How Abercrombie ruined my self esteem

Nicole Hanson

In high school, we all wanted to have the coolest part-time job possible. For me, that was working at Abercrombie Kids nearly every day after school my senior year. But after working at that store for nearly four years, I realized that there’s really nothing cool about Abercrombie & Fitch stores.

When I first started at Abercrombie Kids at the beginning of senior year of high school, I was hired as a sales associate or a “floor model” in Abercrombie lingo. Just this title alone came with its fair share of awkward situations. Customers wondered how I could possibly be considered a “model” and skeevy guys would ask me about my modeling career. Even though these [gross] guys seemed like were trying to compliment me, I couldn’t help but laugh at these obvious jokes because no one is trying to hire a 4’11” model.

As if people judging me for my looks wasn’t fun enough, customers even had an issue with my size. In my first few weeks of working at Abercrombie, I was talking to my coworker when a customer came over to ask me what size I wore in shirts there. Keep in mind, I worked at the kids store, but I told her I could fit into a large or an extra large of certain tops. She then looked me up and down and said, “Well, my daughter is about your size, but she actually has boobs.” I’m sorry, what??? Last time I checked, I’m a woman and I’m pretty sure I actually have boobs.

But that was only the beginning of customers making rude comments about my body size, shape and weight. Last summer, another customer asked me the same question because she was looking for tops for her daughter. Again, I told her I could wear a large or extra large depending on the type of shirt, and in response she said, “I was thinking about getting a large or extra large for my daughter, but she’s about half your size, so…” Again, is there a reason you needed to know and mock my size if your daughter’s physique is so superior to mine?

Basically, I stood out like a sore thumb in Abercrombie Kids. Half of my coworkers were 17 year-olds and hadn’t yet faced the Freshman 15. If they weren’t a size 00 or 0, they still shopped at the kids store because they were so thin. And then there was me, without a thigh gap. I don’t consider myself to be fat or overweight by any means, but I always joked that I was the “fattest person at Abercrombie.” And it was true.

I even felt like some of my coworkers judged me for my appearance and my position. After about a month of working at Abercrombie, I switched from floor model to impact team member – basically this meant I worked more in the stockroom than on the sales floor. Some people acted like I was switched to impact because I wasn’t good-looking enough to be a model. However, I chose to make the switch because I got bored in the store. People even asked if I was “allowed to be out on the sales floor” after I switched to impact. Needless to say, this made me feel like a troll and the stockroom was my cave.
Although I’m grateful to have gotten a fairly steady job in high school that lasted me four years, I can’t help but regret my time with Abercrombie & Fitch. Fortune just ranked it as “The Most Hated Retailer in the U.S.” this past week, and I can definitely agree with that. As dreadful as some of my customers and coworkers were, the negative energy and the belief that only beautiful people could work there all comes back to the twisted CEO Mike Jeffries. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Jeffries, a few years ago he basically said he only wants good-looking people shopping in his stores. Abercrombie might make beautiful people feel ever more perfect, but my self esteem definitely took a hit after spending four years too many there.