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Editorial: A middle-school role model for us all

You know what’s really cool? The courage to stand up for what you believe. And Hannah Eliason has it.

Eliason, a 14-year-old middle-school student from Concord, took offense at remarks made by Mike Jeffries, the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, a mall-centered chain of clothing stores that strives to project a youthful, hip image. Here’s how Jeffries explained it in a 2006 interview:

“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” he said. “Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the all-American kid with a great attitude and lots of friends. A lot of people don’t belong (in our clothes), and they can’t belong.”

Marketing built on what Jeffries himself called “exclusionary” framing and aimed at kids is not only offensive but potentially harmful as well. Success in middle school and beyond is about being comfortable in your own skin, not crash dieting so you can squeeze into skin-tight fashion jeans.

Eliason isn’t the first to protest Jeffries’s remarks, and he has already apologized for them.

But she’s not convinced he means it – and given that he’s also saying his words were misconstrued, we’re inclined to agree with her.

With the help of friends, Eliason recorded a spunky YouTube video in which she presented the CEO’s remarks, equated them with bullying and documented her response: collecting 10 Abercrombie & Fitch items (including a tie from the school principal), X-ing out the labels with markers, and sending them back to the company in a box with a note warning that they’ll keep it up until the company changes its ways.

Maybe it will, and maybe it won’t.

But by stepping out from the comfort of the crowd and taking a stand, Eliason is sending a far more positive message than the company’s. May it become the latest fashion.

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