2022, Movies

White Hot: The Rise and Fall of Abercrombie and Fitch (2022, Alison Klayman)

I know very littles of Abercrombie and Fitch. For all I know, my first introduction to them might have been that “Summer Girls” song. More likely it was one of their ads, but I wouldn’t have known it at the time. Anyway, this was all news to be. But, for someone who didn’t know anything about it, this was a fascinating story.

This documentary raises the very relevant question of where a company’s preferences about their brand turn into illegal discrimination. At least once, in the US, Abercrombie and Fitch’s brand preferences were deemed to be illegal discrimination. Other times they just settled out of court. As I said, I was unaware of all this at the time but it’s a really interesting issue and one with lots of contemporary relevance.

If the only issue was whether or not Abercrombie and Fitch were legally allowed to only hire “hot” employees, that would be one thing. It might make for a more ambiguous film. But that’s not the whole story. Because there’s another part of the story, related to their infamous ads of half-naked and nearly naked men and women that colours how you think about the first question, whether or not a retail brand should be able to hire people based on attractiveness or ethnicity.

And I think that’s why I found this film so interesting. Because, at first, it just seemed like it was about people reflecting about this proudly exclusionary, clothing company for white and thin young people, that used to be popular. And then all the other shoes drop, and there are a few of them.

For someone who pays zero attention to the fashion world, whether mall fashion or otherwise, this was really interesting and eye-opening. And it’s told pretty well, even if it leans heavily into talking head documentary formulas.

7/10

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