Why I Can’t #FitchtheHomeless

fitch

By now, you’ve probably heard about the scandalous, and ugly stance of Abercrombie & Fitch CEO, Mark Jeffries.  And by now, you’ve also probably heard, and even shared, the video by Greg Karber imploring us to #FitchtheHomeless.

In case you don’t know about it, the basic premise is that A&F makes no apologies for refusing to carry sizes bigger than a Large/10, and only hiring good looking “cool” kids to work their stores.  If you’re not thin, beautiful, rich, and popular, you aren’t welcome to wear their clothing.  Furthermore, A&F burns defective merchandise rather than donating it…for fear of it tainting their image by getting into the wrong hands.  Because, cool, hip, beautiful people are rich enough to buy new…the people who can’t afford it are the wrong people altogether.

In what seems on the surface to be an ingenious idea, Karber started a campaign where he encourages everyone to find any and all Abercrombie clothing…whether it be in your closet, your friend’s closet, or even your local Goodwill…and donate it to your local homeless shelter and/or even pass it out to the local homeless guy on the corner.

You know, when I first saw the video, I smirked.  After all, A&F needs a major kick the gut after being such pompous jerks.  It’s just gross, and “giving it to The Man” is always kinda fun.  Jeffries doesn’t want to donate clothes?  Let’s do it for him!  He wants only pretty people to wear his stuff?  We’ll show him!

Right?

Look, let me start by saying this: I love the act of clothing the homeless.  Truly.  My heart aches every time I see a poor soul begging on the corner.  Do I find the words of A&F CEO disgusting and appalling?  Absolutely.  Do I want him to get one, great, big slice of Humble Pie?  You know it.  And you know, I realize that the creator of #FitchtheHomeless has nothing but good intentions at heart.  Frankly, I think we could be fast friends.  Just like I know that anyone who shared the video, helping it go viral almost overnight, was simply joining in what they genuinely believed was the Good Fight.

That is, if the Good Fight is telling Abercrombie (and every other major corporation) that discrimination is ugly and will not be tolerated, I’m in.

But at what expense?  Are we inadvertently fighting judgmental discrimination through another, more subtle form of discrimination?

Years ago, I read this book, and it completely changed the way I viewed the homeless.  And it is because of my deep love of ALL human beings, that I had to stop short of sharing that video and rushing to my local thrift store scour the racks and do the same.  Even if I want nothing more but to see a tail between the legs apology (or better yet, a full collapse of their hyper sexualized brand).

Hang with me for a second…

Let’s change the parameters of this Screw A&F Campaign real quick: what if we suggested that we go to every local high school and gave A&F clothing to the fattest, ugliest, pimply faced teenagers we could find?  You know, the “dork” who sits eating his sandwich alone?  The one who is bullied and threatened and has soda “accidentally” spilled on him by the jocks?  You know, the exact type of person who A&F absolutely does not, under any circumstances want wearing his clothes?

YEAH!  Let’s give it to A&F!  Let’s find the exact opposite of what he wants, and do it!  Screw him!  And you know, let’s not only do it, but let’s take pictures of the fat, nerdy, socially awkward kids wearing his clothes and let’s share it!  Twitter!  Facebook!  Pinterest!  We’ll show HIM!  HaHa Sucker!  There’s your cool clothes and the biggest, ugliest dork we could find!!!  BOOYAH!

I probably don’t have to say that this would be appalling and unacceptable.

In fact, this “idea” would be as despicable as the A&F CEO himself.

So…what are we saying…as a culture…as a society…when we don’t see homeless people in the same light and with the same level of respect?  After all, aren’t we seeking out the least cool, unhip, lowest tier of the economic ladder, and doing the exact. same. thing.?!  We paint it with the broad brush of philanthropy…but we’re clothing them!!!  We’re standing up to Big Corporation and doing Good all at the same time!

Well, yes.  And that is good.  So very good.  But at what price?  Good intentions don’t always translate into good things.  Do you want free clothing…homeless or otherwise…if you were the inadvertent butt of an internet joke?

