It’s been a little over six months since Mike Jeffries, one of the few openly gay business leaders, resigned as CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch after several quarters of slumping sales and bad press.
Over the years, 70-year-old Jeffries, who joined the company in 1992, developed a reputation for expressing his unfiltered douche bag opinions–from claiming the company only hires “good-looking” employees to admitting it doesn’t make large sizes because it fears “fat” and “unpopular” people wearing its logo.
With Jeffries finally out of the picture, the flailing mall clothing chain is desperately trying to rebrand itself as something more than an extension of its leaders ego. Here’s how…
Jeffries had a thing against the color black. He hated it. Loathed it. Believed it to be too formal for the brand, equating it with tuxedos. So he banned it. Not just from stores, but from the Abercrombie offices, as well. Employees at corporate headquarters were forbidden from wearing it to work.
“Management will tell people that Mike hates the color, and so we’re not supposed to wear it,” an employee, who asked to remain anonymous, confessed to Business Insider. “It even applies to coats in the winter.”
Today, Abercrombie has lifted its ban on the color black and now sells it in stores. Ahh, black. So elegant. So slimming.
Those homoerotic ads
When it came to A&F’s marketing campaigns, Jeffries’ philosophy was “less is more.” And by “less,” we mean less clothing.
Under his direction, A&F’s ads featured near-naked or completely naked male models. Often they resembled Jeffries himself in his younger years–blonde-haired, blue-eyed, Midwestern farm boy–and struck pretty obvious homoerotic poses. And the opposite sex always felt like a bit of an afterthought.
While we have to give Jeffries credit for using homoeroticism to sell clothing, ultimately the shock value went stale. The novelty effect wore off and consumers not longer cared. The brand has announced that it’s scaling back on the scantily-clad models and will instead focus on more wholesome images that actually feature the clothing it’s trying to sell.
Honestly, we’re not sure how we feel about this.
The ungodly cologne
You know how you could smell Abercrombie anytime you came within a 1000-foot radius of the store? Well, those days may soon be behind us.
Fierce, the company’s signature fragrance, was one of Jeffries favorite aromas. He loved it so much that he used to have his private Gulfstream G550 jet spritzed with the stuff. He also ordered it pumped through the stores’ ventilation systems, resulting in countless migraine headaches and depleted brain cell counts of anyone who had the misfortune of passing by.
The company has announced that it will be reducing the in-store use of Fierce by 25 percent, which means you should only be able to smell the store within a 750-foot radius from now on.
Perhaps the biggest criticism of Jeffries was his open disdain for fat, ugly, unpopular people. He once said, “Abercrombie is only interested in people with washboard stomachs who look like they’re about to jump on a surfboard. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”
In an effort to un-do some of the long-term damage caused by those comments, the company recently launched an anti-bullying campaign called “Are You an Ally?” It also began selling graphic Ts, available in every size, with hopeful messages like “be yourself,” “stay strong,” and “real is the new black,” teaming up with teen star Lucy Hale to produce a PSA.
And, just because, a blast from the homoerotic past:
What do you think? Can Abercrombie survive post-Mike Jeffries, or is it destined for a future episode of VH1’s I Love The 90s? Sound off in the comments section below…