Don't miss a thing: Get full posts emailed daily or summaries emailed semimonthly.

Do Not Give Abercrombie & Fitch To Homeless People While Boycotting It

by Alex Iwashyna

in Cultural Norms (that are abnormal)

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.

{click here if you can’t see the video}

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.

ANF_LOGOS_Homeless

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?

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Katie May 14, 2013 1

wait. this is a thing?

How can someone not see how hypocritical and ridiculous doing this is? Oh dear.

Just…oh dear.

Reply

laura @ a little barefoot May 14, 2013 2

While I get your point, and I think you are coming from a very well thought out place, I still have to disagree with your conclusion. If we feel ethically opposed to wearing clothing, what should we do with it? Throw it out? Burn it? Then we are doing precisely what the Abercrombie CEO wanted – burning it rather than letting someone other than his target audience wear it. We are wasting it. I would argue that it is better to give ethically questionable clothing to someone who needs it and could use a clean/warm/wearable article of clothing, even if that means possibly insulting/dehumanizing that person a little bit by expecting them to ignore the ethical problem with said clothing. I would assume that a homeless person cares more about having clean clothes to keep his/herself warm than about a symbolic show of support of an unethical CEO of an unethical company.
laura @ a little barefoot recently posted..Thoughts on Working Mommyhood

Reply

Alex Iwashyna May 15, 2013 3

What should we do with the clothing is a good question. We can use it for rags to clean the house. We wear it until it’s unwearable and just not buy from there again. I think the problem is that we shouldn’t assume being homeless means they want to participate in this. We can ask. It might be better to consign the clothing and give a person or a shelter money or clothing that is more practical. A&F clothing is not know for its practicality.

Reply

Kim May 15, 2013 4

I’m not opposed to the A&F clothes being donated, but I’m against the use of homeless people as pawns in this video. There is no respect shown to them.

Reply

Kateann May 15, 2013 5

If its the difference between being cold or not, I would gladly wear any free clothing. At that point I couldn’t care less about anything else but survival.

Reply

JJ May 15, 2013 6

So if you found out later that you were the butt of a joke seen by thousands of people, you’d be ok with that? What if you were 200 lbs, and given a size small tank top, is that going to keep you warm? What if you were wearing some grubby clothes and walking down the street, minding your own business, and some guy throws a shirt at you because he assumed you were homeless, when, in fact, you have a closet full of clothes at home? The lack of respect of shown to the homeless is the problem.

Reply

The husband May 15, 2013 7

The whole problem is that it isn’t just a question of being cold or not cold. 1) the homeless were there yesterday, but he didnt need them to make a point so wasn’t doing anything to help them. 2) he is not discussing the reason people are not wearing the clothing and saying “I wasn’t sure if you would still be willing to wear this even though what the company said was rude.” – you are presuming that they are desperate and In need of your help but only because it is more convenient and easier than treating a homeless person as a true full person who has the right to turn down your veggie sandwich. How much more poignant would the video have been if he had discussed with a homeless person and they had responded “I’ve never been cool, so I don’t want to wear it either.”? But in doing so, it wouldn’t be this easy fix to the problem of Abercrombie. It would be this bigger problem that the guy who annoys you panhandling one day, can’t be used to make you feel good the next when it is convenient for you and you are looking to prove you are better than someone else.

Reply

Walt May 15, 2013 8

This “protest” is one click above “Bumfight”. The real issue is can fat people wear AF clothes? Shouldn’t they organize something?
Walt recently posted..Most Expensive Music Video in History

Reply

Amanda Jillian May 15, 2013 9

Excellent post. I can understand wanting to clothe the homeless but it’s kind of insulting to use a boycotted brand cause you want to make it uncool.
Amanda Jillian recently posted..Eyes of a Mermaid {Daily Mermaid}

Reply

Chara May 15, 2013 10

That is a good point! I have to say something small went off in my brain but I was more over come with the giving it away to Goodwill or thrift stores part that I missed the associating it with a new joke to snicker at. Just relocating the problem doesn’t solve it. Thanks for sharing!

Reply

Alex Iwashyna May 15, 2013 11

While I do think Goodwill or a thrift store is slightly different than a homeless shelter or giving it directly to a homeless person as the video directs us to do since at least the person would have a choice as to whether to purchase the item, I also think there are better ways to come at the whole situation without so much us and them.