Now, I’m pretty sure someone is thinking “But they’re homeless!  They don’t have the internet.  So they don’t even know.  And they’re getting desperately needed clothing.  It’s a win-win!  You’re being too sensitive, Jeannett.”

I mean, if that’s me being sensitive, I guess I can’t get mad when a group of kids makes fun of the mentally disabled kid in class…because, you know, it’s not like they understand that we’re making fun of them…in fact, they smile and think we’re laughing with them…so really, it’s nice of us…we’re making him laugh!

::cringe::

Maybe I’m being sensitive.  Maybe I’m reading into it too much.  Maybe.

Or maybe, we are all buying into the lie that homeless people are simply bums…and not homeless people.  People with feelings and hearts and souls and worth.  

It’s a subtle belief that none of us (myself included) would admit to holding onto: the homeless population are our modern day lepers.  But here it is, front and center…albeit a little hidden under all the layers of a society who is absolutely sick and tired of all the gross and over the top focus on only Photoshop attainable beauty.  Can I tell you how absolutely thrilled I am to see our collective anger over this?  I love that we are fed up with Hollywood’s ridiculous standards.  I am so excited to see us join forces to tell the powers that be that we will not tolerate this unnatural obsession with perfection any longer.  It is a good, good, good thing.  Truly.

But positioning the homeless as the butt of an internet hashtag, does not cease to make them a pawn in our little internet games.  Nor does it undo the fact that we are now committing the very crimes we are trying to fight against!

So now what?  I mean, maybe you’ve shared the video to all of your friends…maybe you laughed and thought it was a brilliant ploy…whatever.  It’s okay.  It sucks that we forget and compartmentalize others…but it happens…and the real test of beauty is in being humble enough to make an about face and admit that it wasn’t the right approach after all.

Rather than #FitchtheHomeless, perhaps it simply needs to be #DitchtheFitch.  Period.

Scour your closets.  Get rid of it all.  And you know what?  Donate it to the thrift shop.  Quietly.  Unceremoniously.  If someone (poor, hipster, or otherwise) chooses to buy it…great.  But no need to seek out the homeless specifically.

But more importantly, don’t shop there.  Ever.  Again.

If you have children who like their clothing, teach them that you cannot in good conscience support a company who’s values are so disgusting.

TOMS shoes taught our youth that giving is good.  They managed to take a simple canvas shoe, and build an empire by encouraging others to think beyond themselves.  Buy one pair of (ugly) shoes…give a pair.  Our kids bought into this form of philanthropy and have spent millions in this kind of one to one campaign.  Is it perfect?  Probably not.  But it’s a start.  It’s the beginning of the next generation remembering that there is someone else out there…that life isn’t all about them and those in their zip code.  It’s a start.

Let’s also teach our kids that the reverse is true: encourage companies who make a difference for the better…and do not support companies who’s value system is contrary to ours.

There are so many ways to make a difference in our world…and our dollars….and where they go is absolutely a part of that picture.

But so is our response to collective frustration.  We must not jump to embrace a proposed solution if it simply poses a different problem.

In the end, it’s just not worth it.

*Disclosure: amazon affiliate link used.

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jeannett
I'm a mom to four. A wife to one. I believe in story. I love telling you about mine and would love to hear yours. There's really no sense in wasting our suffering and not sharing in each other's joy. We're all in this together...even if it doesn't always feel like it.
jeannett

Comments

  1. 69

    I have a pair of sweatpants from A&F that I bought from Goodwill in 2001 for $4. I wasn’t the kid in high school that wore them, but most my school did. I think the first time I wore those pants my now DH actually came over to me at lunch. Not because they were A&F (you couldn’t tell) but because I looked good. I was actually sick and didn’t want to put real effort into getting dressed into my normal weird attire. I still have those pants and they still fit, but even then when my dad would take me clothes shopping I wouldn’t go into A&F I couldn’t imagine paying those prices for stuff I’d grow out of. I hope this whole thing opens eyes, but the kids that aren’t wearing it at school about 1/2 of them don’t want to, the 1/2 can’t afford to. So maybe we should #Fitchthekidsthatcant
    Ann T´s last blog post ..Stitch Fix #3 Review

