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Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Abercrombie & Fitch: So Gay, Not So Pro-Gay

posted by on December 6 at 15:50 PM


Gay male consumers are, let’s be frank, total suckers. If a company shows us enough good-looking, half-naked young jocks wearing their products—or not wearing their products—we will buy their t-shirts, jeans, hoodies, socks, kitchen magnets, whatever. And so long as the company keeps marketing their products with boy tit (get Bruce Weber to shoot your ad campaign!), the gay shopping zombies will treat your company right.

You would think that boy-tit-flashing companies would recognize their dependance on the gay consumer and treat the gays right.

But somehow despite their thoroughly homoerotic—and thoroughly effective—boytittastic ad campaigns, Abercrombie & Fitch doesn’t feel like it needs to treat the gays right. Human Rights Campaign, a GLBT rights group, assesses corporations for their friendliness to gay and lesbian employees and consumers, looking at things like anti-discrimination protections, domestic partner benefits, and advertising practices. And HRC gives A&F a dismal 50 out of a possible 100 in their annual “Buying for Equality” guide.

It can’t be that hard to get a perfect score from HRC: Gap, Levi Strauss, Nike, Nordstrom, and Sears—Sears!—all pulled in perfect 100 ratings.

As much as I wish it were not the case, I doubt the news that A&F treats its gay employees like shit will matter much to the kind of gay men who wear A&F.

The company markets to gay male consumers using the mystique of the impossibly beautiful, completely unattainable, likely hostile-to-homos straight boy. Internalized homophobia and thwarted longing infuses A&F’s marketing materials; some have featured “playful” and implied male-on-male gang rape. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that—so long the rape is just implied and, you know, playful and stuff.) But the guys in the ads are all exuberantly heterosexual—there’s usually a strategically placed girl, or a part of a girl, somewhere in the frame. (Let’s play spot the female!)

A&F boys (in ads) are comfortable naked around each other because the A&F boys (in ads) are not just equally and impossibly beautiful, they’re also equally and impossibly heterosexual. So they can romp naked in their locker rooms, lacrosse fields, and pastures—boxer shorts slung around their necks—without worry because no upsetting male-on-male desire exists in the A&F universe. These guys aren’t sex objects to each other. They’re buds, and they’re safe around each other—a little assgrabbing won’t be misunderstood, right?

Gay guys who wear A&F want to visit that care- and homo-free universe. (Many of us copped a few feels in it before we came out.) It’s not they want to live in a world without homos—they do not—but they want to look like they could live there. They want to believe that they, too, are impossibly beautiful enough and straight-acting enough to pass.

For these guys, I’m afraid, news of the A&F’s anti-gay business policies will only reinforce the appeal of the brand. HRC wants us all to know that no self-respecting gay guy would wear A&F.

But already know that, however, and that’s precisely why we wear A&F.

RSS icon Comments


Can I still keep their catalog next to the toilet?

Posted by David Summerlin | December 6, 2006 4:04 PM

When it became apparent that A&F was the new Tommy Hilfiger I stopped shopping there. I'm not going to pay that much money to be someone's walking advertisement.

A&F can (continue to) SUCK MY CULO, CHICA!

Posted by monkey | December 6, 2006 4:14 PM
news of the A&F’s anti-gay business policies

Uh, so what are these anti-gay business policies, boss? Or is HRC just bitching out about the exposed-nips ads?

Posted by 3@r p|_|$$y | December 6, 2006 4:31 PM

I maintain that the best way to destroy Abercrombie & Fitch is to circulate this profile of its CEO among its key demographic []

He sounds so fantastically creepy that it might just break through the advertising haze.

Posted by josh | December 6, 2006 5:53 PM

You've touched on something that drives me just completely insane, Dan. When I was a teen fag in the early eighties, there were two choices for homos: either you were out of the closet, or you were deeply closeted. Now, there is a third option, this completely fucked-up, homophobic state of limbo, the game of "passing" which you describe. These twerps enjoy all the gains made for them by the hard work of the fully-out homos who came before them, while looking down on those who are completely out and "gay-acting". The men-seeking-men section of craigslist is rife with this particular pathology.

Posted by shuichi | December 6, 2006 6:00 PM


Posted by jonny895 | December 6, 2006 6:10 PM

Perhaps you haven't noticed, but A & F's clothes are just flat out ugly. Everyone looks better without them. The models are totally fuckable, but the clothes? Ratty and used looking right off the shelf, and not in a good way but a "hey isn't it time we gave this to Goodwill" way. No wonder the models are naked.

And Dan is reading too much into the motivation to purchase said ugly rags. It's just mindless consumerism and fad power.

