The CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch went on record as saying he does not want fat or unattractive people wearing his clothes or employed at his company
“Mike Jeffries, the 61-year-old CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch, says “dude” a lot. He’ll say, “What a cool idea, dude,” or, when the jeans on a store’s mannequin are too thin in the calves, “Let’s make this dude look more like a dude,” or, when I ask him why he dyes his hair blond, “Dude, I’m not an old fart who wears his jeans up at his shoulders.”
This fall, on my second day at Abercrombie & Fitch’s 300-acre headquarters in the Ohio woods, Jeffries — sporting torn Abercrombie jeans, a blue Abercrombie muscle polo, and Abercrombie flip-flops — stood behind me in the cafeteria line and said, “You’re looking really Abercrombie and Fitch today, dude.” (An enormous steel-clad barn with laminated wood accents, the cafeteria feels like an Olympic Village dining hall in the Swiss Alps.) I didn’t have the heart to tell Jeffries that I was actually wearing American Eagle jeans. To Jeffries, the “A&F guy” is the best of what America has to offer: He’s cool, he’s beautiful, he’s funny, he’s masculine, he’s optimistic, and he’s certainly not “cynical” or “moody,” two traits he finds wholly unattractive.
Jeffries’ endorsement of my look was a step up from the previous day, when I made the mistake of dressing my age (30). I arrived in a dress shirt, khakis and dress shoes, prompting A&F spokesman Tom Lennox — at 39, he’s a virtual senior citizen among Jeffries’ youthful workforce — to look concerned and offer me a pair of flip-flops. Just about everyone at A&F headquarters wears flip-flops, torn Abercrombie jeans, and either a polo shirt or a sweater from Abercrombie or Hollister, Jeffries’ brand aimed at high school students.
When I first arrived on “campus,” as many A&F employees refer to it, I felt as if I had stepped into a pleasantly parallel universe. The idyllic compound took two years and $131 million to complete, and it was designed so nothing of the outside world can be seen or heard. Jeffries has banished the “cynicism” of the real world in favor of a cultlike immersion in his brand identity. The complex does feel like a kind of college campus, albeit one with a soundtrack you can’t turn off. Dance music plays constantly in each of the airy, tin-roofed buildings, and when I entered the spacious front lobby, where a wooden canoe hangs from the ceiling, two attractive young men in Abercrombie polo shirts and torn Abercrombie jeans sat at the welcome desk, one checking his Friendster.com messages while the other swayed subtly to the Pet Shop Boys song “If Looks Could Kill.””