  2. 70

    I agree with your point. My initial thoughts on the Fitch the homeless was more about equalling the playing field rather than reaching down to the lowly. I view the homeless as equal humans to myself- we all eat and breath and have feelings. The homeless are certainly in a different life situation but I do not believe they are below me or anyone else. I thought the idea of giving them the clothes was more abput showing that there is NO difference in one human to the next and who the heck cares or is to say that a brand name should make someone better than the other.

    • 71

      Wish there was a way to like this comment !!

    • 72

      I agree. I donate to Goodwill and other thrifts ans while their money goes to worthwhile social causes, the clothes don’t usually clothe the homeless. They are sold ot if they aren’t good enough to sell, they are crated and sold by the pound overseas. I’m sitting here at a bus stop looking at a man who is wearing only a pair of torn, baggy pants. I gave him a little money, but right now he could use some A&F or anything else. If the stunt makes anyone donate any clothing directly to the homeles, I say go for it.

    • 73

      I love this blog post and I love these replies. Maybe we could go through our closets and donate anything we are willing to part with directly to the homeless or a shelter. Not just A&F, and not just the clothes that are ugly or ruined. I think what I am getting out of this whole thing is that A&F’s CEO isn’t interested in the welfare of collective humanity. He appears to be hard hearted and closed off. If we can use this as a mirror of sorts to take inventory of ourselves and assess (or re-assess) our own values and beliefs then we as a society have benefited from this ugly lesson and something good and better can come of it.

  3. 74

    I agree with what you are saying. By #fichthehomeless we are just trading one low blow for another.
    Christopher Drew´s last blog post ..A Mother’s Love

  4. 75

    I agree with what you are saying BUT I still believe that the #fitchthehomeless is an excellent initiative. To me, I feel that it more about saying to the homeless and so-call less attractive and less “cool” individuals that “Yes, you are just as equal as us. We do not agree with Abercrombie and Fitch’s CEO.” However, this donating could be done without naming or posting photos of those who received the donations.

  5. 76
    kashuneko says:

    Or, maybe what the video is saying is that BECAUSE this douchebag of a CEO would rather BURN A&F clothes than give them to homeless people – which is their corporate policy – we’ll give them to homeless people just to spite him!
    Or, maybe what the video, the movement, is saying is that homeless people ARE beautiful. All people are beautiful. And if this guy can’t see it, screw him!
    I think you’re looking for the dark side in this rather than the good. And if you look for the dark, you can find it ANYWHERE.

    • 77
      Shannon says:

      A&F isn’t the only brand to burn their clothes rather than donate them if they don’t sell. I threw away many perfectly good, but apparently unsellable, clothes into the trash, after having sliced them with box cutters so that dumpster divers couldn’t get them while working for a HUGE retailer in college. Its not an isolated thing.

  6. 78
    Ronda-Lee says:

    Very eloquent indeed but I don’t agree. The intent isn’t to give to the exact opposite of what CEO Mark Jefferies, which is the “dork” sitting in the corner eating his sandwich. The intent is to dilute the brand, make it not so exclusive. And that means handing it out to those who cannot afford it, the homeless. #DitchtheFitch is great and never, ever buying anything from AF is a great idea but so is #FitchtheHomless.

    • 79
      Van Aberl says:

      Ronda-Lee, I agree with you. The message of the video is about making everyone equal; NOT “the homeless are ugly”. I think #FitchtheHomeless is awesome!

      • 80
        Ronda-Lee says:

        Yes, Van Aberl. exactly. Let’s face it, you can see the good and the bad in any situation. There are professionals who can “spin” things to suit whatever your needs are at the moment.
        Let’s all try to see the good in #DitchtheFitch, not the bad.

  7. 81

    I don’t know about you, but when I think of Abercrombie, I think of 20 year old frat and sorority kids. They’re in every mall and not cool.

