End Of An Era: Abercrombie & Fitch Bans Shirtless Models

In the wake of flagging sales, Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister announced today an extensive series of new policies aimed at improving in-store customer experience, combating its exclusive reputation, and toning down its hyper-sexual image. The brand sent us a summary of the changes, which have been sent to each of its retail locations, along with new brand imagery. Most shocking of all? Shirtless jocks are now a thing of the past: "A&F will no longer use shirtless models for store openings and events," the company memo states in a section titled "Sexualized Models and Photography." Hollister will similarly discontinue its use of "shirtless lifeguards." Excuse us while we pour out a little vodka and Red Bull in mourning.  These changes seem to be part of a larger shift away from the collegiate sex-god image that's defined the brand since its '90s heyday. The memo also promises that "by the end of July, there will no longer be sexualized marketing used in marketing materials including in-store photos, gift cards, and shopping bags." These are major changes for a brand known for peppering its look books with copious nudity and, in a very controversial 1999 edition, blow job tips. Store associates will also now be called “brand representatives” instead of "models," a move A&F describes as indicative of a "new customer focus" in stores, which signals a welcome shift away from sexualizing its employees.  Importantly, the brand also overhauled its hiring policies: "Store associates will not be hired based on body type or physical attractiveness, and we will of course continue not to discriminate on any protected category." Meanwhile, its much-maligned "look policy" (which was at the center of a recent religious discrimination suit) has been replaced by a new dress code with, as the brand calls it, "an open-minded approach allowing associates to be more individualistic." These are drastic changes for a brand that's painted itself into a corner over the years as customers lost interest. Here's hoping it's not too late.

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