Is the “Fitch the Homeless” Campaign a Good Idea?

English: The image of Abercrombie & Fitch today.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s a new viral movement in response to comments and actions by Abercrombie and Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries. I won’t get into the details about what he said, but if you Google his name you’ll have plenty to read. He’s made some very insensitive remarks about the type of market that his store targets (“cool” kids), and apparently A&F burns clothes rather than donating them in order to preserve their brand image (I’m not sure if this has been verified or not).

In response, a filmmaker named Greg Karber has suggested that we take all of our old A&F clothing and donate it to the homeless. He wants to make A&F the “official brand of the homeless”. He’s even created a video, which is quickly making its way around social media. So the homeless get new clothes, A&F gets their comeuppance, and everything works out, right?

I felt uneasy watching the video, but couldn’t quite articulate why. Was it the way that Karber was just throwing the clothes on top of people laying on the street? Was it the way that he decided to create an entire movement without asking the participants if they even wanted to be involved? After pondering it for a while, I found an easier way to explain my discomfort.

How would you feel if someone came up to you and told you to wear something because it would devalue the brand?

It doesn’t matter if you needed clothing or not, it would feel pretty shitty. Just because someone is sitting on a sidewalk doesn’t mean that they have no pride. Just because someone needs assistance doesn’t mean that they are obliged to cater to the whims of those that are providing it. I would feel a whole lot more comfortable with this campaign if it were initiated and perpetuated by members of the homeless community due to a perceived injustice on their part.

I understand that people are upset with Jeffries, but the best way to retaliate is to vote with your dollars. Just don’t shop there. Ask your friends not to shop there. Put him out of business. A brand whose entire value is based on image doesn’t have much to stand on. Make your voice heard on Twitter and Facebook and other social media that you don’t think that wearing A&F is a cool thing to do.

We don’t need to demoralize others to stand up for what we think is right. By doing so we are, in essence, reinforcing the idea of a caste system where more value is placed on those with privilege. That makes us no better than Jeffries. People’s hearts are in the right place to want to speak out against his bigotry, but I’m just not sure that this campaign is the right way to do it.

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