Reply

Alison May 15, 2013 12

While I think it’s great the homeless is getting clothed, I can’t quite get behind the concept. There must be a better way to make a point.
Alison recently posted..Things I’m Afraid to Tell You: Volume II

Reply

Alex Iwashyna May 15, 2013 13

I agree. Boycotting it? Taking back the brand by all wearing it? Using the clothing for rags to clean? Consigning the clothing people have and donating the proceeds to non-profits that support body image and whatever else seems the antithesis of A&F? (These are off the top of my head)

Reply

julie gardner May 15, 2013 14

I love this post (especially that parting question) and agree whole-heartedly.

Now I’m going to ask your advice (in all seriousness) because I have a dilemma:

My teenage children and I do not have any A & F clothing because, in recent years, I’ve found their company to be offensive in SO many ways and my kids think it’s snobby and don’t want to be a part of it.

A decade ago, however, before our family ever questioned A & F, my husband purchased a lot of their clothing (from clearance sales because who could afford that stuff at full price, anyway?) and he still has it (because we are not fashion-forward and don’t care to replace clothing that doesn’t need replacing).

Would you, under these circumstances, request that your husband donate the shirts/shorts to Goodwill even though they are still wearable? I hate that his continuing to wear these clothes might be sending the wrong message; but, on principle, we don’t buy new things we don’t need.

What Would Alex Do?
(No joke.)

Reply

Danielle May 24, 2013 15

Get a sharpie and make the shirts say “I’m not with A&F” like the old Alice Cooper shirts…

Honestly, until this week, I didn’t even know they were still around.

Reply

Michael Lombardi May 15, 2013 16

I’ll start off by saying I do not now, nor have I ever purchased or wanted to purchase A&F clothing. But I’m a fat guy, so it apparently works out in their favor.

I think it is absolutely right of you to think that the homeless should not be pushed into something they don’t want. If they guy doesn’t want a veggie sandwich, who cares? Ideally you would have asked him on your way in, but we can’t be mad he didn’t take you up on it. Clearly he was interested enough to ask what kind of sandwich it was. If he had a full belly, he likely would have just passed.

When it comes to clothes, here’s how I see it.

There is one way >only< to show your ultimate support of a brand or product and that's using the money you worked for to spend on the product. Sure you could refer people, but it's not the same. Your voice has no limit, but your pocketbook does.

So, once the money has been spent, how do you show the world you no longer support the company/brand/product? Well, you get rid of it and don't buy anymore. How should you get rid of it? Well, I generally prefer to donate used items of clothing instead of selling them. So you go offer a homeless person a shirt. They either 1) need a shirt and say thank you, 2) need a shirt and decline for some reason, 3) don't need a shirt and take it, or 4) don't need a shirt and decline.

I don't think any of these is dehumanizing. If I saw a homeless person wearing an A&F shirt, I wouldn't think it was because he loves the company's morals, I would think it was because he needed a shirt. I certainly don't investigate the corporate spending of every company whose products I purchase. If it turned out that Honda was killing babies with nuclear waste runoff into a preschool's drinking water, I wouldn't get rid of my car. Because it's a freaking awesome car. I just wouldn't buy a new one from them–or better, I'd buy a used one so that I still got what I wanted, but they got nothing from me.

If I need something I'll take it and if I don't, I won't. Here's an example: I do not like beans and soup. Guess what our entire emergency preparedness food supply is? If I was living off of small mammals and birds and someone offered me a pot of soup and some beans, I might not take it. If I wasn't eating, I probably would.

Bottom line: I don't think offering your used crap to someone you think might be interested is a bad thing in anyway. I do, however, think assuming they'll take it because you're better than them is elitist.
Michael Lombardi recently posted..3 Miles 21 Pounds of Baby

Reply

Rosstwinmom May 15, 2013 17

Your point about it not being dehumanizing is glossing over the reason this man started giving the homeless these clothes. He didn’t give them away just to be rid if them; he wants the brand to be mocked because, “Look! Homeless people wear them! So uncool!”

