By now, many people have heard the quotes from the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch about only wanting cool kids to wear his company’s clothing and that the clothing line purposefully doesn’t carry larger women’s sizes to keep larger women from wearing it. (source)
One man has decided to fight back by finding Abercrombie clothing in thrift stores and giving it to homeless people.
Greg Karber ends the video with this before calling us to action: “I can’t clothe the homeless or transform a brand without your help…”
And then he invites us to #fitchthehomeless where we clean out our closets and donate all our Abercrombie clothing to our local homeless shelter.
While I understand his motivations are probably well-intentioned and Abercrombie burning defective clothing instead of donating it plays a role, giving boycotted clothing to the homeless is not okay.
If a man came up to me and said, “Abercrombie and Fitch thinks only cool people should wear their clothing so I am going to give it to you for free to transform the brand…” I would be mildly offended because it’s fairly difficult to spin that sentence with anything positive. I don’t consider myself particularly cool, but I’m not into hanging around looking to change a brand into uncool.
But even more telling is the video doesn’t show Karber trying to explain to any homeless person why he is giving them Abercrombie clothing. Did they cut that part or did he just assume: Homeless people = HEY FREE SHIRT? Because #fitchthehomeless certainly isn’t touted as a movement where we stand arm and arm with the homeless against, as he puts it in the opening, “a terrible company.” Why would anyone want to wear clothing by a terrible, unethical, offensive company? Or do only people with homes have ethics?
I once tried to give a homeless man a vegetarian sandwich, which he politely declined, and I felt very conflicted as the people around me snickered and stared. I saw in myself then what I see in Karber and in the many replies to anyone who disagreed with the video. How we assume that a hungry, poor person should just be grateful for our leftovers and our ill-fitting causes. We are allowed to dehumanize them a little because they need more than we do. We can use them, give them whatever we don’t want, and they can only say thank you. We walk away telling ourselves, “They definitely appreciated that.”
The video implies that homeless people shouldn’t have opinions on Abercrombie or coolness or fitting in or being large or CEOs or corporations burning clothing or not being accepted. They aren’t intelligent enough to want to join the fight. They just want free stuff, and we can help them get it while feeling good about not ever wearing A&F again.
Kaber created another class of people within this Abercrombie controversy. It’s not based on looks or size. We (non-homeless) won’t wear Abercrombie anymore. We are purging our closets and our neighbors’ closets and our friends’ closets as the video encourages us to do. Now we have people who can afford to think or act on their ethics, and people who cannot.
And when we are left with a skid row full of homeless human beings wearing Abercrombie and Fitch clothing, we can finally ask ourselves: Are we sticking it to the CEO of a company or just illustrating how blind we really are?