In 2022 hindsight, it is easy to pin a lot of societal ills on Abercrombie & Fitch. Anyone who made the questionable decision to wander across the threshold of one of the clothing brand’s cavernous mall outposts at any point in the past 25 years probably remembers the experience as a mix of fever dream and frat party: hundreds of identically distressed jeans, pulsing house music, dizzying clouds of cologne, abdominal muscles as shiny and delineated as buttered corn kernels.
Did the now-embattled retailer define prep-school dystopia, or was it the other way around? This is more or less the driving question of the new Netflix documentary White Hot, which covers the precipitous rise and swift fall of the clothing empire under eccentric CEO Mike Jeffries. Director Alison Klayman lays out the narrative that Abercrombie & Fitch achieved the pinnacle of its success by exploiting the most unsavory symptoms of heady turn-of-the-millennium materialism: white supremacy, body dysmorphia, the expectation that you should pay $60 for a T-shirt the size of handkerchief.
But its lasting role in the dark history of consumerism didn’t begin in the TRL era. ... Read more