    Most clothing companies don’t make extra large sizes and most fashion brands will hire attractive people to work in their stores (if they have the option).

    I don’t support AF and maybe they are more vocal about their policies than other brands, but I think they are no different from a lot of mall stores.

    If you don’t like them, just support a smaller independent company or stick with a safe company like Gap. Giving their clothing to homeless to make them look bad is terrible. They are people too. Plus, how many companies make their clothing in sweatshops? There’s lots of worse things you can do than make fat people feel bad.

    • 82

      Most clothing companies don’t make extra large sizes? Where do you shop? I have zero trouble finding clothes. Mind you, I won’t set foot in a store like Abercrombie and never have… I find American Eagle just as bad. But really? MOST clothing companies? Broaden your horizons a bit, then. Because that right there is a problem….. an average sized woman in North America is a 12. Abercrombie doesn’t sell anything bigger than a 10. That’s a problem.

      And I agree, the better side of the movement should be to just give away anything you own with A&F’s logo on it, never go in again, not make a big ceremony out of it, and move on to a better, more edifying, less discriminatory brand with better business practices. And I’m not just talking A&F here. There are many that we would be outraged by if we knew what all went on that we’re not privy to.

    • 83

      Exactly. Also They have ONLY plus size stores, why can’t there be stores for smaller sizes too? I’m not supporting him in his rudeness BUT i see i also think people shouldn’t make such a big deal about this! People are starting a “war” with some CEO that has enough money and teens that WILL keep shopping there no matter what..this is a pointless argument.

  8. 84

    Something about this campaign just didn’t sit right with me but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Thanks for clearing it up. It really is in pretty bad taste.

  9. 85

    I was feeling the same thing immediately after watching the campaign video.

    P.S. I loved how you posted “this book” with a link…Even before I clicked something in me just knew, “hmm, I’ll bet that is Under the Overpass”. Great read, and blessings!

  10. 86
    Kristen says:

    Yes! Yes to everything you are saying. As I watched the video I cringed, thinking how these people would feel if they knew what was happening…beyond the donation. Sticking it to the man by pointing out the “lowest” in that mans opinion is just buying into his belief that these people are beneath us. I l am sure that is not anyones intention but the overall scheme just doesnt pan out. Thank you for posting this.
    Kristen´s last blog post ..The Princess

  11. 87

    I actually considered this before sharing the video. Then I realized that regardless of why (to screw that Frankenstein looking freak) we give homeless clothes, we’re still doing good works. I know, I know, we maybe pigeon holing them. I’ve read Ruby Payne, I work with one of the lowest SES populations in the State of California, and realize that Ronald Reagan is personally responsible for our homeless population, but that doesn’t qualify as an expert. What does is I give everyday. I give money, clothes, and food. I don’t care if it’s A&F. I give. I will continue to do so. If I can make a statement with that giving, so be it. Jeannett, I understand what you’re saying completely, but your interpretation is just that, yours.

  12. 88

    I’m with you.

    Shopped at A&F all through middle and high school. I remember my mother taking me school shopping there because the clothing was good quality and well-made. Sure they played music that was too loud, had a lot of sexual pressure in their advertising and were flat out elitist, but as a high school girl? I didn’t care/eat it up.

    It’s the way of the world. It’s wrong and terrible and offensive. Yet, I see so many stores doing the same thing on a smaller scale. A few years ago a Priscilla of Boston bridal store here in Minneapolis closed. They are a chain owned by Davids Bridal, but their gowns are much more expensive. Once the blowout and store-closing sales were over, they still had several gowns that hadn’t sold. Instead of donating them or re-using the fabric they spray painted the dresses with red paint and threw them in the garbage. Their statement, “we don’t want people who really can’t afford to wear our clothing wearing it.”

    Ugh! Terrible.

    Glad you wrote this Jeanette. Love the discussion!

  13. 89

    By Fitching the homeless you aren’t implying that being homeless or being associated with the homeless is a negative thing. It’s simply acknowledging that A&F thinks being associated with the homeless is a negative thing.

