Abercrombie & Fitch has announced a new “gender-neutral” clothing line for kids. Abercrombie Kids’ Everybody line offers tees, sweatshirts, jackets, bottoms and accessories with bold colors and graphics.
Items are offered in “standard sizes” and aren’t gendered.
Some LGBT advocates are lauding A&F for being progressive, tuning into exactly what kids whose don’t neatly line up with the male-female binary need.
But that wasn’t what came to mind when I read the announcement.
I immediately thought of Mike Jeffries, the former A&F CEO who stood up for the company’s policy of not offering clothes larger than a size 10: “In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” Jeffries told Salon in 2006. “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 Abercrombie], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”
That bias extended to the people who worked at A&F, too.
“We hire good-looking people in our stores,” Jeffries (above) told Salon. “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.”
Unsurprisingly, Abercrombie also came under fire for prohibiting employees from wearing hijabs and other religious garments.
I grew up at the turn of the millennium, during Abercrombie’s prime: I spent my teen years furiously scouring its shelves for anything with the slightest chance of fitting my size-14 body. I’m not 15 anymore, but I can still recall the loneliness of not fitting in, both figuratively and literally.
A&F ousted Jeffries in 2014, but its history of exclusion makes the Everybody line feel disingenuous. And opportunistic: After all, retail giants Zara and Target have both launched gender-neutral lines in the past two years. (It also steers customers away from small, independent brands like Free 2 Be Kids, which started making inclusive kids clothes long before the national retailers got involved.)
With this new collection, A&F is profiting off of the success, visibility, and cultural relevance of the trans and gender-nonbinary communities. It’s a bad fit, no matter how you look at it.