beauty for women, is to look like little boys, my mind thinks of all the potential reasons why this may be.

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