To Uhm…does this come in crazy?
What? Shut up! No!
Yes. Once upon a time, A & F, now the purveyor of ironic t-shirts and confused and salacious advertising, started out as a rugged outdoor Trad outfitter with a fascinating tradistory. What? Still don’t believe me. Just keep reading.
In the meantime, the store continued to expand. Ezra Fitch was a determined innovator. As a result of his imagination, hard work and sheer force of will, what he created was no ordinary sporting goods shop. Fitch was determined that the store have an outdoor feeling. Stock was not hidden behind glass cabinets. Instead, it was displayed as if in use. He set up a tent and equipped it as if it were out in the middle of the wilds of the Adirondacks. A campfire blazed in one corner, where an experienced guide was always in attendance, imparting valuable information to interested customers.
The clerks hired at A&F were not professional salesmen, but true rugged outdoorsmen. Talking was their pleasure and selling was performed only at the customers’ insistence. By 1913, the store moved to a more fashionable and easily accessible midtown address just off Fifth Avenue, expanding its inventory to include sport clothing. A&F became the first store in New York to supply such clothing to women as well as men.
Shortly after Abercrombie’s resignation from the company, A&F began publishing a catalog. This impressive book featured 456 pages of outdoor gear and clothing as well as sage camping, hunting and fishing advice to 50,000 prospective customers around the world. Orders soon began to flood in from around the globe, bringing international status to the ever-expanding store.
By 1917, Abercrombie & Fitch moved to Madison Avenue and 45th Street, where it occupied an entire twelve story building. Outside a sign proclaimed “Where the Blazed Trail Crosses the Boulevard.” Abercrombie & Fitch had become the largest sporting goods store in the world, as well as the most impressive. A log cabin was built on the roof, which Fitch used as a townhouse. Next to it he had a casting pool installed, where serious fishermen could sample the store’s impressive collection of rods and flies. In the basement, an armored rifle range was set up. There was also a golf school, a floor dedicated solely to completely set-up camps, and a dog and cat kennel. In addition to the more standard types of outdoor goods, A&F had a selection of exotic sporting equipment that would make the imagination reel: hot air balloons, yachting pennants, portable trampolines, treadmills for exercising dogs, throwing knives, shirts of chainmail, leopard collars, and everything a person could possibly need for falconry.
Abercrombie & Fitch outfitted many great hunting and exploration expeditions, like Theodore Roosevelt’s trips to Africa and the Amazon and Robert Peary’s expedition to the North Pole. Ernest Hemingway bought his guns there. Presidents Hoover and Einsenhower relied on A&F for the best fishing equipment. Other famous clients included Amelia Earhart, Presidents Taft, Harding and Kennedy, the Duke of Windsor, Bing Crosby, Howard Hughes, Katharine Hepburn, Greta Garbo and Clark Gable. And there was more: Cole Porter ordered his evening clothes from Abercrombie & Fitch. During Prohibition, A&F was the place to buy hip flasks.
By 1928, Ezra Fitch retired from the business to enjoy his remaining few years in the great outdoors that he loved so much.
Abercrombie & Fitch continued to grow, with stores opening up in Chicago and San Francisco. But by the late ’60s the store hit upon hard times and went bankrupt in 1977. Oshman’s Sporting Goods, based in Houston, Texas, bought the company. Business wasn’t good. The Limited Inc. bought Abercrombie & Fitch in 1988.”
This is enough to give you a headache many times over. Abercrombie & Fitch has outfitted famous clients including Ernest Hemingway, Robert Peary, Amelia Earhart, Howard Hughes, the Duke of Windsor and Presidents Taft, Harding and Kennedy. And today’s clients? I don’t even want to go there. Remember what I said about projectile vomitting.