Where Were We in 2006?

So much material, so little time…

I had plenty of material from which to choose today. I could have written about the new statistics showing women as primary “breadwinners” in homes, but that’s getting plenty of coverage from other sources. I could have written about how Starbucks is the new incarnation of the Devil, but one of my favorite bloggers at FBCJaxWatchdog took care of that.

I’m going to take a step back to a few weeks ago, when a lot of people went nuts about quotes from Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries.

“That’s why we hire good-looking people in our stores,” Jeffries said. “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 went on: “In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. 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 our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”

I knew about Jeffries’ whole “cool kids only” campaign a long time before Jeffries opened his yap, particularly the “anti-fat people” part. It’s not as if A&F hid any of this from the general public. After all, it’s pretty obvious to anyone who sees the half-naked print ads or even picked up one of their so-called larger items of clothing.

When I was a youth minister, I was at the mall with some of my students. Of course, they ran straight for A&F and wanted me to go with them; and they promptly talked me into trying on a XXL shirt.

This was a bad idea on so many levels.

I emerged to give my youth the absolute joy of seeing me dressed like a wrapped sausage. Seriously, this “XXL” fit me like Under Armor. The guys and girls fell on the floor–literally–at the sight of me “fitting” into this shirt that claimed to fit big people. I guess BIG at A&F is 5-9/170.

I also gingerly removed the wrapping, so as not to tear it and end up buying a $40 tshirt that I tried on as a joke.

I happen to know of a person who didn’t get hired at Abercrombie & Fitch because they were “a little too thick” as the store manager put it. And if that person was thick, then I must be morbidly obese.

I’ve worked with teens and young adults for a long time, and I know how this works. It’s tough to argue with Jeffries’ marketing strategy, because going for what is “cool” is exactly what sells to this all-important demographic. I even know of YOUTH MINISTERS that utilize this strategy to reach more students. Paraphrased:  “If we can get the cool kids and popular kids to church, then we can draw a lot bigger crowds”.

Here’s the thing:  Those comments were not made in the recent Business Insider article. The above comments were made in an interview with Salon in 2006.

2006. Yes, Jeffries and A&F have had this attitude for quite a while. Perhaps it took us 7 years and millions in profits for us to notice because we have become so immersed in that culture, even in the church.

This is how Mike Jeffries wants kids to be…and if you’re not this, you’re not made for Abercrombie

So…does this ad say “Family Values” to you?

One of my former youth, who was at the aforementioned trip to the mall, posted on Facebook following the May 3 article, “I can’t believe I used beg my mom to buy me these clothes!” Of course she would say that. She was smart and conscientious in high school, and has obviously matured from her younger days.

But where were the rest of us with our righteous indignation in 2006?

Jeffries crossed a line that obviously offended our sensibilities. But it’s hard to believe that

I am aware that we cannot possibly shut down huge companies that do things we don’t like. (Remember the Southern Baptist protest of Disney in the 1990s, where they were going to shut down “The Mouse”? How’d that work out?). I’m not advocating a massive boycott of all things A&F.

However, I DO find it interesting that Christians will attempt to shut down Disney for being “pro-gay” and “anti-Christian”, or pastors will tell us about how Starbucks is evil because of their stance on homosexuality. Yet, we buried our heads in the sand at the over-sexed ads and the comments to Salon and continued to buy (or let our kids buy) clothes from Abercrombie, with a philosophy that flies in the face of everything that Christ challenges us to be.

Funny, but I’ve barely heard a word from pastors about this issue with A&F. Most of the opposition has come from non-church sources. Strange how selective we can be about the things that offend our sensibilities.

I don’t really have a solution here, other than to say that Abercrombie won’t be getting any of my money. (Apparently a number of people are saying the same). I’m not sure how fruitful any organized protests can be against companies that oppose Christian values.

Yes, rants are usually pretty pointless, other than to get it out of our system.

I just grow tired of how offended some Christians get about companies that offer benefits to same-sex couples, but we remain silent about companies that target our kids with messages that are much more harmful. Jeffries’ attitude is the same as the school bully. It’s the same as that negative peer pressure that we constantly tell our kids to avoid.

And even worse, we buy into it and use those same marketing techniques to grow our church rolls. Seriously, click the link. Marketing is fine to a point, but we’re just as into “cool” as Abercrombie.

Perhaps we’re not willing to speak out against A&F because we’ve allowed ourselves to become what we have beheld. If we truly want to speak out to the issues of society and culture, we better start looking through a new set of lenses–as in ones that see something other than “homosexual”.


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