Say the words Abercrombie & Fitch to anyone under the age of 30, and they conjure up a particular series of images: racist iconography and business practices, contempt for the disabled, hypersexualized advertising and a reliance on sweatshop labor that, even in today’s environment of rampant outsourcing, shocks the conscience.
There are some of us who still remember A&F as a decidedly different beast, as a purveyor of truly classic clothes worn by gentlemen and ladies (and those who aspired to same).
A once venerable outfitter, Abercrombie was the place you went to buy equipment and clothing for safari, for the great hunting trip or for any outside endeavor that demanded well made clothing and equipment. Lindbergh was outfitted by the company before he made the first nonstop solo transatlantic flight. Hemmingway purchased a firearm from the store–the very gun, in fact, he later employed to slough off this mortal coil. Teddy Roosevelt, ever the outdoorsman, was repeatedly outfitted in A&F’s confines.
However, by the 1960s, Abercrombie was in decline; a period of diminishing profits, then growing losses began. In 1977, the company declared bankruptcy; a year later its name and mailing list were purchased by Oshman’s Sporting Goods.
By that point, A&F had become unmoored from its roots, although its offerings could reasonably be said to fit the classic mold.
Last week, on a brief trip to Austin, Texas, I found, in a local thrift store, a vintage Abercrome & Fitch regimental tie. The tie clearly hails from that post-bankruptcy period, but before the company was acquired in 1988 by Limited Brands to begin its headlong descent into the sewer of American culture, although its precise vintage is a little hard to pin down, primarily because it’s a classic stripe that would work well in any sartorial zeitgeist.