In response to some comments made by Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Michael Jeffries about not wanting large people in A&F clothes because he prefers “attractive…cool kids” in A&F clothes, there’s been a pretty big backlash, which is understandable. Most recently, I’ve learned about some “activism” aimed at giving Abercrombie and Fitch a “brand readjustment’” by giving Abercrombie and Fitch clothing to the homeless.
Because wouldn’t it be so awful for Abercrombie and Fitch clothing to be associated with homelessness and homeless people, because homeless people are so gross and disgusting, amirite? The video above says that it is striving to make Abercrombie and Fitch “the #1 brand of homeless apparel”. Maybe you’re thinking there’s no issue here because at least homeless people are getting some new duds and they were purchased from Goodwill, so what’s the big deal?
The big deal comes in when homeless people are being exploited to prove a point. Many homeless people are already widely disenfranchised and lacking a platform to be heard or to get access to the resources they need. By attempting to make a brand look bad by associating it with homelessness, the message is that homeless people are so gross, dirty, shameful (insert negative attribute here) that by associating the brand with these types of people, we are really making the brand look shitty, because these people are so shitty! get it? It’s all such a laugh! This type of “activism” is a farce. It contributes to and propagates a culture wherein homeless people can be used as props to further an agenda. This isn’t how you treat people. This is how you treat disposable objects. It isn’t funny, noble, or helpful to try and stick it to Abercrombie and Fitch by using homeless people as the medium for your message. Would the American population at large be comfortable with any other minority group being used to make a brand look “bad” by associating their clothing with that group? Sub out “homeless” for any other minority group and see how that sounds and feels. Pretty shitty, right?
Giving clothing, food, needed sundries, time, and other resources to the homeless or people who are in need is an awesome thing. But this isn’t about giving to the homeless. I don’t see any real or actual concern for homeless people in this “movement”. I see homeless people being used as the butt of a joke. The punchline? “Hahaha Abercrombie! You want cool and attractive people in your clothes and you claim to be exclusionary, so we’re going to give your clothes to homeless people because you would hate that!” The implication here is that homeless people are not cool or attractive and the brand can’t be exclusionary when worn by an already excluded group. This only “works” because homeless people are already part of an othered and excluded group, often left out of mainstream society, denied access to basic resources and the ability to have their needs met. Can’t.Stop.Laughing.
People who want to give to the homeless can do so at any time. Do it today! But giving a certain brand of clothing to the homeless in an attempt to make that brand of clothing look bad or unsavory or less-than-desirable is only possible when the population or group receiving the clothing carries the stigma you are trying to attach to that label. This doesn’t make Abercrombie and Fitch look bad. This makes Greg Karber and everybody supporting this “activism” look like an insensitive douche canoe who thinks homeless people are disposable props to be used to further an agenda, and that’s pretty sad and disappointing. Wanna help the homeless? Try not furthering the stigma surrounding homelessness by insisting that a brand being associated with homelessness would surely be less desirable or wanted. Wanna stick it to Abercrombie and Fitch? Easy Peasy! Don’t give them your money! It’s a simple solution that doesn’t involve stepping on the backs of the homeless in place of a soapbox.
Are you giving Abercrombie and Fitch to the homeless? Do you think using the homeless to prove a point is whack attack? Meet me down in the comments and let’s talk about it.