Dear Mr. Jeffries:
I used to dream about wearing Abercrombie and Fitch when I was in middle school simply because everyone else was wearing it. Your company, including Hollister Inc., were what all the kids were getting into. I had just moved into the area after a terrible loss in the family. All I really wanted was to fit in. After much pleading and begging, I finally convinced my aunt to take me to the mall so we could find some new clothes. I went into the store, and it was so trendy — I almost felt overdressed for the occasion. When I finally found a top that I liked, I went to try it on. But my dream of being trendy crashed to the dressing room floor when I found that it did not fit — even the biggest size did not work out for me. I almost sobbed right there in the store because I knew that I was not supposed to be wearing this stuff.
I walked out of the store and felt awful that I couldn’t wear the coveted clothing of most 12 and 13 year olds. After some reflection, I found out why I didn’t fit into the clothes: I didn’t look like the models in the pictures and scattered all over the store as mannequins.
In short, I was fat — “a big girl”, if you want the politically correct term.
I’ve since moved on and established my own sense of style, usually with the help of Target and Kohl’s or the occasional thrift shop run. I’ve accepted my genes — in both ways — for what they are. I do my best to maintain some sense of healthiness and dignity for myself. But it seems, sir, that you haven’t done the same. In 2006 — my 6th grade year — you made a statement that since has laid dormant; until now, of course. You were quoted: “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 … A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”
I now realise that you didn’t just have my size; you also didn’t have my body type in mind.
In the eye-candy society we live in, it’s easy for those underage to be pressured to fit into a group. The movies, TV shows, and ads teens see are just fuel for the bullying fire. If a kid doesn’t look like those models, or she doesn’t have “the look”, the bullied kid is automatically outcast as a misfit. Are you aware of what happens when the “misfits” are singled out? They harm themselves. It can be from an eating disorder, or from actually injuring themselves, but the fact stands that those who are bullied are willing to go to extremes just to change their physical image.
Have you any idea about the psychological impact you have on these kids?
Not everyone is built the same. We all are charted out through our DNA — in essence, our genes tell us who we can or cannot look like. That model that you use in your ads are just stock characters. You may have another “model” who looks like the other, but they are not the same. Even your models vary.
From my experiences of being a kid, I engaged in what was called “selective listening”: I only paid attention to things that were really important to me. If I had heard that quote back in 2006, I would’ve picked out the phrases “not-so-cool kids” and “a lot of people don’t belong…and they can’t belong”. That can damage a child’s self-confidence right when it is needed.
I know that in this day and age, self-confidence is not necessarily a quality the world is interested in helping you gain. You should come pre-packaged with it. But would it kill you to show some decency, for the sake of the kids looking at these ads? I am hopeful that the youth will catch onto this and realise that not everyone is perfect. I am also hopeful that they will set out to fix your mistake and make the retail world a much more objective place, filled with varieties for everyone.
It’s not easy being a big girl. It’s also not easy being in this “skinny” world. We have to find our own ways around — but we’ll expect to not end up at one of your overly aromatic stores.
The Big Girl Next Door