For years, working at Abercrombie & Fitch had one particularly stringent requirement: You had to be totally hot. Today, the youth-obsessed apparel retailer announced that this policy is changing.
According to The Washington Post, Abercrombie will no longer use the visual appeal of job applicants as a factor in hiring.
Abercrombie has long had a reputation for objectifying both its employees and customers. Shirtless men were once stationed at store entrances, the retailer shunned selling to “fat women,” and at one time, its catalogs resembled porn (in one issue, naked twentysomethings were having group masturbation). The retailer’s new shift is less philosophical and more strategic: The $4 billion retailer has gotten pummeled in recent years by the new crop of fast retailers like H&M and Forever21. According to a recent Bloomberg Business article, store sales have decreased five of the past seven years.
In the spirit of de-sexualizing its brand, the company is going to stop calling their store associates “models” and instead use the far more euphemistic term “brand representatives.” Apparently, the sexually suggestive ad campaigns are going out the door too. The changes will carry over to Hollister, Abercombie’s other clothing brand.
As tThe Washington Post explains:
Part of the mounting public pushback against the brand had to do with the company’s “Look Policy,” a highly specific set of guidelines for employees that reportedly included rules on everything from hairstyles (“sunkissed/subtle highlighting” was okay, but “chunks of contrasting color” were not) to fingernails (polish had to be skin-toned and nails couldn’t be longer than a quarter inch).
The company’s new dress code softens its approach, with a broader requirement that workers simply be “neat, clean, natural and well-groomed.” There are still some no-nos, however: Unless they have an approved accommodation, employees can’t wear excessive jewelry or makeup, visible piercings other than in the earlobes, large tattoos or headwear.
This enlightenment come after years of mounting criticism about these practices–and no coincidence, six months after Abercrombie’s eccentric CEO Mike Jeffries stepped down from that role.