The Revival of Abercrombie and Fitch
Learn how their new jeans steamrolled the successful brand comeback
By Lisa Hahner
Until I made the daunting decision to stroll into an Abercrombie & Fitch store last week, I had not stepped foot in the chain since I was in middle school. As soon as I wandered in, the reminiscent aroma of musky cologne and the black shiplap walls with dim flickering lights transported me back in time. Suddenly, I was an 11-year-old girl standing in the midst of the shop wondering if I should blow all my birthday money on a simple white T-shirt flaunting the words "Abercrombie and Fitch" in obnoxious bold print. (And yes–I regrettably made the purchase.) Needless to say, it was strange to be immersed in an environment that brought back an abundance of childhood memories.
If you were a pre-teen or teenager around 2009-2012, you know that wearing Abercrombie clothing was synonymous with being "cool." The skin-tight skinny jeans that sported the infamous brand stitching on the back pockets and colored zip-up hoodies that displayed the retailer's name were the epitome of having style. Kids flocked to the malls on weekends to stock up on these garments that they believed would raise their social status amongst peers.
However, as time progressed and fashion changed, Abercombie's clothing options were no longer sought-after by young people wishing to invest in trendy clothing. The brand went through a dramatic turnaround in the years to come. The question is, what happened to the previously beloved brand?
In the early to mid-2010s, the stock of Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (Abercrombie's parent company) fell to its lowest point since the previous decade. It was apparent that what once reigned in superiority for teen popularity was no longer desired. While a reason could simply be the evolution of fashion, there was a more prominent cause to the dramatic downfall of the company–the fatphobic comments made by the then CEO, Mike Jeffries. Jeffries had an image of only "cool kids" sporting the brand, and to him, this did not include customers he considered to be overweight. At the time, Abercrombie did not offer any items in size XL or higher, and the largest women's pant size they had was a 10. Not surprisingly, these comments were met with backlash and boycott. As many consumers refused to give money to a brand with those values, it looked like the end of an era for Abercrombie and Fitch.
Of course, as we now know, the retailer prevailed. In case you haven't been paying attention lately, Abercrombie is flooding TikTok feeds and YouTube-recommended pages with try-ons and hauls. Everyone is talking about their new and improved jeans. The brand that was hush-hush for many years has emerged from the shadows.
After Jeffries stepped down in 2014, the brand decided it was time for a revamp. Wanting to appeal to an older demographic, Abercrombie hatched a plan to win back those customers who once stood in line as young teenagers anxiously awaiting to purchase their "A&F" embedded tees. Debuting their fresh new collection in 2017, the company traded in their graphic shirts and dark clothing for more bright and cheery pieces that reflected current fashion trends. Now, if you enter one of these establishments, you are surrounded by vibrantly colored clothes and modern items that fit the needs of young adults. While the ambiance still resembles the oh-so-familiar tell-tale signs that you have just entered an Abercrombie store, the vibe is entirely different–more welcoming and upbeat.
Besides just appealing to an older demographic, the company sought to adhere to the body positivity movement sweeping the globe. (And, honestly, it's about time!) The new CEO, Fran Horowitz, denounced Jeffries' ideas of "cool" and implemented a new definition for the company. Currently, you can purchase trendy women's jeans up to size 24 (or 37W)–a more inclusive range than what it was 10 years ago. Gone are the days of male models with abs waiting outside the store entrance to take a picture with you–yes, that was actually a thing–and enter in real people with real bodies.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the new Abercrombie jeans is their Curve Love line. After hearing the complaints of how hard it is to find a jean that fits both your thighs and doesn't gap at the waist, Abercrombie knew it was their time to step in and shine. Curve Love is dedicated to women who have curvier figures and boasts an extra two inches of room in the hip area, and pledges to reduce waist gapping. This extension is not a plus-size line, as it still offers sizes as low as 00, but it is a design constructed to accentuate and cater to curves, no matter the size.
The best part? Abercrombie discarded their notorious back pocket stitching on jeans and switched them out for a simple, design-free look. Although, as a 21-year-old, I'm not necessarily ashamed to be buying from Abercrombie again–because the revamped store is truly incredible–I do prefer a sleek, plain look that doesn't remind me of being in seventh grade. And I'm not alone, either. Many shoppers prefer the new look of the jeans and state that they would not have considered picking them if the old design was present. All I can say is, whoever thought of that approach on the design team needs a raise.
As someone who has dealt with the problem of waist gapping her entire life, I found the promise of the Curve Love jeans to be alluring. Even better, they offer inseams in a short length, which I prefer for my five-foot frame. (They also provide regular and long lengths.) After plenty of research and trying on pair after pair, I can confidently say I have found my new favorite jean shop–something I have basically been searching for my entire life. Check out my reviews of my favorite styles below and find out why I'm so captivated by these pants–and why you should be, too! Who would have thought Abercrombie would make their way back into my closet 10 years later? Certainly not me.
Curve Love Ultra High Rise Ankle Straight Jeans
Shown in Ripped Medium Wash
When describing my emotions towards this style, the word "obsessed" doesn't even come close. I can safely say that these jeans are the first pair I have ever put on that isn't too large at the waist while still flattering my thighs and legs. The material is nearly 100 percent cotton, so these pants aren't stretchy, but they do feel durable and otherwise comfortable with the ultra-high rise fit. I'm absolutely in love with how this pair exposes the ankle–I can already picture coupling them with kitten heels or grungy black booties. Additionally, they fit perfectly true to size, which for me is a 6 short, or a 28W. I can't contain my excitement now that I have a pair of jeans that make me feel confident and poised. These will be in my closet for years to come, no doubt.
Curve Love High Rise Skinny Jeans
Shown in Washed Black and Grey
Again, another pair that will be featured in my Instagram posts until I physically can't wear them anymore. The high rise sits at a flattering point on my waist, and the skinny–but not super skinny–taper of the jean compliments my petite legs. I am already envisioning myself matching these pants with a chic pink halter top and having a glass of wine on a patio under the summer sky. The most exciting part of this purchase is that these weren't available in my size at my local store or on the website, so I actually found these for a steal on Poshmark. The jean retails for $99, but I ended up paying only $35. Saving my wallet and the planet by online thrifting? Sign me up any day. (BTW–I would definitely recommend checking out thrifting apps.)
Curve Love High Rise Mom Jeans
Shown in Light Ripped Wash
Usually, I steer far away from mom jeans. In the past, I have found that the style does not enhance my height but instead does the opposite and gives the illusion of being shorter–not the look I'm going for. I was hesitant to test out this pair given my past with mom jeans, but I am so glad I took the chance. Like the other styles I trialed, they fit snugly at my waist, and the short inseam guarantees that they won't pool at my ankles. I'm already planning on buying multiple pairs in this design, such as sleek light washes sans holes for a more sophisticated look. However, I still need to have my black pair with rips for my edgier ensembles.