Reply

Elaine A. May 15, 2013 18

Bonfire, big ole bonfire! Or something to wipe off my super dirty mini-van. That’s all I want to use those clothes for. Not that I have any AF clothes. And my kids NEVER will either. I can’t stand the smell of that place, it makes me feel nauseated, and now for even more reasons…

Reply

Lily from It's A Dome Life May 15, 2013 19

Exploiting one disenfranchised group to “help” another disenfranchised group doesn’t make much sense. I don’t see how this helps the “uncool” become cool. Do people even notice what brand homeless people are wearing? Do people even really “see” the homeless people? What impact will this even have on A&F, the homeless, or overweight people? I am guessing not much. Not to mention, the premise is confusing and degrading to all involved. People will stop buying A&F because they don’t want to be wearing the “homeless” look? A&F will change it’s image/values because it will suddenly realize that homeless people and overweight (or the uncool among us, whatever that means) people are human too and deserve to be treated with respect (because homeless people can rock the A&F look too)? How does this change anything for the better? I am lost. Who is supposed to be winning in this situation exactly?

Instead of buying A&F clothing from a thrift store, take the time to find out what people really need. A warm coat? Clean underwear? Some good shoes? Donate/buy that. Make your money count. Stop buying brands that have horrible values. Make your money count there too. I guess I am just saying, when you feel the urge to do something, make sure it really helps people, respects people, and does what you want it to. Like tell A&F you won’t be buying their clothes until they make them available to people of all shapes and sizes. Start a letter writing campaign. Suggest A&F adopt a more community minded approach. Ask them to share their wealth with people who need it most. Ask each store to adopt a food kitchen and pledge to donate some of their profits each month. Talk to the homeless people in your town. Look them in the eyes… see them. Donate your time and ask the local shelters/food kitchens what they really need. Grow extra food in your garden. Do something that promotes actual change. I mean, why do people buy A&F anyway? For status? Exclusivity? Maybe we need to spend more time talking to our children about status, kindness, the value in people no matter how much or how little money they have. Why is being cool more important than having respect for our fellow human beings? Raise awareness about the priorities we have in our culture and how they may not be all that healthy. Figure out how to change that.

This guy seems motivated and energetic. I think he just needs to give people more credit for being smart. Ask people to write letters and boycott A&F. Tell them you refuse to fund their discriminatory practices. Ask people to actually see and care about the homeless. Ask the homeless what they actually need. I guess I see these as two, mostly unrelated issues so pushing them together confuses me. I don’t think A&F clothing is going to help the homeless all that much and I don’t think the homeless wearing A&F clothing is going to force the company to change it’s ways all that much either.
Lily from It’s A Dome Life recently posted..Everything Right Is Wrong Again

Reply

Skye May 15, 2013 20

I had never heard of #fitchthehomeless, but the idea puts a bad taste in my mouth. “I’m too good for these clothes, so I’m going to give them to people who don’t have a say in what they wear. This is really going to stick it to the A&F CEO, too- no one wants homeless people wearing their brand!” What?!

Reply

Coco May 15, 2013 21

Great point…

I’m okay with the video dude’s motives to stick to the A&F CEO by putting “cool” A&F clothes on the “uncool” homeless, yet I can see what you’re saying here about calling homeless people uncool.

The problem is, that Mr. Asshole CEO is still in high school with his “some of us are cool, but you’re not” crap. No doubt he’s of the mind that homeless people as uncool.

What if we were to tell the homeless folks what’s up as we offer them these “cool” clothes? Maybe they’d be into it. Maybe they’d like to give Mr. Asshole CEO the finger for us to put on our blogs. I don’t imagine that it’s lost on them that some rich dude with a hipster clothing company thinks he and his youngsters are cool and the rest of us are so not.

I was an uncool kid in school and when I heard these words about cool kids, it was a very unpleasant trip down my memory’s back alley. I see this guy’s idea of donating A&F clothing to the homeless as a step in the right direction, not a misguided good deed. I don’t see any reason not to take it further by getting photos, taping conversations with the homeless, talking to women who can’t purchase A&F clothing in XL sizes, etc.

I see no reason to blast a fellow with a good heart and I don’t question his motives. I don’t think he sees himself as better than the homeless- he’s just pissed off and trying to do something in response to His Royal Asshole-ness. We’re all trying to shove it to the assholes together, aren’t we? Conversation is good, but taking higher moral ground within our own camp is not so productive.

The fact is, precious few of us reading and responding here can relate but so much to the homeless, even if we do volunteer somewhere. It’s outrageous for us to take sides over this and judge someone who’s only trying to help when what we all really want is justice.
Coco recently posted..You Can Always Flee The Scene Before They Kick You Out

Reply

Karen May 15, 2013 22

Ya, so I totally agree with you. I’ve just stayed out of the discussion because I know so many people who are fired up about what this guy is doing, but well-intended or not, it has these big downsides that you’ve pointed out.

