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Why A&F CEO Mike Jeffries Won't Be Missed

Why A&F CEO Mike Jeffries Won't Be Missed


He stepped down. At last.

Mike Jeffries, CEO of the once mighty retailer Abercrombie & Fitch, resigned this week. While normally it would be an unfortunate loss to have a gay member of the business community who's achieved such a high position, Mike Jeffries was a notorious creep--so no big loss.

Jeffries, who took over the clothier in 1992 when it was still selling sporting gear and outdoor clothing, repositioned the brand, transforming it into the must-have mallwear for the new millennium. Part of his major overhaul was rebranding A&F, getting rid the middle-aged woodsmen and substituting gym-toned, well-quaffed, overwhelmingly white models. Photographer Bruce Weber was brought into feature these frat-boy type models in homoerotic positions.

Soon, however, tastes changed and A&F's sales declined--something that Jeffries couldn't correct. Young consumers started to prefer cheaper, "fast-fashion" retailers such as Zara, H&M, and Forever 21.

It is unclear if the 70-year-old Jeffries was asked to step down or if he left of his own volition. Jeffries in recent years has made a number of inflammatory statements which netted the brand a good deal of bad press.

In a 2006 profile in Salon, Jeffries told Benoit Denizet-Lewis:

"It's almost everything. That's why we hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don't market to anyone other than that."

"In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids," said Jeffries in the same article. "Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don't belong [in our clothes], and they can't belong."

"Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don't alienate anybody, but you don't excite anybody, either."

Furthermore, Jeffries began to be known for his bizarre behavior, including making the crew on his all-male-model staffed corporate jet wear a uniform of Abercrombie polo shirts, boxer briefs, flip-flops and adhere to a 40-plus page manual detailing instructions for everything from the proper color of gloves to handle silverware and the seating arrangements for the CEO's dogs.

Jeffries' successor has not been named.

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