Wednesday, November 02, 2005


A number of female high school students have stopped buying fashion products hawked by Abercrombie and Fitch:
With a few words on their T-shirts, Abercrombie & Fitch lets young women send a message: "Who needs a brain when you have these?"

A group of female high school students have a message for A&F: Stop degrading us.

The Allegheny County (Pa.) Girls have started a boycott--or girlcott, as they're calling it--of the retailer. The campaign, conceived three weeks ago during the group's monthly meeting, went national Tuesday morning on NBC's "Today" show.

"We're telling [girls] to think about the fact that they're being degraded," Emma Blackman-Mathis, the 16-year-old co-chair of the group, told RedEye on Tuesday. "We're all going to come together in this one effort to fight this message that we're getting from pop culture."

Abercrombie has been a lightning rod for criticism. In 2003, a catalog containing photos of topless women and bare-bottomed men provoked so much outrage that the company pulled the publication.

Last year, after the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team failed to win a gold medal, the company sold T-shirts with the phrase "L is for loser" next to a picture of a gymnast on the rings. Those shirts were pulled from the racks after USA Gymastics called for a boycott.

While Abercrombie backed down in those cases, it show no signs of doing so this time.

"Our clothing appeals to a wide variety of customers. These particular T-shirts have been very popular among adult women to whom they are marketed," a company spokesman said in a statement.

Kristine Campbell, 20, of Lincoln Park won't wear the T-shirts. Although she's not offended by them, she doesn't think much of girls who wear them.

"It tells me that they're shallow and that's all they care about," said Campbell, who was also applying for a job at A&F on Tuesday.

"There's not much substance to that person if you have to wear something like that."

The aim of the girlcott is to convince people that the T-shirts are offensive, but young people don't care if they are, according to David Krafft, senior vice president of Chicago-based Graziano, Krafft and Zale Advertising.

"You figure they're appealing to a younger audience demographic and (young people) are going to want go for brands that are more cutting edge, or viewed as more cutting edge," Krafft said. "So it's just going to be a benefit anyway to Abercrombie & Fitch."

The attention from this boycott is likely to help Abercrombie's image, and its audience will be attracted to the controversy, said Steve Bassill, president of Libertyville-based QDI strategies, a marketing consulting firm.

"That's been their whole strategy, isn't it, to be radical?" Bassill asked. "I think that's what we've seen for quite a while from them."

Krafft says the "Today" show appearance was tantamount to free advertising.

According to Chicago-based media company Starcom USA, a 30-second commercial on "Today" costs approximately $58,000.
Is the real problem (if there is one) with the T-shirts? Or is it the parents who actually chump-up the money in order to buy this sort of "fashion statement?"

I asked our 13-year-old daughter, the TeenWonk, what she thought of 'em. According to her, any girl that willingly wears a shirt like those is actually in deperate need of a brain.
To see this week's edition of The Carnival Of Education, which is being guest-hosted by Scott Elliott's Get on the Bus, please click here. The Carnival midway will return to us here at The 'Wonks next Wednesday morning get entry instructions right here.