Film Review: White Hot, the Rise and Fall of Abercrombie and Fitch

White Hot, the Rise and Fall of Abercrombie and Fitch is a documentary running on Netflix that tells the story about the retailer whose popularity peaked in the early 2000s. I would recommend this film if you are interested in fashion, marketing, pop culture, labor and civil rights or late nineties and early 2000s nostalgia. It covers all of that. It’s fairly short and I thought it was an interesting movie.

A & F was a very successful retailer that was a staple in every American shopping mall in the 2000s. I was aware of A & F but I was never impressed by their style. If my memory serves correctly they sold jeans, tees and button downs. Nothing special. I also recall that they were known for the clothes running very small. A & F didn’t really pull my trigger.

The company was notorious for being racist so there was no love loss between me and Abercrombie and Fitch. I’ve been in an A & F store one time. I browsed around one of their stores in the Kansas City area that has closed. I bought a pair of skinny jeans on clearance for about $10. There was nothing noteworthy or memorable about the experience.

White Hot discusses the marketing strategy of the company that made them very successful. The ads featured young, White, fit, natural looking men and women. Youth culture of today criticize A & F for promoting a specific beauty standard.

A & F was sued by some of their former store employees and some of them were interviewed for the documentary. I have worked several retail jobs. The practices described in the documentary are typical of retail companies. Retail is a very racist industry. The discrimination is evident if you’re familiar with the retail industry.

The difference between Abercrombie and other retailers is that they were very direct and brazen about their practices. A & F had manuals about who they saw fit to hire. They didn’t hire and recruit based on experience. They based on looks and were not customer service oriented at all.

They didn’t say they only wanted to hire White people but they discriminated against employees that didn’t fit their standard of attractiveness which is clearly White. Non White employees were written off the schedule or only allowed to work in the stock room if they were hired at all. Abercrombie and Fitch settled with former employees that sued them but the company never admitted wrong doing.

White Hot, the Rise and Fall of Abercrombie and Fitch is OK. You might enjoy it if you’re interested in the subject matter it covered. The film follows in the Netflix tradition of making documentaries of pop culture trends of the early 2000s. They have the benefit of hindsight and people who were directly involved have the opportunity to tell their story. I think they’re pretty fun but it’s not ground breaking film making.

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