I’ve actually gotten worn out on controversy on the web this past week. First A&F, then Angelina, then Amy’s Baking…people are just saying horrid things about other human beings and it makes me want to throw my computer, phone and every other connected device away so I don’t have to hear that noise.

Then someone comes along and does some really good critical thinking that isn’t popular and I’m back on board again. So thanks for this post. I’m glad I’m not the only one thinking about it this way.
Karen recently posted..To the women I admire most in the world

Reply

angela May 15, 2013 23

It makes me uncomfortable, and you articulated it so much better than I could have done. xo

Reply

Nagzilla May 15, 2013 24

I shared your post on my personal wall (and with my social media class, but that’s another story…) and one of my favorite comments was “And frankly, as a fat chick, I’m tempted to sew about 47 of their skanky tank tops together to stretch over my fabulously ample, juicy ass and walk my sexy, curvy, bouncy self all up and down the street in front of A&F corporate.”

Reply

jojo May 16, 2013 25

The simple message of Karber’s (with “r” – not “Kaber”, as you put it in the penultimate paragraph) video [and his texts that you did not mention at all] is: “A&F should not judge about people – everyone is free to wear what he/she wants.” And: “Who are you to judge who is cool and who is not? Why are you telling that homeless people are not the ‘right’ persons to wear your clothing?”

It seems like you have totally misunderstood Karber’s idea.

Reply

Alex Iwashyna May 16, 2013 26

Thank you for pointing out the spelling error towards the end of the piece. I fixed it.
If the message is that everyone is free to wear what we want to wear, why are all those who aren’t homeless supposed to purge our closets of A&F clothing? Why isn’t Karber wearing the clothing? Why isn’t he inviting all people who feel like they aren’t the “right person” to wear A&F? And finally, why isn’t he letting the people who are homeless know what he is doing and why in the video?
I think Karber didn’t think through his idea.

Reply

jojo May 16, 2013 27

No, it’s not Karber’s message that “everyone is free to wear” and that’s not what I meant. The message seems to be more like: “Actually, everyone is free to wear what she/he wants – but A&F doesn’t think so. Furthermore, they think that homeless and other people are not their target group. But why? Let’s show them that simple moves can change their views.”

I understand it as a simple statement of protest. “They don’t want that? So, let’s do exactly that!”

And why should he wear the clothing if he thinks it’s “a terrible company” (which is his only actual statement in the whole clip)? By posting the video, he actually is inviting other people who think they aren’t the “right” person to wear A&F – rather than saying that “homeless people are second-class citizen”, which just seems to be an overinterpretation. Writing that he doesn’t explain the homeless people in the video is an overinterpretation as well. We just don’t know what he said to them before and/or afterwards he shot the video.

Reply

Alexandra May 16, 2013 28

Love that this guy outed the douce via youtube. We’ve never bought A&F b/c of the child porn ads. Kids looking 11 yrs old and barely dressed laying on top of each other. So, A&F consumerism is not on our radar, but I do like the hilariously called Back to the Future Bif look alike being called on his aholeness.
Alexandra recently posted..I Cannot Tell a Lie

Reply

Coco May 16, 2013 29

All opinions considered, I think we may each agree that Mr. Douchebag A&F CEO is trying to improve on his high school experience by casting himself as one of the cool kids now.

Poor thing.
Coco recently posted..You Can Always Flee The Scene Before They Kick You Out

Reply

Julia May 20, 2013 30

I think this is a complex issue that has outraged a lot of people. I admire this guy’s enthusiasm but am not sure that he thoroughly thought through the implications of his efforts. I love that you took this on here.
Julia recently posted..Mini Makeover: Yellow Front Door

Reply

Kimberly May 24, 2013 31

I feel the exact same way.
What does this say about the homeless?
Hey we’re trying to prove that you don’t have to be cool or rich to wear these clothes.
Do they even know that they are being made to be a cruel example of revenge?
This is so outrageous.
Kimberly recently posted..Free Bird

Reply

John Fisher October 6, 2013 32

If we really want to change the image of ANF, what people should be doing is buying ANF at thrift shops and modifying the hems and seams so the cothing will fit those of us with less-than-perfect bodies. One of my best friends when I was young had a favorite saying “Thin may be in, but fat’s where it’s at!!” I’m not really condoning being fat on purpose, because it isn’t healthy, but clothing manufacturers should be looking on people as people, not good-looking people and the “other” people.

Reply

{ 2 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: