Monday, February 04, 2008
Abercrombie: not obscene, but what is it?
On Friday, I gave my thoughts on Abercrombie & Fitch's marketing approach; over the weekend, police in the Virginia Beach area carted off huge posters from a store there on charges they were obscene. Despite media reports to the contrary, I had nothing to do with it.
Since merely having "Abercrombie" and "obscene" in my headline above will net me lots of google hits, I will refrain from the cheap sensationalism of putting one of A&F's typical picture's in this post.
The photo above is, rather, from an organization called "Imrov Everywhere" that organizes pranks, inviting all manner of folks to join in. As far as I can tell, the pranks are harmless: one was to have about a hundred folks show up at Best Buy, dressed exactly like Best Buy personnel, and just stand around. Another was to have a group of six or so act out a 2-minute drama in the middle of a Starbucks, and then re-enact it, like a scary, sci-fi loop, for about an hour or so.
The picture, above, is from a project to have about a hundred men shop shirtless at a Manhattan A&F store. The management was not amused, which amuses me a great deal.
Anyway, the presenting question concerns the marketing strategy of Abercrombie, and related subsidiaries, Abercrombie kids and Hollister. From what someone said in comments at a blog by Ann Althouse, the problem is worse for young girls' clothing.
No, this is far from the worst problem in the world--but it raises the issue of the sexualization of, well, children; and Abercrombie needs to just quit insulting everyone with its line, "we are aiming at young adults"; nobody believed the tobacco industry on that one, either.
I do wonder how many parents are taking an interest in this. I certainly see a fair number of shirts at Mass with these brand names, and I really wonder if there aren't parents who actually think this is okay. My basis for saying that? Two things: occasionally seeing parents of teen children, in their forties, whose bearing suggests they are trying to hang on to their own youth; and parents who, to my mind, have quirky agendas with their children. I recall talking with a boy, a few years ago, after Mass; he had highlights in his hair, something--at that time--I noticed a number of the boys had, all in third or fourth grade.
One boy's hair made me think of a tiger and I told him that, and he really enjoyed that; another boy, when I asked him about it, seemed distinctly uncomfortable, so I asked, whose idea was it? "My mom's. Now, of course, mom wasn't there to defend herself, but I have seen enough pre-teen boys dressing and carrying themselves like teenagers to make me think there's something there. With girls, I think its pretty clearly the marketing; I am pretty sure fathers don't want their daughters dressing too grown up, let alone slutty--because, after all, they haven't forgotten what teen boys are like; but am I right that some moms are pushing their sons in this direction? Anyone else picking up on that?
I think Virginia Beach's approach is wrong; there's no way an obscenity complaint will stand against Abercrombie; one commenter at Ann Althouse's site had it essentially right in saying, "Abercrombie made the complaint"--i.e., this story serves their purposes very well.
But what to do? My suggestion is vote with your pocketbook, and as a commenter said Friday, parents, don't be afraid to say no and stick to it. Again: does anyone want to take the counter, and say this is all no big deal?