Remember these guys?
They used to show up in front of Hollister on Broadway in SoHo just around the time that warm weather fully set in, and hung around saying "what'sup" to every customer who entered the store until Fall's first chill. They haven't really been there for a few years. Even though Abercrombie & Fitch just announced new, more chaste employee guidelines for its main and Hollister stores, it turns out that hiring a couple of model-types to hang out all day at the doorway was an expense that couldn't be justified even by the company's infamous, former CEO Michael Jeffries when its fortunes began to slide a few years ago. The covering of bare chests both in person and on posters will only be the most obvious change we will be seeing in Abercrombie and Hollister stores in the coming months. The particular aesthetic requirements of Jeffries' infamous "look policy" for his retail employees have basically been blown up after years of complaints from minority workers who felt that they were marginalized in the stores because of their race as well as activists who regularly complained that the store's imagery was overly sexualized and lacked both physical and racial diversity.
Sales staff will now be referred to as "brand representatives" instead of as Models which had allowed the company to dictate their appearance and physical type. In short, you will no longer have to look like you walked out of the ad campaign to apply for a job at Abercrombie and Hollister. In addition, workers will have more leeway to choose their own clothes rather than be pressured into buying current merchandise to "model", though visible logos from competing stores will still be banned. Shoe choices, for example, have also been broadened, so don't expect to see a store staff shod entirely in flip-flops, Jeffries' preferred footwear choice which posed multiple safety and support problems for store workers on their feet all day. You can also say goodbye to other Abercrombie and Hollister signatures that the company clung to despite complaints from workers and ridicule from customers. Lighting has been adjusted presumably so that you will be able to properly see the merchandise for sale, as has music volume which had often been reported to be above safe decibel levels for continuous exposure in many stores. The continuous house music mix that has been Abercrombie's calling card has been retired in favor of broader pop selections. In-store fragrance has been toned down, and no longer atomized so heavily throughout the stores and outside the entrances to such degrees that you could smell it down the block. Most prominently, the famous, ripped "Abercrombie Guy" will be relegated to the chain's perfume marketing. By July, he will be gone from billboards, in-store marketing images and shopping bags. There will be no more naked straddling of elephants or frolicking in woodland ponds. Abercrombie's new imagery will still feature gorgeous models (as seen below), but they will be a uniformly clothed, diverse cast, and though it hasn't been announced, it appears that Bruce Weber, the star photographer who helped create the sexy Abercrombie brand image and exclusively shot the chain's ad campaigns since the company's repositioning in the 90s, may be off the job.
It is certainly high time for a change, as the chains had long since fallen into self-parody by rigidly sticking to policies that initially brought them attention, but also a healthy helping of mockery —not to mention a slew of lawsuits from frustrated employees. Still, Abercrombie's excesses were entertaining at the very least, and we certainly got more than our fair share of mileage reporting about them. The danger, of course, is that Hollister and Abercrombie & Fitch will become nondescript and boring. Now it will be up to the chains' creative staffs to find fresh merchandise that differentiates them from both their pasts and their competitors. And we have to admit, we miss those cheery shirtless guys in front of stores because, well, just look at them. Easy to make fun of, sure, but while we were calling them out, we weren't really complaining about them.
Bye-Bye, Beefcake: Abercrombie’s Hot Salesclerk Policy Is Over (Bloomberg)
A&F Drops ‘Sexualized’ Marketing (WWD)
New advertising images from Abercrombie & Fitch