Instigator / Pro

Abercrombie and Fitch's ban on shirtless models is unacceptable.


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In 2015, retail company Abercrombie & Fitch decided to move away from sexual marketing by banning shirtless models and reform itself to fully-clothed, down-to-earth marketing. However, it took a deep toll when its shares, sales, and popularity decline over it. Is the company doing the right thing, or is the company made a huge mistake?

Round 1
Three years on since the American retail company Abercrombie & Fitch decided to ban shirtless models in favor of clothed models, but its popularity continues to decline in terms of shares, stocks, demographics, and popularity. According to them, shirtless models in advertisements and displays are examples of sexual marketing, and ridding them to replace with fully-clothed models would reinvigorate its image, thus entering its "new look".

However, the ban has a sharp negative impact on its shares and sales estimates. According to the company, it missed quarterly same-store sales estimates on Thursday, caused by continuous lower demand for its namesake line of apparel for teenagers and Hollister brand of surfwear. Moreover, it fell nearly 12 percent to $24 as sales. The Associated Press, meanwhile, argued that the company fell 17 percent in the second quarter, even as the teen retailer’s adjusted profit beat expectations, falling short of its Wall Street estimates. [1] [2]

Rachel Bergstein, said in her Forbes article, that the company "went from aspirational to out-of-touch." She also said, "Teenagers don’t want to look the same anymore -- they want to stand out on social media. Recently, the New Yorker declared that prep was over. Even that beachy, surf-kid look that Hollister once represented has evolved. Now, it’s overlaid with Coachella style: still the same short shorts, bikini tops and sandals, but with whimsical, attention grabbing touches like hats, fringe, beads, leather and lace. Abercrombie’s version of America doesn’t take into account how keen we all are now to express and define ourselves." [3]

Time agreed by saying that the company failed to win back shoppers because its shares tumbled nearly 21%, despite investing heavily in its online business and on remodeling stores, closing underperforming stores, hired designers from top brands to keep its trends fresh, and selling fewer of its once-popular logo-centric designs. [4]

Its website shows everything is still wrong with the brand. One particular argument proved it, "Ditching sexy, shirtless male models for a more down-to-earth image fits with what customers want — but it also meant giving up what made Abercrombie unique and instantly recognizable." [5]

The Punk Rock MBA's YouTube video, entitled "Why Abercrombie & Fitch failed + why they won't come back (marketing)", was published on July 9, 2018, and as of now, the video has 573 views, 59 likes, 3 dislikes, and 17 comments. Jupiter Stars said that the company was in "when it was cool for white people to "be white"... now the hip hop culture and being "thicc" and curvy has taken over." She also argued that their company was bound to fail.  J K agreed and said that as iconic as the brands once were, today's younger generation don't totally know, or didn't understand much about the way the brands used to be, other than the names, and perhaps his age group that polarized on A&F's current identity. citykris made a point and argued that the company made a terrible mistake when they stopped having male shirtless models, resulting in its great marketing and drew a lot of attention. [6]

These proved into one conclusion: ditching shirtless models is a huge mistake for the company and it caused a ripple effect on its consumers. The company tried it, but failed to catch up with other teen retailers like Hollister, American Apparel, Calvin Klein, and others. Those are facts, not fabrications.

If there's anyone who is willing to debate on the matter, then present your stand.


Prop = Proposition = JCEurovision96
Opp = Opposition = RationalMadman
A&F = Abercrombie and Fitch
BoP = Burden of Proof
S&G Note: I will be using British English outside of quotes.

There is essentially nothing at all in Prop's case to refute because the case is completely lacking in what it's trying to prove (that the ceasing of showing shirtless models by A&F is evil or 'wrong') but the entire case put forth by Prop has done absolutely everything to support the idea that the ban was and is acceptable even if it was unwise from an economic perspective. On top of that, the depth of perceiving consequences in Prop's case is severely short-term and lacks foresight of altering the clientele and appealing to a totally different type of clothe buyer which may end up profiting the company and its shareholders even more than before as more conservative buyers may respect the company heavily for ceasing to do what it did and a whole new array of Islamic, Christian and other religious as well as atheistic conservative clothes purchasers will spread a good word about the company and it will be appealing to a new set of shareholders so on and so forth. The entire slump seen by Prop can be nothing more than a sign of transitioning from more saucy-clothing clientele to more conservative clientele.

I will like to begin by clarifying what the resolution being debated is as there's a few aspects to it. So we are arguing whether or not the ban was and is:
  • economically wise or not
  • is justified in sacrificing profit margin in the short-term in order to appeal to people of a Conservative mindset is morally superior or inferior to Company Policy that will appeal to more liberal and sexually excitable clientele
  • has helped stop brainwashing clientele or using subliminal messaging and context to make people think they will be sexier by buying the product.
I will now prove that it was morally good to ban a form of advertisement that unfairly brainwashes potential customers into thinking that they will become sexier, healthier and happier if they buy the clothing as they associate the provocative image, which often was in a loving kiss or embrace on top of being bare and sexually appealing and therefore included finding love as part of what you subconsciously associate with the product. I would completely decimate Prop on that angle too but I have a far, far easier (and yes it will seem troll-like) way to indisputably win this debate because of the word 'unacceptable'.

Let's define unacceptable (I crafted this from the sources below the quote combined:

If you describe something as unacceptable, you strongly  pass unfavorable judgment on of it or feel (or express) opposition to (or dislike of) it and feel that it should not be allowed to continue.

First of all, I think that Prop does a subpar job of clarifying just why the ban occurred and the trade-off made in exchange for the clarified reduction in profit margin that Prop attributes to the ban. So, before I proceed into my case defending the ban and A&F I would like to be clear on why they enacted it in the first place.

To do so I am going to use the best worded article I could find from the time regarding the ban. This isn't plagiarism (as I'm accrediting the source) and is also not laziness. It would be near impossible to word what is written better and if I had to write an essay for grading I'd literally just write what is written here in other words and with different sentence structure so as to not be accused of plagiarism:

They were once a shopping mall staple: parking lots, food court pretzels, ear-piercing stands — and the washboard abs of an Abercrombie & Fitch model. Sometimes plastered across the store’s dimly lit entrance or often on the body of a 17-year-old hired to stand around in swim trunks, sexualized-preppy was the ever-present look of this pricey teen chain.

But now, A&F says it’s ditching shirtless models, its strict policy governing how its employees should dress, and the “appearance and sense of style” rule that was widely known as a directive to its stores to only hire attractive people.

If you’ve been following the story of this once-popular store, this announcement won’t surprise you. CEO Mike Jeffries, the mastermind of the exclusive, racy look, left the company in December. (He once explained his store’s former success to Salon as, “Companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either.”) A discrimination lawsuit from a woman who was denied a job at the store because she was wearing a headscarf went all the way to the Supreme Court. And all the while, sales plummeted.

In short, it’s time for some re-branding.

But it won’t be the first time Abercrombie & Fitch has been in search of a new identity. Have you ever wondered why the brand’s logo was a moose? At its origin, the company was a sporting goods store. “The greatest sporting goods store in the world,” if you were to believe its advertisements from the early 1900s.

Left: A December 1909 Abercrombie and Fitch catalog. Right: An Abercrombie model outside of the store in 2008. (Mark Lennihan/AP)
Long before anyone showed their abs in public, Abercrombie & Fitch was founded in 1892 by David T. Abercrombie and Ezra Fitch. You could wander into their 12-story building on Madison Avenue in New York City to buy golf clubs, binoculars, tents, lawn games, fishing rods, pocket knifes, flasks, clothes made from “safari cloth,” spurs for boots, pipes, smoking jackets and a whole slew of guns.

Rest assured, the store was still “exclusive.” Fitch (who lived in a log cabin on the building’s roof, next to a pool for fishing) gave it the catchphrase, “Where the blazed trail crosses the boulevard.”

Its customers were the thick-walleted and high profile: President Teddy Roosevelt shopped there for a snake-proof sleeping bag before a hunting excursion in Africa. Amelia Earhart wore A&F’s flying jackets. John Steinbeck purchased a horn “with which nearly all cow emotions can be imitated.” The New Yorker went on an Abercrombie shopping spree with Ernest Hemingway, who frequented their floor of firearms. (And he shot himself with a gun he supposedly purchased there.)

But as the Abercrombie of 2015 is learning now, even the most popular store can’t keep up with the cool kids forever. Here’s a snippet of what the Washington Post wrote when the company filed for bankruptcy and closed its Madison Avenue doors in 1977:

It went on for 85 years (a lot longer than the Ritz-Carlton), and, as then president Otis L. Guernsey said in explaining the mahjong craze on which Abercrombie made a killing, “it was a fascinating game; but like everything else, it had its day.”

“What happened to the customers?” fishing tackle salesman Rick Burton said. “They died.”

Abercrombie’s modern customers haven’t died, but they’ve certainly grown up and become more socially conscious. What will the brand do to lure them back to its 900+ stores? (Which will now be better lit, quieter and less-strongly perfumed, by the way.)

“Inevitably, there’s still some people wondering what’s going to happen,” Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Ramsden told Bloomberg. But “things are running along — there’s a clear sense of what needs to be done.”

It took 10 years for the “outfitters” version of Abercrombie & Fitch to be revived by Limited Brands, the Ohio-based company that owns Express and Victoria’s Secret.
- [1]

What does this article establish?

A&F has previously undergone re-branding that took ten years to properly show fruition and that, more importantly, that the re-branding was made due to listening to customers and growing conservatism and displeasure with the revealing photography and sexual appeal as well as emotional manipulation going on with the saucy, shirtless advertising.

If I am called out on this I will happily fact check in more details every part of what I just claimed in R2 but for now I will leave it at that as I move on to defend the rest of the re-branding process as well as the morally superior decision to maintain the ban.

Alright, so let's begin with the responsibility of a corporation and what exactly the ideal company ethos would be for a brand as big and successful as A&F. According to Pro, the only responsibility of the corporation appears to bring the most immediate profit to its shareholders and not make a single move that may detract the building of shareholder loyalty and attraction in the short-term but maintain much more loyal and different clientele in the future (a more conservative one with values against brainwashing and subliminal messaging used with nefarious intentions).

While Pro is correct that giving back to shareholders is one part of the responsibility, Pro is ignoring the rest entirely since the other aspects were not even brought up in their entire Round 1:

- [2]

So, what would you consider a threat to society? Also, how much of the deficit and lowering in profit margin is due to the lack of shirtless model advertising in itself?

Let's deal with the latter first. The clothing industry has been taking a hit in many nations because women are becoming more equal to men in society (no, this is not a joke or conspiracy theory). So, while men have always spent rather little on clothes and more on time with others and going to the gym, pub and whatnot, women are beginning to do this as well as it's just overall becoming less trendy to be feminine in and of itself. This is not an insult to the female sex but is an observation of the female gender which is evolving due to third wave feminism and (whether you support it or not) you have to factor in how much less clothing itself is becoming a thing to buy in excess. Men have always been happy to cycle the same 5 outfits working week after working week but women tended to go over the top. Let's just get some reliable articles to support what I'm saying here (although they won't explicitly blame Feminism as it's not politically correct to do so in a 'blaming' fashion especially in Europe):

Feel free to click any blue coloured words in the quote, they are references within the referenced article that don't directly relate to my case.

This article is written as recent as May 2018, the data is not ancient.

Fashion sales are in retreat across the UK as clothing purchases come under pressure from tight household finances and the lure of the gym, restaurants and entertainment.

The volume of clothing sold is expected to fall for the second successive year, declining by 0.5% in 2018 after a fall of 0.8% the year before, as the recent woes of Marks & Spencer are reflected across the high street.

M&S expanded its store closure programme to 100 sites this week, with the figures from GlobalData showing that the retailer’s problems are an industry-wide issue.

Women, who account for more than half the UK market and spend more than twice the amount men do on clothing, are cutting down on outfits and prioritising time with friends and family at pubs, restaurants and events, and going to the gym.

“It comes down to the move to the experience economy,” said Richard Lim, an analyst at Retail Economics. “The likes of M&S are struggling to keep their head above water in a declining market with all these structural changes.”

Spending on women’s clothing was down an average 4.1% a month in the first four months of this year, according to Barclaycard. This followed a 2.5% contraction in 2017, when spending on entertainment was up an average 10% and pubs 12%.

Makeup and beauty product sales are on the rise among young women, with many also prioritising paying phone bills, rent and going to the gym.

Lim says people either want a bargain – turning to the likes of Primark, B&M, Aldi and Lidl – or are seeking rich experiences at higher-end stores such as Ted Baker, Selfridges and Fortnum & Mason.

Pointing to the part of the market where M&S is positioned, he added: “People are shying away from the middle.” As a consequence, GlobalData expects Primark to overtake M&S this year as Britain’s biggest clothing retailer.

The changes in consumer spending are having a painful impact on retail outlets and staff. The M&S closure plan has affected 1,500 jobs so far, with the chain identifying 36 of the 100 stores that will shut over the next four years.

New Look is closing up to 60 of its 593 outlets and House of Fraser is expected to close at least 20 of its 59 stores under a rescue restructure planned for next month.

Some smaller chains, such as East and Bench, have called in administrators while even the previously fast-growing overseas chains H&M and Inditex, the owner of Zara and Massimo Dutti, have been affected. H&M closed six stores in the UK in the first three months of this year as sales stagnated; Inditex shut two last year.

Rising costs from business rates – a monthly tax on commercial properties – and a struggle to adapt to shoppers switching to online buying have affected a variety of retailers. Meanwhile, households’ spare cash has been squeezed by a rise in inflation since the EU referendum, although the pressure on prices has eased in recent months.

Historically, the fashion market has been driven by young people, but and Britain’s millennial generation – people born since 1981– is particularly cost-conscious. They have experienced a bigger reversal in financial fortunes than their counterparts in most other developed countries except Greece.

The Resolution Foundation thinktank found that in 2014, British people born in the years around 1980 earned 13% less than those born around 1970 did at the same stage in life.

Meanwhile, working women appear to be spending less time on fashion and a rapid growth in online spendinghas hit sales in physical stores. Less than a quarter of clothing was bought online last year, a proportion expected to rise to 27% this year, according to GlobalData.

“Shopping with your mates as a social activity, that’s a thing of the past,” said Lorna Hall, insights director at the trend forecaster WGSN. “Women are just meeting up for a coffee, at a gym class or going to an event.”

Hall also pointed to a shift to a less visible market, with young women more likely to trade secondhand clothes online, snap up bargains through services such as the fast-growing mobile phone marketplace Depop as well as eBay and Facebook.

Depop, which is largely based on trading clothes, said sales were up 100% year on year, with an average of 20,000 items a day being bought in the UK by its users, 80% of whom are aged 13-24.

Hall described it as “almost a dark market” in clothing, driven by a greater awareness of waste and sustainability as well as a familiarity with mobile apps not shared by older generations.

It means young people are more willing to “have some stuff for a few weeks and then sell it off and buy more”, Hall said. “It’s almost a dark market, you can’t track it in the same way as retail sales.”

Two decades of importing cheap goods from China have also left the consumer at saturation point, said Lim. “In many ways, we’ve reached an abundance of material possessions and the economic value people are attaching to them is diminishing.”
- [3]

How about another to add reliability:
- [4]

So, we've established that most of the slump is due to the clothing industry itself struggling, both due to women buying less clothes due to Feminism and the Internet enabling competition to arise faster and compete harder meaning anyone with a stronghold is struggling to maintain it.

What does Pro say to this? Ah, but there's nothing good about the ban. Wrong, there is. Do we want to encourage older teens and young adults to feel the need to buy clothes in order to become more sexually appealing or happily in love? Many of the shirtless images had kissing and severely romantic embracing on top of being racy in what's revealed (I will prove in R2 if I need to).

The idea that we can be influenced by ads we don’t consciously detect is one of most intriguing in consumer psychology, and has attracted a lot of attention over the years.  Since the 1950’s people have feared that words or images briefly flashed on a screen or concealed in an advertisement have the power to make us buy certain products or even vote for a certain political candidate.  Are these fears founded, or is this more myth than reality?  The answer, believe it or not is yes and no: While there are widely held false beliefs about subliminal advertising, it can influence us.  In this post I’m going to explain this seeming contradiction, starting with a discussion of what subliminal advertising is and the origin of popular beliefs surrounding it, and then finishing with a discussion of when it actually does influence us.  After reading this, you might start to look at the ice cubes in that liquor ad a little differently…

Subliminal advertising is that making use of words or images (referred to as stimuli) we don’t consciously detect.  Those stimuli can be undetectable because they’re hidden inside of some other image (e.g., concealing the word "sex" in some ice cubes in a liquor ad), or because they’re presented on a screen so briefly we’re not aware we’re seeing them.  How briefly does something have to be presented to be undetectable?  The oft-agreed duration is .003 seconds (that’s three one thousandths of a second).  Most people will not be consciously aware they’ve seen a stimulus that was presented for .003 seconds.  Regardless though of whether a stimulus is considered subliminal because it’s concealed in something else or because it’s presented very briefly, the distinguishing feature is that we’re not aware we’re looking at it.  When subliminal stimuli exert an influence on us it’s said to be an unconscious influence, meaning it’s an influence we’re not consciously aware of.

Distaste for subliminal advertising began in 1957, after James Vicary and Frances Thayer published a study in which they claimed that subliminally presenting the words “Eat popcorn” and “Drink Coca-Cola” in a film increased popcorn sales by 58% and Coca-Cola sales by 18%.  Those are obviously huge sales increases considering all Vicary and Thayer claimed to have done was present a few words on a screen.  The following year, a man named Vance Packard published a book called The Hidden Persuaders, in which he discussed how advertisers could control consumers by appealing to their unconscious desires.  Indeed, Packard’s claims of advertisers’ ability to influence consumers were analogous to a puppet master pulling a puppet’s strings.  After learning about Vicary and Thayer’s study and reading Packard’s book, people feared advertisers could use subliminal advertising to force them to buy products and politicians could even use subliminal advertising to force them to vote a certain way.  People also feared skepticism and suspicion would be useless against this form of influence because after all, we can’t be suspicious of something we’re not even aware we’ve seen.  The fear of subliminal advertising was largely unfounded though, as Packard heavily exaggerated advertisers’ power over consumers, and Vicary and Thayer fabricated their data.  That’s right, they just made it all up for no other reason than to promote Vicary’s own marketing company!  Additionally, legitimate research (i.e., research that did not make use of fabricated data) conducted after the publication of Vicary and Thayer’s study found very little evidence that subliminal advertising exerted any influence on people.  Despite this though, the myth that subliminal advertising has a powerful influence endures: Recent survey data showed over ¾ of respondents knew of subliminal advertising and almost half felt susceptible to it.

If the fear of subliminal advertising is largely unfounded, this begs the question: Can we ever be influenced outside awareness?  The answer, actually, is yes.  Research showed that when words relating to thirst were subliminally presented to thirsty people they later drank more.  This, despite the fact that these people did not report being thirstier!  This implies these people were not only unaware of seeing the thirst related words, but were also unaware of the words’ influence on their behavior.  Other research showed stimuli people were aware of could exert an influence on their behavior they were not aware of.  For example, research showed that liquor store patrons bought more German wine when German music was playing in the store and more Italian wine when Italian music was playing in the store.  When asked what led them to choose the wine they chose very few patrons mentioned the music, implying that despite the fact they could hear the music most of them were unaware it was influencing their behavior.  Other research showed that people who watched someone eating ice cream before being given the chance to eat ice cream themselves would unknowingly eat the same amount of ice cream as that other person (the only time this didn’t happen was when that other person was obese, but that’s a story for another post).

So clearly then, our consumption can be influenced without our awareness, be it due to exposure to stimuli we don’t detect or stimuli we do detect but which influence us outside awareness.  At this point I’d like to address a question that may have occurred to the reader: What’s the difference between the previously mentioned older research that showed no real evidence people could be influenced by subliminal advertising and more recent research that showed we can be influenced outside awareness?  There are two differences, the first of which is that psychologists are now aware that to be effective subliminal stimuli must appeal to current needs and goals.  For example, subliminally presenting thirst related words led people to drink more, when they were already thirsty.  Second, psychologists are now aware that when it comes to stimuli we’re aware of but which influence us outside awareness we must not be aware the stimuli are exerting an influence on us.  For example, if the liquor store patrons hearing the Italian music were told beforehand that the music would lead them to buy Italian wine many of them probably would have chosen wine of a different origin (if any).  Additionally, if the people who imitated another person when eating ice cream were told beforehand that they’d copy that person’s eating behavior they probably wouldn’t have done so.

While a surprising number of people today still subscribe to the idea that subliminal advertising can make us do things against our will, that’s largely just a myth.  Research has shown that subliminal ads and other stimuli designed to influence us outside awareness can do so, but not very powerfully.  I mean, there’s a big difference between getting thirsty people to drink a beverage offered to them and making some presumably well-hydrated moviegoers purchase Coke.  That said, subliminal stimuli and consciously detectable stimuli could influence our behavior without our knowledge when they’re used right.  For instance, one purpose of playing upbeat music in restaurants is to make us eat faster and increase the restaurant’s turnover rate (and by extension its revenues).  Most of us have no idea the music is influencing our eating, and the restaurant staff who are aware would never tell us.  There are a few take away messages from all this: First, you needn’t be concerned that advertisements concealed in movies and TV programs are making you buy things, because at most they could only get you to buy something you’d be inclined to buy anyway, if they could even exert that much influence.  Second, attending to your surroundings might reduce the influence of detectable yet unobtrusive stimuli that could otherwise exert an unidentified influence on your behavior.
- [5]

Advertising makes us feel that we’re not good enough as we are.

We have an economic system in which people have to make money in order to survive, no matter how manipulative techniques they use to achieve that — and this can be clearly seen in the advertising industry.

To sell you stuff, advertisements first make you feel like crap. How do they achieve this? By showing you what the ideal life is supposed to be, and then making you compare your ordinary live to it. This way they slowly lead you to believe that you’re not beautiful, intelligent, confident, and so on, until they fully convince you that you basically suck. The reason? To make you feel insecure, so that they can then emotionally manipulate you.

Advertising makes us associate happiness with consumerism.

After they’ve achieved to ruin our self-esteem, advertisements are trying to fool us into thinking that only products and services can make us feel better. In other words, advertisements create a problem, and then offer us a solution to it. What is it? You guessed right: Shopping.

Once they achieve to make you feel ugly, they sell you beauty products so you can improve on your ugliness. Once they manage to make you believe that you are not important, they sell you expensive clothes so you can attract the attention of others. And so on and so forth.

In short, advertisements promise you happiness, provided that you spend money in return. The result? Consuming stuff you don’t even need and supporting the production of unnecessary waste that is polluting our planet.
- [6]

So, A&F are doing their best to re-brand themselves while staying afloat in an industry that's drowning out its competitors in the very opposite issue of a monopoly (too much competition and too much ease to make it work via e-commerce). They had both moral and economic incentive to do this rebranding and are encouraging us to become calm, casual citizens who wear clothing to simply be what we are be the quirky, sporty and/or something in between. What they don't do anymore is say 'hey there, yes you... You want to feel sexy, healthy, happy and loving all at once? Let's implant some subliminal context cues to make you feel you need to buy our product!' and frankly that's not unacceptable at all.

[1] Contrera, J. (2015). Before Abercrombie was a hub of shirtless models, it was a store where you could buy guns and thermal underwear. [online] Washington Post. Available at: [Accessed 3 Sep. 2018].
[2] Times, F. (2017). Corporate Responsibility Definition from Financial Times Lexicon. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Sep. 2018].     
[3] Butler, S. (2018). UK fashion sales slide as women spend on gym and restaurants. [online] The Guardian. Available at: [Accessed 3 Sep. 2018].
[4] Rupp, L., Whiteaker, C., Townsend, M. and Bhasin, K. (2018). The Death of Clothing. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Sep. 2018].
[5] Zimmerman, I. (2014). Subliminal Ads, Unconscious Influence, and Consumption. [online] Psychology Today. Available at: [Accessed 3 Sep. 2018].
[6] Archon, S. (n.d.). The Negative Effects of Advertising on Society. [online] The Unbounded Spirit. Available at: [Accessed 3 Sep. 2018].
Round 2
The Opposition made some points about why the company intended to transition from a more saucy-clothing clientele to a more conservative clientele. In addition, he made some arguments about why he’s satisfied with its new identity, with some reliable sources.

However, he didn’t notice the fact that according to the 2015 report by the American Customer Satisfaction Index, the company is second to Advance Auto as “the worst retailer in America”. To further back up the claim, the November 2016 article published by Forbes said that the company reported its decline for its 15th straight quarter. To add even more insult to injury, the company stated that its biggest culprit was a deepening drop off in sales at its namesake brand, where comparable sales fell 14% in the third quarter in their sharpest decline in many years. The company has been trying to find a new place for its flagship brand in a crowded, struggling apparel market, but without the shirtless models and the logo, the company struggled to bounce back, when the majority of shoppers are intended to buy retail from H&M, Forever 21, and Zara. Arthur Martinez, the company’s Executive Chairman, conceded that the brand had to discount more than it wanted and that such intense promotions harm a brand for the longer term. [1]

If the clientele think that they would be sexier, healthier and happier if they bought the clothing as they associate the provocative image, in a loving kiss or embrace on top of being bare and sexually appealing, then that would not be considered as “brainwashing”, but rather a convincing appeal that could increase the company’s sales, and to be honest, logo-covered clothing, as well as shirtless models, isn’t such a bad thing after all. Mike Jeffries, former CEO of the company and the “brainchild” behind the shirtless models identity, quoted that when it comes to its ambiguous sexuality, he argued that its representation is healthy and playful, not dark and degrading. He further said that it’s neither gay nor straight, neither black nor white, and disregarding about any labels because those are classified as cynicism. The company depicted the wonderful camaraderie, friendship, and playfulness that exist in the contemporary age and candidly does not exist in the ages before that. [2]

The sexual marketing of a company, in its standpoint, can affect the viewer biologically, emotionally, and physically. Furthermore, sexuality allowed the viewer to develop a closer bond with the brand, resulting in stronger recognition, and increased the ability to cut through the mass of the ads because the viewer generally spent a longer time in viewing before considering the ad, as being emphasized in the case study of Heineken’s “It’s All in the Beer Campaign” in 2000. [3]

The fact of sexual marketing isn’t a recent invention, evidenced that the first use of it was in 1871 when Pearl Tobacco featured a naked maiden on the package cover. In fact, the first brands to enter this trend at that time were saloons, tonics, and tobacco. The most famous example of sexual marketing is the 1981 Calvin Klein commercial featuring Brooke Shields, who was 16 years old at the time, and the famous quotation, “You wanna know what comes between me and my Clavin's? Nothing." [4]

The “Hey there, yes you... You want to feel sexy, healthy, happy and loving all at once? Let's implant some subliminal context clues to make you feel you need to buy our product!” is a strategy that companies use in order to promote a certain product because sexual marketing is, by no other means, the allure used in advertising to draw attention to otherwise tame products, with the intent to produce a more conventional opening for small businesses or suppliers looking to promote sensual benefits of their brands.  Furthermore, sexuality is a fundamental part of the human experience, similar to appealing to people’s desires for financial security or family well-being. It can also aim at winning over consumers who are attracted to the models in the advertisements, or wanted to be as sexually attractive as them. [5] [6]

We live in an ever lore open society and fewer taboos, and sexuality has become even more present in advertising. The one change that has been observed throughout the years is combining sex with humour, which brought some of its ads to life, while others tended to remain in the trend of provocative imagery, like Dolce and Gabbana, Victoria’s Secret, Calvin Klein, Giorgio Armani, American Apparel, and Bench Body.

The ban rebranded Abercrombie and Fitch, further isolating to the current trend we live in, and reverting back to the Victorian society or even before the outbreak of two World Wars. The reality is that we are not living in that era anymore, rather we live in the information age and in the 21st century, where society tends to shift towards liberalistic views and today’s younger generation entice to romance and sexual lust. Removing the identity of the company in order to rebrand itself can greatly help or hurt the perception towards the viewers.

The Opposition pointed out that the ban is morally good because they had both moral and economic incentive to do this and are encouraging themselves to become calm, casual citizens who wear clothing to simply be what they are be the quirky, sporty, and/or something in between. If he is right, then he jumped to the conclusion that Abercrombie & Fitch would be “another H&M retail store”.

The Opposition is wrong, because Abercrombie & Fitch and hot guys are inseparable, which is their corporate trademark. Not every company can generate such a strong brand identity, yet the company did eventually decide to throw away its identity in order to prevent sexual marketing. He didn’t even realize that the rebranded Abercrombie & Fitch, without the shirtless models from advertisements, shopping bags, stores, and posters in favor of fully-clothed models all of the time is simply degrading the image, and would be a disaster and a huge loss of a fashion icon, especially in an age where brands are becoming increasingly similar and afraid to be different and new, and it proved to be right as it continues to decline not only in popularity, but also the sales and the shares, despite its efforts to dial back the sex. To sum up, the company can’t keep up with the cool kids forever with the ban that removed the uniqueness of Abercrombie & Fitch.

The Opposition asked, “Do we want to encourage older teens and young adults to feel the need to buy clothes in order to become more sexually appealing or happily in love?” Well, older teenagers and young adults have a free will to buy clothes in order to be more sexually attractive or happily in love because they relate their everyday situations to the ones seen in any literary form, whether it’s from novels to romantic comedies and dramas, to even music.  In addition, by the time they would reach to the point of maturity by getting married and having children by themselves, they can create their own standpoint not loosely based on the clothes they wear, but how they interact with a changing culture.

Abercrombie & Fitch made one job in order to win back its customers by banning shirtless models and the “look policy” guidelines in order to make the company more down-to-earth and redefine themselves, and it failed to do so, resulted to its continuous tarnished reputation as “the worst retailer in America”, slumping sales and shares that didn’t meet with the Wall Street standards, and losing its touch with the potential customers. It will never come back to its glory days and popularity.

The Opposition made explicit reasons of maintaining the ban in the moral standpoint, yet lacking an implicit claim. Most of the shirtless images had kissing and severely romantic embracing is another form of showing deep love, and being racy is considered to be a prejudice of human expression. Wise men said that the best and most beautiful things in this world cannot be seen or even heard, but must be felt with the heart, as pictured not only seen in advertisements, but also young adult literature.

So, the Opposition used the basis of morality in maintaining that ban. From what I can tell, that is immaturity. Will the Opposition admit that unless the ban on shirtless models is lifted, Abercrombie & Fitch has lost its touch, its glamour, and its identity completely?


Absolutely nothing Prop says in R2 is relevant to the debate.

Opp's statements are the following:

  1. It's not the same thing as a government or public institution to decide whether or not a corporation is entitled to continue a policy but rather on how that government maintains itself while also avoiding being a threat to society as a whole and negatively influencing people via their product itself and how it is advertised and/or manufactured.
  2. A&F's decline in recent times is due to nearly negligible responsibility of the no-shirt ads but rather this was actually a way to mitigate bankruptcy for the company in a dying industry for major competitors across the board.
My sources in Round 1 all support me and I have quite literally nothing else to add since this has yet to be disproved by Prop.

Prop seems to think it is Opp who has to prove that A&F made the best decision but this is not the case. It may not have been the single best way to handle the company and its strategy but that doesn't mean it is unacceptable at all.

Round 3
The Opposition, despite all the resources he supported in R1, clearly dodged the question on whether Abercrombie & Fitch would continue to win back its customers in a sorry state or not. He also thought that what I said in R2 was completely irrelevant. If he came to the point that the shirtless ban and the removal of the “look policy” guidelines are for the betterment of the company, then he ignored the facts completely about the company’s decline. He has yet to disprove arguments based on my sources, not the other way around, and has literally nothing to add.

Marketing strategies are like the things on how to run democracy in a country, having potential benefits on one side of the spectrum and burdens on another. In the case of Abercrombie & Fitch, the shirtless ban proved beneficial only to the conservatives and religious, but harmful to the liberals, consumers, capitalists, and the youth as a whole. In short, Abercrombie & Fitch’s shirtless ban and the removal of the “look policy” in favor of down-to-earth, fully clothed models to the delight of the more conservative clientele is clear prudery.

Shirtless models brought a unique and cool experience to the Abercrombie & Fitch store for every customer, they are part of the “body” and “culture” of the company, created a fun corporate environment, separated them from competitors dramatically, and gave the associates an ideal image to follow. Without them, it would be like “another Zara or H&M store”, lacking the uniqueness and specialty, and if they continue to go on like that regardless of the performance in sales, pointless and valued nothing because it lost its touch, its glamour, and its identity. It was, is, and will be unacceptable to lose an important piece of Abercrombie & Fitch’s history, proven by a sharp decline in sales, shares, and popularity among the “cool and not-so-cool kids”.

