Mike Jeffries, the gay CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, has announced he is stepping down after more than two decades leading the youth-centric retailer. One of the very few out business leaders, Jeffries was credited with breathing new life into the company in the 1990s—and with greenlighting its signature homoerotic advertising and packaging.
Despite Bruce Weber photos of cyoung hunks caressing each other in the shower, Jeffries always insisted the brand was “not gay.”
“I think that what we represent sexually is healthy. It’s playful. It’s not dark. It’s not degrading,” he said. “And it’s not gay, and it’s not straight, and it’s not black, and it’s not white. It’s not about any labels.. It’s all depicting this wonderful camaraderie, friendship, and playfulness that exist in this generation.”
The formula worked for a long time—A&F labels can be on shirts, jackets, pants and more from here to Hanoi—but as a new generation of teens started to see its mom and dads still wearing the brand, A&F lost its luster with young consumers.
Jeffries had also come under fire in recent years for some pretty odd behavior: He insisted the stores only hire good-looking staffers, “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,”
He also declared the reason why the company didn’t make plus sizes was because “Abercrombie is only interested in people with washboard stomachs who look like they’re about to jump on a surfboard. I don’t want our core customers to see people who aren’t as hot as them wearing our clothing.”
An age-discrimination lawsuit against Michael Jeffries brought to light the 40-page manual the male models who worked on his private jet had to follow, including what kind of underwear they could wear.
So after more than eight straight quarters of declining sales, Jeffries was out.
“It has been an honor to lead this extraordinarily talented group of people,” he said in a statement “I am extremely proud of your accomplishments. I believe now is the right time for new leadership to take the company forward in the next phase of its development.”
In addition to ditching shirtless greeters, Abercrombie & Fitch stores are also adding larger sizes and black clothes—two other things once banned by Jeffries. The music and cologne in the stores will be dialed down and the brand’s once-omnipresent logo will be more subtly displayed on clothing.
Shame about those shirtless greeters, though. Who will ask us “S’up?” now?