  14. 90

    I think Greg’s heart is in the right place, but these homeless folks are too good for A&F clothes. I say let them keep on burning their defective clothing. And I will never buy their clothes for my children.
    Joann @ Woman in Real Life´s last blog post ..Insta-Friday in real life

  15. 91
    Allison says:

    Thank you. When I saw the video I had a nagging feeling that something about it wasn’t right. I couldn’t put my finger on it and just closed my browser with a ‘hmmmm…’ You put that feeling into words.

  16. 92

    I like this! So, when I watched the “FitchtheHomeless” video a couple of days ago this is exactly what I thought right away…and mostly because they mention in the video that A&F doesn’t want ugly people in their clothing then proceeded to give them to the homeless. To me it was saying just that, let’s give ugly people their clothing, because homeless people are ugly. The other thing that I thought was I don’t own anything a&f, never have never will (esp after reading all the horrible things that have been said by over-botox’d-what’s-his’face) but if someone came up to me and gave me clothing that everyone “cool” is boycotting I would be insulted. Maybe some of these homeless people have heard about the a&f news lately, maybe they don’t actually WANT to wear the clothing either. Are they not allowed to boycott as well? I am considered rather poor by the government and could always use a boost in my bank but I wouldn’t take drug money or stolen money in order to get ahead because I know it’s wrong….it’ wrong just like giving this morally disgusting clothing line to the poor just to piss an exec off is wrong. Why don’t we all just find every piece of a&f clothing, cut it up into small sheets and use it as reusable toilet paper in every household. Yup, I would much rather see it going to wipe people’s asses then worn by any person that isn’t considered “perfect” by a&f standards….because then we are seeking out those unperfect people…and then you have just become The Man himself.
    Think reusable toilet paper is gross? That’s fine. Blow your nose into it, use it for a nursing pad in your leaky-boob bra, twist them into threaded rugs or cut all areas that say a&f on them off, mail them back to a&f headquarters and use the remaining fabric which is now label free to make a super warm quilt….

  17. 93

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  18. 94

    Wait a minute here. This needs to be pointed out. The analogy where they are exchanging a fat kid with the homeless guy, you need to also substitute the clothing with something that helps the fat kid. “What if instead of giving clothes to the homeless, what if you gave self esteem lifting compliments to the fat ugly kids?”

    This campaign inadvertently helps the homeless. There is nothing wrong with this meme.

  19. 95
    Seriously? says:

    “Do you want free clothing…homeless or otherwise…if you were the inadvertent butt of an internet joke?”

    This is almost as bad as saying the homeless should turn away free food because it makes them seem like a charity case. Are you for real? Do you know how many charitable causes around the world are nothing more than political charades? Should we get rid of those too? What are you going to write next, “Do you want free water… third world or otherwise… if you were just pawns of someone’s political agenda?”

  20. 96

    Thank you. It is refreshing to see some real world person-to-person compassion displayed on the internet.

  21. 97

    I think your post is the best response to why we shouldn’t fitchthehomeless to date. You’re meeting me where I’m at and not jumping down my throat for actually sharing the video, because I did. I did it for the very reasons you stated, but it’s good to rethink things and see why it’s not okay. I really appreciate that. Thank you!
    Kamille@Redeeming_table´s last blog post ..How a Sourdough Cashew Bread & I Met

  22. 98

    A very well thought out and interesting perspective. Thank you for challenging me to think about this issue.

  23. 99

    yeah, as soon as i heard about this campaign i couldn’t help wincing- it’s immediately obvious that it’s exploitative of people in need.

    just spend your money elsewhere or #boycott_fitch

  24. 100

    Howdy! I agree that targeting the homeless is counterproductive, however efforts to clothe them should always increase!

    In middle school, I managed to make a big deal about clothes that had their label plastered on the front – it is incredibly tacky and essentially, you end up paying a lot of money to be a sandwich board. I still fail to understand that fashion. I urge others to RETURN any recently purchased A&F merchandise and somehow get rid of the rest.

