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A&F’s Advertising Image

Veena Thomas

Advertising is so precious that companies pay millions of dollars to advertise in such high-profile venues as the Super Bowl. So why are teenagers and twentysomethings paying for the privilege of advertising some of America’s most successful companies? And why does this make them popular?

Fashion has always been an important part of human culture. Psychologically, people like to conform to the appearances of others, but only those in the same or a higher economic level. Abercrombie and Fitch provides today’s youth the ability to conform fashionably to each other, while setting themselves apart from those who cannot afford to pay $24.50 for a plain white T-shirt. More than just nice clothing, Abercrombie is about image.

Abercrombie clothes come in two varieties: rather nice, slightly generic clothing; and “cool” clothes that might be very plain, or downright ugly, but have “Abercrombie and Fitch” written on them. Those clothes in the first category satisfy the psychologists’ requirement that people want to dress alike. The clothing is simple, but perhaps this conformity, the feeling of belonging with everyone else wearing a similar chest stripe, adds to its popularity. But this popularity comes at a price. Abercrombie clothing is quite expensive, especially for the high school student on minimum wage or the college student on a budget. It’s fine if people find those shirts appealing, and indeed, many people look very attractive wearing those chest stripe sweaters. But the other category of Abercrombie clothing really concerns me: those shirts which might sell for a fourth of the price, except that they say “Abercrombie and Fitch” in huge letters across the front. I’ve seen white T-shirts with absolutely nothing distinguishing them from a Kmart shirt except for the brand name splashed in huge letters across the front. Indeed, this fits the psychologists’ profile: those who can afford Abercrombie clothing want to separate themselves from those who wear Kmart’s knockoff, and so prominently display the name.

My sister says that at her high school, people dress in almost exclusively Abercrombie clothing in an attempt to be popular, and they make fun of others who don’t. They display the Abercrombie name everywhere, even covering their books with Abercrombie bags. Don’t all these people realize they are saving the company millions in advertising? Why should people walk around with a brand name on their chests? And why should they pay such high prices for this “privilege?” The power of the name has gotten out of control. The company could probably make helmets with “Abercrombie” on the front and sell them for $35.95, and they would be an instant hit.

Abercrombie’s own advertising can be described as bewildering at best and successful at worst. Every time I enter one of their stores with some of my male friends, they avert their eyes from the pictures of the male models without shirts on. Abercrombie primarily caters to guys. But if most guys do not want to see pictures of other guys not wearing shirts, how would this help Abercrombie to sell clothing? And why does a recent ad campaign feature a man and a monkey walking together on a beach, with neither one of them wearing shirts?

Perhaps Abercrombie finally realized that those advertisements were not reaching their intended male audience, so maybe that’s why they used the image found on their web page of a woman, apparently topless, partially blocked by another woman. Or maybe Abercrombie and Fitch believes that a computer pinball game, which can be downloaded from their website, will convince people to buy their clothing. Lest you forget which company provided you the game, you must press ‘A’ to move the left flipper, and ‘F’ to move the right one. Or if wearing an Abercrombie T-shirt isn’t enough for you, you can be the first on your block to have a trendy e-mail address, provided free by Abercrombie, with your name followed by

Want to impress someone? Send them an electronic Abercrombie postcard. But be careful. The website says, “Send A&F greetings to friends, family, and flings.” I guess if you’re in a serious meaningful romantic relationship with someone, they are undeserving of an Abercrombie postcard. Maybe it’s for the best... they probably deserve better.