Slutty prep outfitter Abercrombie & Fitch has been criticized recently for not offering women’s XL or XXL sizes, a function of its mission to only “go after the cool kids.” As CEO Mike Jeffries told Salon in 2006, “That’s why we hire good-looking people in our stores. 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.” Anyone who’s ever shopped in Soho knows that this isn’t limited to A&F; many retailers only hire salespeople attractive enough to serve as models for the brand. At A&F, the discrimination goes all the way to the top.
Kjerstin Gruys, a sociologist who recently wrote a memoir about giving up mirrors for a year, first became interested in the politics of clothing size while working for A&F at the corporate level, as a merchant in the outerwear division. Also writing in Salon, Gruys recalls that, even at the company headquarters, grown-ass women were expected to dress “on brand,” in the latest season of tiny clothing made for teenagers.
“I squeezed myself into the second-largest A&F women’s size available — an 8 — and dieted to stay that size. It terrified me to know that if I gained weight and sized out of their women’s clothes, I’d have to wear ill-fitting men’s T-shirts and sweatshirts to work every day, as I’d seen other ‘large’ women do.”
The Department of Labor doesn’t even have a term for this middle-school-level workplace hostility.