Once upon a time, teens, preteens and young adults from all over the world considered Abercrombie & Fitch the epitome of cool.
The brand’s low-rise skinny jeans, tiny mini skirts and other moose-embellished garments flew off the shelves, much to the dismay of parents, who opposed Abercrombie’s daring ad campaigns and the army of poorly dressed models stationed out front. at every flagship store.
By the late 2000s, Abercrombie had fallen out of favor, for reasons we’ll see in a minute. But as fashion sees a resurgence of early 2000s trends, the infamous retailer is experiencing a resurgence in popularity.
Just at the right time, Netflix released the trailer for White Hot: The rise and fall of Abercrombie & Fitcha documentary detailing the company’s sleazy playbook for success – filled with classism, racism and sizeism – and its subsequent fall from grace.
Judging by the trailer, the film will explore Abercrombie’s blatantly discriminatory corporate culture (store employees were prohibited from wearing headscarves and long fingernails), CEO Mike Jeffries’ brazen embrace of exclusion as a marketing tactic, and the his general message to consumers: if you are not white, thin and rich, you are not cool.
Abercrombie’s numerous inequities indicate broader cultural attitudes that existed during the brand’s heyday and raise questions about the return of Y2K fashion.
In the early 2000s, media and entertainment portrayal was largely limited to white, skinny, conventionally attractive celebrities. The tabloids have been betting on fussy bodies and the looks of celebrities. The top models of the time were a size two, max.
While 2000s trends like hipster and ultra-cropped crop tops (looking at you, Miu Miu) keep making a comeback, how can fashion refer to the era as it overcomes the unique traps of early 2000s culture ?
It’s an enigma that continues to spark a flurry of conversation: The Independent and Dazed Digital have wondered if the rise of Y2K could trigger a return to zero dimension as a culture; a viral tweet of @bexbeautybruja noted that fatphobia was at its peak during the early 2000s.
But we have evolved from the early years. While far from perfect, the industry has begun to broaden its once-narrow definition of beauty. The Victoria’s Secret show was canceled, literally and figuratively. Diversity on the runway continues to increase season after season. (That said, no plus-size model walked the Miu Miu runway in the popular Skirt Set.)
And for what it’s worth, Abercrombie has changed … A lot. The brand’s Instagram features models of different races, sizes, abilities and ages, a distinctly different approach to its previous unique approach to casting. According to its website, Abercrombie works with the LGBTQ + non-profit organization The Trevor Project and The Steve Fund, an organization focused on the mental health of young people of color.
An Instagram statement from Abercrombie also acknowledges: “In the spirit of transparency, we want to directly acknowledge the news of an upcoming documentary that will feature Abercrombie & Fitch and focus on an era that took place under the previous guidance. While the problematic elements of this period have already been the subject of extensive and valid criticisms over the years, we want to be clear that these are actions, behaviors and decisions that would not now be allowed or tolerated in the company “.
Hipster jeans and belly chains may be back, but some early 2000s stuff is best left in the past.