One of the best things about being in my thirties is that I get to see the young people I taught when I was a new teacher grow up. Today I get to share a blog post from a young lady I first met when she was about twelve, a seventh grader in my English class. Now she's a university graduate and a novelist.
Facebook has connected me with many of my former students, and it's such a pleasure to watch them go through college or have babies or build careers or all three. So I'm bursting with pride to share this WHAT WOULD YOU BURN blog post.
From One Mean Girl to Another
Last month, CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch, Mike Jeffries was quoted as saying, "In every school there are the cool and popular kids and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot friends. A lot of people don't belong (in our clothes), and they can't belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become too vanilla. You don't alienate anybody, but you don't excite anybody either."
Please. Because seven different colored polo shirts and twenty different types of acid washed jeans aren't 'vanilla'.
Now, since the CEO of Abercrombie loves to play the 'exclusivity' card, I decided that he might like to hear from someone who fits his category, someone who is pretty and popular and has lots of friends and big blue eyes and bleached blonde hair, why wouldn't he? That's his demographic, is it not?
Ten years ago, when I was in high school, I worked for Abercrombie folding jeans and spritzing people with way too much cologne. Ten years ago, I bought my first pair of faded, low-rise, acid-washed ripped jeans. Ten years ago, I had a handsome boyfriend who drove a Mercedes and I took a fellow Abercrombie employee to my senior prom. Ten years ago, I was one of the girls who was part of a group dubbed by our high school friends as 'the sexy six'. And it was ten years ago, when wearing Abercrombie and Fitch was cool and could get away with labeling themselves as 'exclusive'.
Unfortunately, as much as I'm sure the insecure little teenager that lives inside Mr. Jeffries wishes that his business model of 'exclusivity sells' would work, this generation's teenagers are not going to bite. Toms Shoes is a company which began in 2006 and focuses on a "one-for-one" business model where every shoe that is bought sends another to China, Ethiopia or Argentina (you know, everywhere for everyone). Toms has become a hundred million dollar company since its inception 2006
. However, Abercrombie's "sales at stores open at least a year combined with online sales fell 15 percent"
this quarter. Whoops.
What Jeffries forgot, being the savvy business man that he is, is that every generation evolves. The teenagers of this decade are socially conscious and concerned about overspending. They were raised in a recession and have seen the affects of pollution, poor health and lavish waste and guess what? They don't like it. They want to change the world and they know they aren't going to do it in a plaid pair of boxer-briefs and a lime green string bikini.
If Mr. Jeffries is still trying to fit in with the "popular kids" he has vastly missed the mark. The most popular kids in high school now aren't the bouncy blondes or the all-American football players of yesteryear -- they are the hipsters who value "independent thinking" and "counter-culture"
. Quite frankly, everyone wearing the same pair of jeans and powder-pink-polo shirt, isn't exactly independent or counter-cultural.
So for many years, I have held onto my pair of Abercrombie jeans because it reminded me of a happy time. It reminded me of sitting on the beach in my Rainbows with a tanned blonde boy next to me. It reminded me of eating Chronic Tacos and laughing until our moms called and made us take our convertibles back to our mansions. However, those days are gone-- long, long, long gone with the crash of the stock market and the fact that now we are all adults with jobs and student loans to pay off. Just like my jeans, the Abercrombie culture has faded and reached the end of its era. I understand that Mr. Jeffries still wishes to hold onto his memories and the hopes that he is still the most popular kid in school but at some point we all have to leave high school and grow up.
With that said, today I will burn that ugly, outdated old pair of jeans. They will probably explode with all the bleach and the acid in them and the fact that they were so poorly made they can withstand hardly more than the walk to and from the tanning salon and honestly, Mike, perhaps its time you burned your jeans, too.
Eryn Harper Grey