I remember in college when I protested against Abercrombie & Fitch on the streets in front of the Houston Galleria because of their racially insensitive Asian dry cleaning T shirts. I always thought that Abercrombie & Fitch was racist, exclusionary, discriminatory and very white so when Netflix dropped the first trailer for the docu White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch directed by Alison Klayman, I was like: “YES, BITCH. DRAG THEM.”
When that person in the trailer said “All American doesn’t mean all white” I was taken out because the discriminatory practices of Abercrombie & Fitch goes beyond the mall and how it impacted culture and representation.
In the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, Abercrombie & Fitch was the first stop for many shoppers on their trip to the mall. Shirtless jocks stood guard at store entrances, selling a potent mix of sex and wholesomeness. Pulsing dance beats and an overwhelming vomit-worthy fierce scent of the brand drew in hordes of young people hoping to buy themselves a seat at the cool kids’ table.
They tried to define what is cool but it backfired.
Journalist and New York Times best selling author Benoit Denizet-Lewis wrote the 2006 Salon profile piece on “The man behind Abercrombie & Fitch” about former CEO Mike Jeffries. As an 18-year-old, Ben O’Keefe petitioned against A&F and called for a boycott of the brand, which forced Jeffries to apologize about the brand’s lack of inclusiveness and diversity in stores and in sizes.
Led by outspoken CEO Mike Jeffries, A&F cashed in on an “all-American” image and enshrined its clothes as must-haves for the new millenium. But over time, revelations of exclusionary marketing and discriminatory hiring practices began to engulf the white hot brand in scandal. Featuring interviews with dozens of former employees, executives, and models, White Hot unravels the complex history of the iconic brand that influenced an entire generation.
Here is me protesting against A&F back in the day:
And here’s the poster for the docu featuring a bottle of that nasty smelling cologne that still haunts me: