The end of an overly perfumed era.

Perhaps it’s because I’m from Columbus and always found the words on The Limited’s shopping bags silly (New York Paris London) or perhaps it’s because I once interviewed the company’s CEO without a single PR person in the room, but I always will read stories about its business empire.

And while I believe Abercrombie & Fitch was formally spun off a while ago, it found its contemporary life as an arm of The Limited. Also, its CEO is a crackpot plastic-surgery addict control freak whose business life virtually sprouts good stories. So I read this one in New York magazine this week, pegged to the fact the thrill is gone. Sales are down, and the mojo that used to work doesn’t work anymore. Alas, Mike Jeffries, aforementioned CEO:

Above all, Jeffries, who was once married but is now openly gay, sought to sell an image of American beefcake sexuality as he saw it: a world of hairless, amply muscled men tussling in a pastoral Eden. That this world was so highly homoeroticized—the roughhousing in the catalogues seemed perpetually on the point of turning into a full-on orgy—is one of the most poignant ironies of his success. He was persuading straight jock teenagers to buy into a gay man’s fantasy of a jock utopia.

The story isn’t vicious. While frank about Jeffries’ many eccentricities and jerkishness, you’re left more with a picture of Puff the magic dragon after Jackie Paper stopped coming around, as rendered in American boardrooms. He’s been stripped of much of his power and, at 69, appears to be waiting for the ax to fall on his blonde-dyed head. But it was such fun (for him) while it lasted!

In many ways, Jeffries’s most impressive accomplishment was not the signature Abercrombie style but the signature Abercrombie attitude, with its bluntly brash appeal. As one former employee put it, “The only bad news was no news. Controversy was what you wanted.” Consequently, the list of PR disasters past and present is too lengthy to fully detail, but the more notable flare-ups include the following: the quickly recalled line of Asian-themed T-shirts, which featured men in rice-paddy hats and cartoonishly slanted eyes; a line of thongs, marketed to girls as young as 10, with the words wink-wink on the crotch; an issue of A&F Quarterly that included a user’s guide to having oral sex in a movie theater; and the disingenuous joke-apology to critics that appeared in the same periodical in 2003: “If you’d be so kind, please offer our apologies to the following: the Catholic League, former Lt. Governor Corrine Wood of Illinois, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Stanford University Asian-American Association, N.O.W.”

Ha ha ha. Come back, Jackie Paper:

But sensibilities have since evolved; casual prejudice is not as readily tolerated. Today’s teens are no longer interested in “the elite, cool-kid thing” to the extent that they once were, says Gordon, the Michigan professor. “This generation is about inclusiveness and valuing diversity. It’s about not looking down on people.”

I’m sure he has a nice retirement to look forward to, and plenty of money for botox.

My sister did some business with the Limited, back when she was selling phone systems. The headquarters were in an enormous building, with cafeterias scattered throughout, each one decorated with advertising images from a particular brand under the corporate umbrella. The guys she worked with always wanted to eat in the Victoria’s Secret canteen.

So, how are you spending the week? Olympics, yes of course, but is anyone watching Westminster? I am. I could watch those dogs trot up and back all day. And who is the winner in this house? Wendy with the crooked leg, Jack Russell Terrier No. 1.

Not much other bloggage today, although this story about a heroin overdose in Wisconsin broke my heart.

Supposed to be close to zero tonight. Keep those fleece jeans out, I guess.

Posted at 12:30 am in Popculch |

51 responses to “The end of an overly perfumed era.”

  1. Deborah said on February 12, 2014 at 4:17 am

    I went to the Corporate offices of The Limited in Columbus in the early 2000s, when I worked for a small (but good) graphic design company. We met with a woman in the investor relations department, we we’re trying to get work there designing their annual report. Annual report design used to be a very lucrative business for graphic designers. The thing I remember the most about that marketing trip was all the people who worked at that company who seemed to have totally unnecessary jobs. There were a lot of toadies who seemed to be there for the sole purpose of propping up their bosses egos.

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  2. Deborah said on February 12, 2014 at 4:35 am

    I just read the heroin overdose article, sad. Heroin is a big problem in New Mexico, it’s responsible for a lot of the crime, mostly breaking into homes/cars getting money for drugs. There are some small, quaint towns and villages in the area (like Abiquiu and Chimayo) that have big problems with it. They say it’s generational, grandmothers pass it on down. What a mess.

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  3. Dexter said on February 12, 2014 at 5:22 am

    When I was a little kid in the two-room schoolhouse in Richland Township, De Kalb County, Indiana, my very smart older lady-teacher , for some reason, told us that it had been “discovered” that tobacco was completely safe and that it was the smoldering paper that was making people keel over from heart attacks and “lack of wind.” And now we are being told that the heroin is safe-as-ever, its the damn fentanyl in the bag that’s causing all the deaths. Publicity really hit nationwide after the Pittsburgh fiasco last fall when 22 or 23 users died from the mixture. But as the Times story reports, a lot of the death is a result of mixing painkillers and H. And of course it’s still a scourge, and of course no one can recover and put it in the rear-view mirror unless that addict want to leave it behind. And that does not happen unless the addict experiences a moment of clarity, which is existence in a time-bubble , away from their own compulsions for just a flash of time, sees the drug for what it is doing to them, and instills a great desire to quit the shit. So little comfort to the vast majority who enter recovery via abstinence and a spiritual guidance and can’t grasp “this simple program.”

    I was really pulling for the Jack Russell to win Best in Show, but I was sure it was going to be the Min-Pin or the Bloodhound 1 and 2. The judge , looking like European royalty in her grand purple dress and shiny high heels, looked sensible enough to agree with me, but when she took a long time, and I noticed she had one eye bugging one way and the other another direction, I thought “Oh no! She’s a nut and she’s going to give it to one of the obscure dogs..” and she did, and the Wire Terrier with the fat Mexican handler takes the cake. But what a fantastic two-night show! A+.

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  4. Jolene said on February 12, 2014 at 6:37 am

    I was rooting for the Russell Terrier, too, but, really, there were so many lovely dogs. I wanted to bring home at least a dozen. The DuckTolling Retriever, the Red and White Irish Setter, the Glenn of Imaal Terrier, the PBGV, the German Short-Haired Pointer, the Wire-Haired Dachshund, the Aussie, of course, and on and on. But, oh, what they do to the poodles. Is there anything more ridiculous?

    I think the judging at the Best in Show level, and even at the Best in Group level, must be more or less random. I know the story is that the dogs are being compared to their breed standard rather than to each other, but, really, it seems absurd to claim that there’s any sensible way to pick out the best of such disparate entities.

    Dexter, I was glancing at Twitter while watching the show, and one of the people I follow noted that the judge appeared a bit cubist–a reference, of course, to her eyes. Another bizarre detail in a bizarre, but completely enjoyable, event.

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  5. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on February 12, 2014 at 7:29 am

    Did anyone see the Jimmy Kimmel bit where his graphics department showed the trot around the ring at Westminster with the dogs edited out? Just the . . . are we allowed to say owners in this context? Anyhow, the humans a-flutter on their various gaits and garbs making their way through the obstacle course.

    Some laughs are welcome. Our college is still reeling from a death over the weekend in the village, a senior with no history of extreme partying or suspicion of alcohol abuse went out with some friends, got hammered (he was of age, too), and apparently turned left instead of right coming out of the main bar at the foot of the hill, walked half a mile in ten below at 2 am, and then . . . sat down. Probably felt off, and thought he’d sit it out: he was wearing a North Face jacket, even if no gloves or hat.

    And was found frozen solid at 10:30 pm that day by two professors who were part of our community wide mobilization; he had walked up a condo driveway that may have looked to him like the campus entrance, turned around and out of scale . . . but one where almost none of the residents are north of Sarasota this time of year. So no one had driven in or out all day. He was dead by dawn, so it wasn’t really what killed him, but it added to the peculiarity of it all.

    The memorial service jammed our vast, underutilized campus chapel yesterday, and the Hilltoppers closed it out by singing “Loch Lomond,” and it’s never made as much sense in all my hearing of it. “You take the high road, and I’ll take the low road, and I’ll get to Scotland afore ye.” The swim team is devastated, and we host an NCAA swim conference this weekend. Four of us will be roving chaplains, working alongside four counselors from the campus service, and as was said at the memorial, “There is no blame in this hour, but there must be learning.” And first is a learning that Robert Burton said half a millennia ago: “Be not solitary.” Alone in this weather can be deadly.

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  6. nancy said on February 12, 2014 at 8:01 am

    A woman was found in a similar condition here, Jeff, after she left a bar around closing time to walk home, so drunk she left her coat behind.

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  7. Basset said on February 12, 2014 at 8:07 am

    Once again, some little foo-foo dog wins. Shoulda been the basset or the bloodhound.
    “Cubist,” I like that.

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  8. Jolene said on February 12, 2014 at 8:12 am

    Happened to the son of a colleague a couple years ago. Was a student at, I believe, Kenyon. Left a frat party alone on a cold night. Absolutely devastating to the family.

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  9. beb said on February 12, 2014 at 8:44 am

    Can’t saw I have watched either the Olympics or Westminster. NBC is to sports what Mitch Albom is to…anything.

    So the homoerotic ads in Abercombie catalogs were a feature not a bug…

    I’m opposed to capital punishment because there have been too many cases where someone has been exonerated years after they were sentenced. Death is too final for something with such a large “ooopsie” component. Lately some states have started talking ab out bringing back the electric chair, or firing squads, etc because the chemicals used for lethal injection, which are largely manufactured overseas, have been scarce. The manufacturers don’t like being a contributor to anyone’s death. My inner engineer, the soulless one, wonders why are we making lethal injections so hard. Why not just give them a massive overdose of heroin? Wouldn’t they just go to sleep and not wake up? I could be wrong about how heroin overdosers die, but it can’t be worse than the electric chair.

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  10. coozledad said on February 12, 2014 at 8:48 am

    I wonder what percentage of opiate addictions begin with prescription medications, and why pain science is still heavily focused around drugs that aren’t optimized for reducing pain so much as cheap manufacture.

    if you’ve watched a terminal patient trying to scratch their flesh off when they’re tanked up on morphine, you have a good idea of the piss poor tradeoff in terms of actual pain reduction and the risk of addiction in healthier patients.

    I’ve heard a physician say X-rays are 19th century medicine, and we have better diagnostic tools, but it’s immaterial when cash is raining in the older equipment manufacturer’s pockets. Same thing with pain treatment. You ultimately kill your endogenous opioid system with that cheap trash, and wind up hurting worse than you would have anyway. Lilly pharmaceuticals appreciates the help, though.

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  11. Judybusy said on February 12, 2014 at 9:34 am

    Another student suffered severe frostbite and hypothermia in December. She was a student at U of M Duluth. Friends dropped her off at her driveway, but she never made it inside. Parts of her hands and feet needed to be amputated, but at least she’s alive.

    Here, we’re thrilled it’s 16 above zero. No below 0 windchill for the first time in many days! I feel really bad by those getting hit by the storm sweeping the southeast.

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  12. brian stouder said on February 12, 2014 at 9:39 am

    That Sorkin guy – who generally seems to be an uptown version of Mitch Albom, wrote a simple truth (in reaction to Hoffman’s death) in Time magazine.

    He objected to the term “overdose” with regard to heroin; as if there actually are correct dosage limits.

    It’s always about death, at any dosage level

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  13. Deborah said on February 12, 2014 at 10:04 am

    Here’s a link to a 2008 NYT article about multigenerational heroin addiction in Rio Arriba county in NM

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  14. coozledad said on February 12, 2014 at 10:08 am

    As long as our medical delivery systems are rotten to the core, and the right keeps preaching the moral theory of disease without fear of having their teeth slapped out for it, there’ll be plenty more overdoses.

    The ACA is insurance reform only, and it had to stop just short of addressing fundamental problems because too many whores making too much money. But when you drill down, it gets even worse. Our current medical delivery systems are structured to fuck people up and ensnare them in a massive cash shakedown that threatens medicare and the economy.

    The thing about the very sick patients I see is that they are generally what might be called “medical train wrecks.” They are very sick because they have had interventions over the years that have caused them to be dependent on more medical interventions. In some cases this means that they are alive when they would be dead otherwise, and in some cases medicine has allowed them to make more terrible choices in their lives and be subsequently more miserable than they would have been if forced to face the logical consequences of their behaviors. Often these two stories are played out in the same people. It is hard to take care of these people because they have had so much done to them, have taken so many medications, had so many complications that the landscape of caring for them is like a mine field.

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  15. brian stouder said on February 12, 2014 at 10:10 am

    btw – this phrase, from Nance’s excerpt of the Limited article, bothered me:

    Above all, Jeffries, who was once married but is now openly gay,.

    Upon further review, the word “openly” clarifies what the writer was trying to say…

    but it comes perilously close to implying that one simply chooses “the gay”…!

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  16. Jenine said on February 12, 2014 at 11:45 am

    Jtmmo, we call those people at the other end of the leash “handlers”. Owners are rarely handlers.
    My mother shows dogs in the obedience ring and feels her dogs are superior to those in the breed competitions who don’t have to know a thing besides walk and stand and don’t get any points off if they crap in the middle of the ring.

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  17. Connie said on February 12, 2014 at 12:01 pm

    IMHO most of the handlers are women wearing a skirted suit in which the skirt is too small and too short. Is that a mandatory uniform?

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  18. nancy said on February 12, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    You have to be able to run a little, which probably explains the hemline. Downtime with convention-center food — cheese fries, anyone — explains the fit. I’m always on the lookout for the person who can put together just the right outfit, but it’s admittedly hard: You need something that won’t upstage the dog, doesn’t show hair (too much), can stand up to long days of grooming, standing, jogging, etc.

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  19. brian stouder said on February 12, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    So it seems we have a genuine cascade of horrible, awful, toxic spills in the northeast the news lately.

    Here’s today’s:

    The lead:

    CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A pipeline ruptured at a coal-processing plant Tuesday, sending 108,000 gallons of coal slurry into a Kanawha River tributary, about 18 miles upstream from where a large chemical spill at a different plant tainted drinking water for 300,000 people a month ago.

    West Virginia American Water does not anticipate the slurry spill to affect public drinking water in the Charleston area as last month’s chemical leak did. But a state environmental official said it could have “steep consequences” on the environment, especially the river itself.

    Nothing like double-talk to reassure the public, eh?

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  20. elaine said on February 12, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    “When Ms. Hale came face to face with the medical examiner for the first time, she said, “I knew in my heart that one day I would meet you.””
    Jesus Christ, what kind of hell the parents/family of heroin victims must suffer.

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  21. adrianne said on February 12, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    We used to call the high school hipsters who lived for all things AF Abercrombie Zombies. Glad to see that the kids are turning away from that mess.

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  22. LAMary said on February 12, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    I didn’t watch Westminster but I wish I had. I always root for the Labradors or at least for the sporting group. Max the great dane/boxer is a little lazy and not a genius among dogs so we think there should be a new group just for him: The Non-Working group.

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  23. Charlotte said on February 12, 2014 at 2:12 pm

    I had a mini-adventure morning. We couldn’t get into the cabin last night, so parked about half a mile down the road. Nice walk in — nearly full moon, clear as a bell, coyotes a couple of gullies over. This morning it’s warm, but snow blowing sideways. So I hike out, and the Subaru makes it through the first several sticky drifts before high centering in a long, flat one. I start digging then lose heart. I can’t dig out 40 feet of road myself. Alvin the rancher appears! Yay! He drives back and forth to make better ruts, and we manage to dig/push/rock my car out. I take off with him yelling Go! Go! Go! as I essentially speed through two more deep places. Whew! Himself is still up there, watching Olympic hockey and waiting for his friend the plow guy.

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  24. brian stouder said on February 12, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    Well done, Charlotte!

    The snow-boarders (et al) have nothing on you

    (I hate that first instant, when you realize the vehicle is now well and truly stuck)

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  25. Deborah said on February 12, 2014 at 2:37 pm

    We just found out that Little Bird has been approved for Medicaid. And on Feb 1, my health insurance through the ACA kicked in. Only 2 years before I’m eligible for Medicare. Woo hoo!!!

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  26. Dexter said on February 12, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    Jolene, you made me laff. Yes, a Cubist! Brilliant relation to that Queen Dog Judge. I just thought the Russell and the Bloodhound were perfect examples of their breeds. 🙁

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  27. Dexter said on February 12, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    My 4-year-3 month old Black Labrador, Pogo, looks just like these examples of the #1 dog breed in America, yes, the Black Labrador Retriever.

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  28. brian stouder said on February 12, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    Almost forgot to mention – in an event that the world would usually little note, nor long remember, a baby was born in a cabin in Kentucky, 205 years ago today.

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  29. Deborah said on February 12, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    Really Brian? I read somewhere that Darwin’s birthday is today too, his 205th? Is that possible?

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  30. Deborah said on February 12, 2014 at 3:39 pm

    I think French bulldogs are the cutest. If I could have a dog, that’s what I’d have.

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  31. brian stouder said on February 12, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    Deborah – without asking Uncle Google, I bet you’re right, regarding Darwin.

    I know that books about parallels with Darwin and Lincoln exist, although I’ve not read any of them.

    Currently, I’m waist-deep on Ms Ravitch’s “Reign of Error”, and next up after that is Ebony and Ivy….and then I’ll probably have to read something about Hillary, since she’s already under fairly heavy attack, but we digress!

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  32. MichaelG said on February 12, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    I have to laugh, Charlotte. A while ago he was “my sweety”. Now he’s “himself”.

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  33. Judybusy said on February 12, 2014 at 4:14 pm

    Yes, this is also Darwin’s birthday. And there is a book about both of them.

    Remember that show What not to Wear? I caught a few episodes and one of my faves was for a young dog handler. They really took into account her needs for the job, and she still look stylish without compromising her natural modesty.

    Here’s the dog that would win, hands down. This is our Cora, who found my lunch box very handy today. All the stuff piled in the background is the contents of our basement, which will be finished this winter/spring!

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  34. brian stouder said on February 12, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    JudyBusy – a marvelous dog, indeed…and a good dual-purpose lunch box, too!

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  35. Dexter said on February 12, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    Take care, Charlotte, NC motorists…it’s just gonna get worse.

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  36. alex said on February 12, 2014 at 4:27 pm

    You want to see a cubist painting come to life? It’s the Spanish actress Rossy di Palma.

    Sometimes I think Picasso wasn’t doing cubism. He was just painting Spanish women. More Rossy.

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  37. coozledad said on February 12, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    I’m glad we don’t have to travel today. I wouldn’t have time to sweep the snow off the top of our greenhouse. Reminds me of the blizzard in 2000.

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  38. Dexter said on February 12, 2014 at 4:53 pm

    alex: How bizarre, how bizarre.

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  39. brian stouder said on February 12, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    Alex – she’s beautiful, indeed!

    She strikes me as similar to an Egyptian royal (with apologies to Lorde)

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  40. Dexter said on February 12, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    brianstouder, you crack me up. alex’s posted photos and any photos of Lorde belong in the Freak Parade , fersure.

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  41. MarkH said on February 12, 2014 at 5:54 pm

    A few days a go, someone here (I can’t remember who) posted that they were watching Olympics coverage on BBC, because it was so more evenhanded, non-exceptional, non-Mitch Albom. Is this the BBC they were spotlighting?

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  42. Deborah said on February 12, 2014 at 6:45 pm

    I’ve seen Rossy DiPalma in at least one Almdovar movie, can’t remember which. She’s fabulous.

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  43. Julie Robinson said on February 12, 2014 at 6:47 pm

    Pretty sure our daughter’s dog would win Best in Show for Inappropriate Peeling. Her new roomie arrived today and was sprinkled thrice within five minutes.

    Deborah what great news and what a relief for you I’m sure. Easier to make plans knowing the basics are covered.

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  44. Charlotte said on February 12, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    Make me laugh Michael G! Himself doesn’t like to be written about on the intertubes, so he goes by a couple of monikers …

    Epic takedown of NFL homophobia by a Texas newscaster. Quite possibly the last person I would ever expect to hear quote Audre Lorde!

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  45. Deborah said on February 12, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    Making bread again and after that a pork loin roast, this is for sandwiches tomorrow and for Little Bird when I’m in Chicago. I’m actually not as freaked out about going back to Chicago in the middle of Feb, because the weather is supposed to be better. It will be in the mid 60s in Santa Fe while I’m gone though. I will only be in Chicago for a little over a week, so I’ll survive no matter what the weather is there.

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  46. Deborah said on February 12, 2014 at 8:30 pm

    OMG, not only is it Lincoln’s and Darwin’s 205th birthday, it’s Sarah Palin’s 50th today!

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  47. LAMary said on February 12, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    And my son Pete’s 20th birthday. I have no more teenagers in the house.

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  48. Dexter said on February 12, 2014 at 8:33 pm

    My friend in Fort Myers, Florida was complaining about the broken cloud cover at the beach today. Poor thing. Don’t you feel so sorry for those people, missing out on half their sun-rays? Awwwww.

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  49. LAMary said on February 12, 2014 at 8:39 pm

    And I should add, just to brag, that son Pete, who dropped out of high school but went back and got his diploma at my subtle urging, is working full time, got a nice bonus at Christmas and completely of his own volition decided to start taking college courses. He realized he needs a degree to move up in his job. His grades from the first semester? Straight As. He works all day and goes to school at night and does online stuff at home as well. This semester he’s taking nearly a full load as well as working full time. I am beyond proud of both my sons and the love and support they give me keeps me going.

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  50. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on February 12, 2014 at 8:51 pm

    Gave a talk to a roomful of retired teachers today on “Lincoln’s Two Mothers.” They each, Nancy Hanks & Sarah Bush Johnston, played a unique role in making Honest Abe who he was.

    Five years ago, my friend the state Curator of Archaeology and I did a talk on Darwin & Lincoln on the 200th anniversary of their births on the same day. It was great fun…. roomful of academics, not preachers.

    Watching the speed skaters and that haunting line projected on the ice of the leaders: I love this technology. The ads, not so much. Amazing how many thin people eat Chicken McNuggets in McDonalds spots.

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  51. Charlotte said on February 12, 2014 at 9:04 pm

    LAMary — students like your son were my favorites when I was teaching. They’d decided, on their own, to come back. Worked hard, took it seriously, always did great. Good on him!

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