White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch (2022)

White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch (2022) Cover

White Hot: The Rise and Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch gives us an insider look at what a non-inclusive company was able to do during the late 90s and early 2000s that would not be tolerated in today’s modern social media age. 

Abercrombie & Fitch is a company that has been around for over 100 years but was revitalized during the 90s by Mike Jefferies who wanted to appeal to a young adult audience with sex appeal, by plastering attractive, half naked, models on all stores and marketing materials. Jefferies stated he was after “the cool kids” and that the clothes were not meant to be worn by everyone. The company would go as far as only hiring “attractive” people to work for the establishment, priding themselves in exclusivity. The documentary follows many people who were let go because they didn’t have “the look” A&F was seeking and interviews people who were very close to those in top positions, such as CEO Jefferies and Bruce Weber (the photographer known for producing the black and white scandalous photos the company was known for)  to show us what it was like building this empire that eventually declined in popularity. 

White Hot is impressive with its ability to tell so much history and share many people’s stories that highlight a period of time that was not seen for what it was at the time; packaged racism and prejudice. Testimonies of employees who were not put on the work schedule or only given work in the back are very sad to hear, especially as someone who purchased clothing and thought highly of the brand at the time. And what’s even more depressing is that this was undetected by most people so they continued with this exclusivity (favoring thin or muscular caucasions over others). A representative explains that many of these horror stories did not get heard beyond small circles because these individuals did not have the platform to voice their concerns.

As a teen, the brand was heavily popular among my peers and I was way too embarrassed to go into the store when going to the mall with my parents due to all of the half clothed males. I would go whenever I was “dropped off” and it felt at the time like “the cool kids” preppy store, which is what they were aiming for. Unfortunately, most of society, myself included, was too naive to notice or call out the company for not only selling sex appeal but very specific appeal of purely white individuals.

This documentary will appeal if you grew up around the time Abercrombie was at its peak popularity. There’s no new revelations if you were already aware of the scandal that surrounded the company but it encompases the history of the empire, why it seemed so cool at the time, and eventually how it deteriorated. Today, the brand still exists and appears to be trying to recover from the poor publicity. With a new CEO, Fran Horowitz, is dedicated to being inclusive. She mentions all socials were wiped in 2017 and the page has since refrained from explicit imagery. Out of curiosity, I scrolled all the way to the bottom of their instagram (where no posts exist beyond 2017) and saw a clear attempt to rebrand with models of all color being featured. Astonishingly, some disappointed comments exist on those first posts. Paraphrasing I remember one comment had read, “I scrolled all the way to the bottom to see the old photos and was so sad to see them all gone! This was my childhood and I miss the old Abercrombie!” What does that say about the impact of Abercrombie & Fitch had at the time and, ultimatley, our society as a whole?

Final Verdict:An intriguing insider look at what a non-inclusive company was able to do during the late 90s and early 2000s that would not be tolerated in today’s modern social media age.