The Opposition said that Abercrombie & Fitch did their best in order to rebrand themselves while staying afloat in a competitive industry, yet he cannot disprove the fact that it continues to struggle and failed to win back its customers. Banning on shirtless models from advertisements, shopping bags, stores, and posters in favor of fully-clothed models all of the time showed A&F's neglect and made it even worse. Let me ask him again and it’s only answerable with a YES or NO:  Unless the ban on shirtless models is lifted, has the company lost its popularity completely and is it time for them to regret that utter mistake?

When you re-brand to move away from a saucy-fashioned clientele of all ages and towards a most conservative, chill Millennial clientele, you dont want to be winning back all the old customer or shareholders... Some sure, but not all. A&F has been moving to influence people in a more positive way and on top of that is less struggling than they would be had they stayed competing with the likes of Calvin Klein and the other stated competitors of the saucy-clothing industry who specialise solely in that. A&F has fulfilled its social responsibility side of Corporate Responsibility in a way it never did prior to the policy and the fact A&F is struggling is something that not only inevitably happens in the early stages of re-branding that took them 10 years to finish off from being a sports brand to a casual clothing brand in their earlier re-branding.

Nothing Prop has said has explained why it's unacceptable only that he doesn't see it as optimal or the single best option. It's the right of a private organisation to lead in a much more flexible way than a government. A private company doesn't have to produce optimal profit nor does it have to be completely justified in every move If A&F was a government-endorsed public organisation, I could begin to take Prop's case seriously but they are a private organisation entitled to be less-than-optimal so long as they meet their mandated duties as a corporation in whichever nation they are in according to its laws regarding such matters.

I repeat what I say last Round for further emphasis:

  1. It's not the same thing as a government or public institution to decide whether or not a corporation is entitled to continue a policy but rather on how that government maintains itself while also avoiding being a threat to society as a whole and negatively influencing people via their product itself and how it is advertised and/or manufactured.
  2. A&F's decline in recent times is due to nearly negligible responsibility of the no-shirt ads but rather this was actually a way to mitigate bankruptcy for the company in a dying industry for major competitors across the board.

Round 4
This debate could go on even further, but since I entered into four rounds, this is the last chance for the Opposition to answer the question. He claims to be the single best online debater in the current league of online debating, yet he showed his true colors by dodging even one simple yes-or-no question. He said that he would rip my arguments to shreds and taunt by saying that I could stutter and type even a single paragraph, yet he simply dodged on the cold hard facts time and time again.

He pointed out that when the company re-branded its image to move away from a saucy-fashioned clientele of all ages and towards a conservative, “chill” millennial clientele, the company doesn’t equate to winning back all the old customers or shareholders, but that is clear fallacy because the millennial clientele are liberated enough to express themselves, regardless of the need to buy clothes in order to become more sexually appealing or happily in love. Had they stayed competing with the likes of Calvin Klein and other competitors of the saucy-clothing industry who specialize solely in that, A&F would not have slumped its sales and would’ve regain back its popularity, but it is too late to repair the damage that A&F made and left behind by its competitors. Furthermore, the Opposition said that A&F fulfilled its social responsibility side of corporate responsibility in a way it never did prior to that ban, but he didn’t saw the reality that it failed to reinvigorate the image it once was, proven by a sharp decline in sales, shares, and customers. If they continue things like that, regardless of its performance in the competitive market, A&F has lost its glamour, its identity, and even worse, its dignity.

So, now that the debate comes to an end, I will conclude it with two parting shots:
  1. "I have often said that I wish I had invented blue jeans: the most spectacular, the most practical, the most relaxed and nonchalant. They have expression, modesty, sex appeal, simplicity - all I hope for in my clothes." - Yves Saint-Laurent, French fashion designer
  2. "Although people often equate them, glamour is not the same as beauty, stylishness, luxury, celebrity, or sex appeal. It is not limited to fashion or film; nor is it intrinsically feminine. It is not a collection of aesthetic markers - a style, as fashion and design use the word." - Virginia Postrel, American political and cultural writer
Let the Opposition give one last chance to answer this simple question: Unless the ban on shirtless models is lifted, has the company lost its touch, its glamour, and its identity completely and is it time for them to regret that draconian mistake, YES or NO?

A&F is a company. it doesn't owe the public or even its shareholders some 'perfect optimal choice' in every decision it makes. That is the freedom that comes with owning private property in a Capitalist society.

A&F chose to re-brand in a less sexual way and Prop has not proven that the decline he describes was due to the decision made. On the other hand, Opp has proven that the very motive behind doing it was both to become socially benevolent with how they manipulate in advertising and to reach out to a new clientele which was motivated to mitigate the effect of both Feminism and e-commerce on the clothing industry.[3][4]

Prop keeps saying I need to prove that it was the best decision but this debate is about if it is unacceptable or not. As long as there is a good enough reason for it being in place and enough right for a private organisation to enact it, it is not unacceptable. Prop has failed to address this and keeps demanding I explain what I already have explained.

The reason retention of clientele was low is because they are re-branding and hitting a different type of clothes buyer than before.