The boss of Abercrombie & Fitch requires male models who work as stewards aboard his private jet to wear boxer briefs, flip-flops and a “spritz” of the retailer’s own brand aftershave, it has been claimed in a US court case.
According to an “aircraft standards” manual, male flight crew are told to present themselves clean shaven in a uniform of Abercrombie polo shirts, boxer briefs, jeans, flip-flops and gloves (black for when handling silverware and white for laying the table) while working on Abercrombie chief executive Michael Jeffries’ executive jet.
The extraordinarily detailed manual, which also requires crew to play Phil Collins’ Take Me Home over the jet’s intercom as the jet takes off on homeward bound flights, was disclosed in an age discrimination lawsuit brought by a former pilot.
The document, seen by Bloomberg News, also reportedly bans flight crew from wearing coats, unless the temperature falls below 10 C (50F).
It also details the seating arrangements of Jeffries’ dogs Ruby, Trouble and Sammy, and instructions on how to address the boss. “When Michael, Matthew [Smith, Jeffries' partner], or a guest make a request, respond by saying ‘No Problem’. This should be used in place of phrases like, ‘Sure’ or ‘Just a minute’,” the document states, according to Bloomberg.
The manual is also said to refer to the role of a “houseman” in a detailed section about the boarding of dogs on the plane.
The lawsuit containing the manual was filed at a Philadelphia court in 2010 by Michael Stephen Bustin, a 55-year-old pilot who claims he was replaced by a younger man. Documents filed in court since then have highlighted Jeffries’ tight control on the company and its staff.
Abercrombie pays the salary of four cabin crew provided by model agency Cosmopolitan Management, according to a 2009 agreement with Jet Aviation Business Jets. Cosmopolitan, which lists Abercrombie as a client online, states on its website that it provides “professional male and female models, expertly groomed and trained to host your event, promotion, product launch, or opening.”
Abercrombie’s general counsel, Rocky Robins, told Bloomberg that Bustin’s claim was without merit. The company declined to comment to the Guardian.
Jeffries, 68, has previously faced investor pressure over excessive use of the company’s jet. In 2010 the board agreed to pay him $4m to limit his use of the company jet to $200,000 worth of travel a year.
His focus on youth and vitality had been a key part of Abercrombie’s success, with attractive topless male models stationed outside stores. Between 1995 and 2008 the clothing chain’s sales increased 22-fold and net profits almost 58-fold.
But it has struggled in the recession and same-store sales are expected to fall 10% in the second half of the this year after an 8% drop in the six months to the end of July.
The firm has previously hit the headlines over claims of degrading its staff. This year Italian male staff claimed they were forced to do press-ups as punishment. In 2009, a former UK employee, Riam Dean, took Abercrombie to an employment tribunal. Dean, who was born with the lower part of her arm missing, claimed she was forced to work in the London store’s stockroom because she didn’t fit the company’s strict “look policy”, a guide to the appearance of its shopfloor staff. She was awarded £8,000 for unlawful harassment.
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