Posted by Andrew | December 6, 2006 6:17 PM

True A&F story. I live in Chicago. One night I got invited out to a friend's birthday party which was mainly barhopping in Lincoln Park frat bars and Lakeview gay bars. So I headed out with my own homemade Abercrombie shirt: plain white tee with the Abercrombie logo inked across my chest with a black sharpie. The best part was how few people got the joke. Mostly I got nasty stares and overheard comments like, "ooh, he's so ghetto. he just wrote that on his shirt."

Posted by Casey | December 6, 2006 6:24 PM

Casey, do you have a picture of yourself in that shirt? I'd love to see it—and post it. Send it to

Posted by Dan Savage | December 6, 2006 7:25 PM

DS: this is the kind of post that makes me so, so happy that you're blogging now

Posted by Cowboy_X | December 6, 2006 7:31 PM

The article is total bs designed for those certain gay men who overthink being gay. think about it.....since we are born the way that we are....we don't have to necessarily wear certain brands of clothes or speak in a certain way to be gay. there is some stupid notion in this country that gay men all have to wear certain kinds of clothes, hate sports, and be totally passive airheaded doormats. Think about it, there are straight women athletes and straight women who are tougher than their straight male counterparts. So, if gay men are actually females on the inside then who is to say that they are not those types of females. I call these types of gay men "ronnie krays" which is what I am (Ronnie Kray being a gay british gangster who once shot a straight rival for calling him a fat poof. Gay men in america should study Ronnie and Reggie Kray and learn how to actually survive with dignity and be a gay man who gets respect rather than being a weak fruit.

Posted by vincent | December 6, 2006 9:33 PM

No self-respecting PERSON would shop at A&F. Even before the HRC report came out we all knew about the racist hiring policies, and their stupid t-shirts. I mentor a 12 year old Black girl. She can't afford A&F, but she desperately wants a t-shirt. Sadly, the most popular A&F t-shirt at her mostly white school reads, "I had a nighmare I was a brunette." Ick!

Posted by Papayas | December 6, 2006 9:38 PM

What's with all this "we" stuff? I don't wear A&F. And hopefully, at your age, neither do you.

Plus you can't just say this company has "anti-gay business practices" without detailing what those practices are--unless you got your journalistm degree at McDonalds or something. You don't like the "lifestyle" stuff put over in A&F marketing materials--obviously, you don't--but who cares? Give us details and facts.

Posted by Coco | December 7, 2006 5:51 AM

why anyone would want to be a walking billboard for ANY company, i haven't the slightest clue. especially a company like A&F, who not only treats gay guys like shit, but also women. how degrading is that shit?!

Posted by konstantconsumer | December 7, 2006 6:00 AM

Go read the Q&A section at So damn funny and the lawsuit info is even funnier.

Posted by Leeerker | December 7, 2006 6:54 AM

coco, you *could* click on the link to the HRC report. or, just bitch and moan some more.

Posted by konstantconsumer | December 7, 2006 7:44 AM

Why hasn't Proud Gay Republican weighed in on this? Seems right up his alley.

Posted by Mark Mitchell | December 7, 2006 10:24 AM

Wow. Those ads are *gay.* I thought you were joking.

Up in the north, A&F isn't quite as pervasive yet, but it's getting there, opening stores this year. A friend of mine, otherwise a nice girl, works at one. After being transferred to the new flagship store downtown, the commute became easier, but she expressed disgust at how "ugly" her co-workers were.

Posted by Gloria | December 7, 2006 10:48 AM

Note: Read the PDF. It has scores, but no details.

Posted by Gloria | December 7, 2006 11:07 AM

I call A & F 'Alabaster & Rich'

Posted by Special K | December 7, 2006 11:39 AM

gloria, if you go through the pamphlet, it explains how you get high scores or low scores.

Posted by konstantconsumer | December 7, 2006 11:43 AM

Hmm. Well, from what I've read, there is the colour code explanation, which is vaguely defined.

The Q&A mentions what is evaluated -- e.g. benefits, ad practises, etc. -- but how do we know where a company made a misstep? We know they're doing somewhat badly, but *what* exactly is A&F doing or not doing?

Note: I just looked on their site, which is listed in the pamphlet. A&F's profile includes an evaluation, but it's all yes or no and feels a little barebones to me. Kinda tame. From the scandalized sounds being made, I figured it'd be something meaty.

Posted by Gloria | December 7, 2006 12:11 PM

i'm a fag and of course i've never worn that ill-made sweatshop garbage! i'm not a victim of advertising!

Posted by Catman | December 7, 2006 12:25 PM

i always found it bizarre that all the jocks at my suburban high school were into a&f when the advertising to me screamed "hot young gay men, look here!"
apparently they saw nothing unusual about undressing in a dressing room with a giant picture of a muscular man in his underwear staring down at them..

Posted by groovinkim | December 7, 2006 1:02 PM

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