France Investigates Abercrombie's Sexy Salesmen

Peter Z. Scheer
Managing Editor
Peter Scheer grew up in the newspaper business, spending family vacations with his mother at newspaper editors' conferences, enjoying daycare in editorial departments and begrudgingly reviewing his father's…
Peter Z. Scheer

You shouldn’t have to be good looking to sell clothes, says France’s official human rights organization, which is investigating clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch.

The clothing company has been sued in the United States not just for promoting attractive employees, but a racist notion of good looks that tends to favor white people.

France is an odd nemesis for Abercrombie. For one thing, according to the company’s website, there is only one store in the entire country. It happens to be in the middle of the high-fashion mecca of the Champs Elysees, where absurd beauty standards are something of a cultural industry, if not a national export.

In its defense, the retailer admits it employs shirtless young men to stand in front of its stores and entice customers, but it says these people are models. The Defenseur des Droits believes the discrimination goes beyond storefront eye candy, which, according to the organization’s chief, Dominique Baudis, would be OK: “Though physical appearance may legitimately be a key and determining professional factor for models, that’s not so for sales staff.”

Of course France has to draw the line at modeling. Can you imagine literal fashion police descending on Paris to investigate the wastrel models flaunting Coco Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent? We’re no fans of Abercrombie’s Aryan beauty normalizing, but this feels a bit like investigating McDonald’s for using trans fats in the global capital of buttered food.

— Posted by Peter Z. Scheer

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