Abercrombie & Fitch Used to Rule the Mall. The Netflix Documentary White Hot Is a Deep_freckle removal reviews

Hannah Lynn·8 min readIn this article:
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  • Alison KlaymanAmerican journalist and documentary maker

Mike Jeffries in White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch Credit - Courtesy of Netflix

Anyone who grew up going to American malls in the late 1990s and early 2000s likely remembers the dark pull of Abercrombie & Fitch. The retail store—which catered to teenagers and young adults, and repelled their parents—used photos of shirtless guys to sell shirts and had a scent as potent as a skunk. Between about 1996 and 2004, Abercrombie & Fitch and its aspirational Americana ruled the mall. But something changed in the mid-2000s, as several factors converged to make the brand go stale.

In the Netflix documentary White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch, out April 19, director Alison Klayman tracks how the store, which thrived on promoting beauty standards that idealized thinness and whiteness, began to come apart when employees began calling out what made it so toxic. The company not only glorified the beauty of the thin, white models presented in its ads, but deliberately only hired employees that fit that mold, and fired those who strayed outside its lines.

The documentary features interviews with former Abercrombie executives, retail employees, and models, as well as cultural critics and activists who helped bring Abercrombie’s troubling practices to light. But before the film gets into what made Abercrombie so toxic, it reminds viewers what made the store intoxicating in the first place—talking heads recall its all-American image, the models who graced the doorways, the smell, the dark lights, and the loud music.

A shopper carries an Abercrombie and Fitch bag after leaving the store May 10, 2007 in San Francisco, California.<span class="copyright">Getty Images</span>
A shopper carries an Abercrombie and Fitch bag after leaving the store May 10, 2007 in San Francisco, California.Getty Images

Klayman pinpoints how and when the perception of Abercrombie started to change, both in the eyes of consumers and employees. One former employee on the corporate side says in the film that he felt a shift when he saw 2002’s Spider-Man, in which a bully wearing an Abercrombie polo tries to beat up Peter Parker. Employees of color working in the retail stores became disillusioned when they realized they were mistreated in comparison to the white employees, the documentary shows. Public protests in response to offensive slogans on Abercrombie’s popular graphic tees began in 2002. After years of lawsuits, boycott campaigns, and even more lawsuits until, eventually, Abercrombie CEO Mike Jeffries stepped down in 2014.


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