  25. 101

    Very great post. I never jumped on the campaign, I thought it was clever at first but I definitely see the problems with it now. It’s definitely important to support brands with strong, positive values, that would really show companies like A&F how this is impacting their image and, of course, their bottom line.

  26. 102

    I was in full support of the campaign… simply because I couldn’t come up with an idea that immediately punched that jerk in the gut. Or even a bit further down. I blogged about it too. But I like what you have to say and that you took the time to put so much thought into it. Thanks! :)
    Anne Pelczar´s last blog post ..The Most Important Man in My Life (To Raise Me Up)

  27. 103
    Andreia says:

    I am an overweight 36 year old woman, definitely not in A&F’s market. I was actually thinking about how to modify a little size 10 t-shirt to fit me (maybe sewing panels into the sides to give it a few extra inches to fit around my girth). But I’ve refused to wear brand names across my chest since the 10th grade when I stopped trying to be cool, and I’m certainly not going to advertise for the A&F @$$hole.

  28. 104

    exactly! it seems fairly obvious that receiving an A&F donation is an insult. not sure why a lot of people aren’t quite getting that. thanks for spelling it out.

  29. 105

    I agree to a point. I fully support anyone trying to make a difference for the greater good but never at someones expense but i dont think that was the intention of the video and if the video helps spread the message of helping our neighbors and cleaning our closets out for all and any clothing to be donated then it would benefit the homeless. I whileheartily agree we just need to #ditchthefitch and promote more positive campaigns like the dove campaign.

  30. 106

    This was a great post and I totally agree with your feelings about Fitch the Homeless. However, I am not so sure Tom’s is a good example of doing it right. They are definitely making a profit, but I don’t know that they are doing lasting good. Here is one article of many:
    http://apersonaldiaspora.blogspot.com/2011/04/toms-discussion-on-bad-aid.html
    You are a thoughtful, inspiring, influential blogger and maybe sometime you might want to address this further? So many of us want to do good, but there are many ways to cause damage with our good intentions. Thanks for the great blog!

  31. 107

    I think people are way overanalyzing this. it struck me as a creative way to stick it to a rude man’s ugly message while doing a lot of good. There are way better things to complain about than someone giving clothes to the homeless “not doing enough” or not being politically correct enough. This is a well written post, but I respectfully disagree. If the message were giving the “cool clothes” to people who can’t afford them were included in the campaign, then are Coach or any designer brand discriminating against poor people who can’t afford their high prices? Doesn’t everyone have the right to be stylish? Like I said, I feel like people are overthinking this big time. Just appreciate that there are still good people left in the world. I admire this for being a way to stick it to the man and be productive instead of destructive in the process. Either way, I have never understood why people even like A&F clothes… they’re really nothing special.

  32. 108

    When I was in a sorority (a really stupid decision), there was a girl that freaked out because she saw a homeless person wearing a shirt with our letters on it. When I got rid of all my sorority stuff, I gave it two groups-most of it went to a kind of secret group that provided sorority wear to girls who couldn’t afford all of the stuff and a couple of pieces to a homeless woman I saw on Greenville Avenue because she was most likely a better and kinder person then the girl in my sorority.

    Urban Outfitters used to give their sale left overs to DOTS on Live Oak but I am not sure about that now. I think giving A&F to the homeless is a great idea. It is not that I think that the homeless are worth less than I am but A&F does. It is about putting A&F on the people that A&F doesn’t want wearing their clothes. I personally don’t have any A&F clothes because I don’t like things with big logos and the one time I was in their I felt like I was about 90 years old.

    About TOMS, in theory, I think the idea is great. I thought it was better when the shoes cost less than $50. I just can’t bring myself to spend $50 on a pair of poorly made shoes that are not comfortable and probably not good for your feet. I know kids in foreign countries need shoes but so do kids here. I would more likely to support them if they helped kids in my community.

  33. 109

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    Gonzalo´s last blog post ..Gonzalo

  34. 110

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