Struggling teen apparel retailer Abercrombie & Fitch Friday said it would no longer consider “body type or physical attractiveness in hiring store personnel" and will abandon its “Look Policy” dress code guidelines, in part to be more accommodating to disabilities and "sincerely-held religious beliefs." Staff must now simply be “neat, clean, natural and well-groomed,” though there are still some limits on jewelry, makeup, piercings, tattoos, and headwear.
The retailer also said it would tone town its “sexualized marketing,” no longer employ shirtless models or lifeguards at store events, and refer to store employees as “brand associates” rather than “models” as it had been.
The retailer said its aim in employment going forward is to find "nice, smart optimistic people" with a "strong work ethic” who will provide good customer service.
It looks like Abercrombie is taking the steps to truly step away from the brand legacy left by ex-CEO Mike Jeffries, who was open about being exclusive to “cool kids” and was big on the shirtless models. Previously the retailer had said it would stop squirting cologne at its stores and turn up its famously dim lights. Such changes aren’t apparent yet at many stores, however.
These steps, much like a similar toning-down at American Apparel, are necessary and long in coming. The dress code in particular may have helped land the company in court — a case brought by a Muslim job applicant there who said she was denied a job because of her head scarf is at the Supreme Court.
The question for Abercrombie is whether it’s all too long in coming. Those still-dim stores have not been very busy lately.