Naked in the name of style

Abercrombie & Fitch has released its fall quarterly catalog, which is littered with a surprisingly small amount of clothing. But what it lacks in textiles it makes up for with lots of skin … and by skin, we mean pictures of naked men hanging from poles, flashing females and allusions to a menage a trois.

Now that’s advertising.

Parents are upset, moral conservatives are fuming, and there is a mountain of criticism being hurled at Abercrombie & Fitch. Bill Johnson, president of the American Decency Association, has been public about his organization’s views on the catalog.

“As Howard Stern is to the American airwaves, Abercrombie & Fitch is to America’s family malls,” he said in his appearance on MSNBC’s “Scarborough Country,” referring to the quarterly catalog as “pornography.” He goes on to say that Abercrombie & Fitch is “clearly a contributor” to “pornographic addictions” and “breakdowns in relationships.”

And all they wanted was to sell you a shirt that let everyone know you belonged to the “Abercrombie Ski Patrol.”

Abercrombie & Fitch has fought back, publicly stating it only sells the quarterly catalog to those over the age of 18. It said it is wrapped and marked, indicating that it contains mature content. It is produced separately from Abercrombie & Fitch’s normal catalog, which is “clearly not ‘adult only.’ “

Abercrombie & Fitch has built its reputation by piercing ears with the hippest music in its stores, participating in appalling hiring practices and piggybacking and exploiting the latest trends to appeal to its market. The majority of this market is made up of college students who are widely regarded as the most promiscuous demographic group in the country.

Abercrombie & Fitch’s gratuitous use of hard-bodies and luscious breasts to create appeal should be no surprise to Bill Johnson, parents or the American Decency Association, who have unfortunately not received the memo that simply says, “sex sells.”

Although we disagree with many of Abercrombie & Fitch’s ethics and strategies, we do stand by its right to use sexuality in its advertising, because it is an integral part of a capitalist fashion industry. Consumers want; suppliers give.

Sure, this is a low-ball, base-level marketing tactic that relies on the lowest common denominator, but it brings the lemmings into the store to pay $90 for a pair of worn-in cargo pants to hopefully impress that special someone.

The collective sex drive on a college campus will always be an impenetrable force. Critics can eliminate Abercrombie & Fitch’s risque marketing strategy, but that won’t eliminate your desire for sexual experimentation.

Does Abercrombie & Fitch have a responsibility to keep its market of teenage consumers free of the moral vacuum of modern America? We say “no.” Survival of the fittest. Let the sheep follow the naked wolf to the slaughter.

This originally appeared in the Indiana Daily Student at Indiana University.