Side-eye of the week: American Apparel

This one is a bit old, but hey, I’ve been on blog hiatus.

You know I love me some Clutch Magazine! They always have really interesting articles that get me thinking or ranting. Recently, I read an article about American Apparel, a store that I’ve never stepped foot in. Why? Their display windows leave a lot to be desired. Supposedly, American Apparel doesn’t hire “trashy Black people” — you know, the ones with straight hair.


One of their hiring instructions for Black women read [I read this at Gawker]:

Another former AA manager says that she received the following instructions as to what kind of black girls she should try to hire during the company’s open calls:

“none of the trashy kind that come in, we don’t want that. we’re not trying to sell our clothes to them. try to find some of these classy black girls, with nice hair, you know?”

i will remember that forever, especially the “nice hair” part. he was instructing another manager and i on who to look for during an upcoming open call, and i sat there dumbfounded, listening to him speak while the other manager made “uh huh, got it” sounds on her end of the phone. the other manager on the call with me later became a district manager, and at one point instructed me to tell two of my employees (both of whom happened to be black females) to stop straightening their hair. i refused to do this, but wondered if the mentality behind her request was related to what Dov [Charney, owner of American Apparel] had said.

Before I ranted, I had to giggle. Why? “These classy black girls, with nice hair” is the code phrase for sisters with natural hair. All y’all relaxed sisters are, obviously, not classy. Even five years ago, kinky ‘fros were not considered classy. Look how things have changed! Read the other quote about life at American Apparel:

“The other manager on the call with me later became a district manager, and at one point instructed me to tell two of my employees (both of whom happened to be black females) to stop straightening their hair. I refused to do this, but wondered if the mentality behind her request was related to what Dov had said.”

Now, I’m not bigging up American Apparel for discriminating against my straight haired sisters. To me, this is just another form of discriminating against a Black woman because of her hair. Whether I decide to stay natural or perm my hair or slap on a wig, that doesn’t determine who I am and what kind of abilities I have.

I know that image has a lot to do with getting a job and having a successful career. We all know that wearing a multi-coloured weave isn’t going to help you find a job… unless it’s at the circus. I’m not trying to be mean, it’s true! But having decent looking hair — natural or not — should be enough.

I have to bun American Apparel because dissing our straight haired sisters is just as wrong and ignorant as companies who disrespect women with kinky hair. Hair is just hair — it shouldn’t be something that people use to prejudge others. While it’s not like I spend my money at American Apparel, you best believe that they will not get one cent from me — although I’m the clientele they supposedly are looking for with my nice, fluffy natural hair.


Discuss amongst yourselves… but of course, leave a comment!

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Nikkele says:

    This is very interesting. I don’t know what to make of it. The only thing I can think of concerning the preference for women with natural hair is that many people tend to stereotype them as intelligent and earthy. Women who wear weaves or straight styles are wrongly accused of being stuck up and high maintenance. Judging from the clothes I’ve seen on the website and store, I would think the consumers American Apparel are targeting are the hip, preppy, and minimalist crowd who wear comfortable yet trendy clothes. This is just my amateur read on the post.

  2. dalia says:

    i have a nice dress from them, still. and honestly, if i was to boycott every company that offended my sensibilities, i’d be naked.

  3. urbansista says:

    @Nikkele – that’s what my husband said. It still makes me uncomfortable. Today it’s kinky hair, but tomorrow, they may be saying that they want to hire Black girls with nice skin, whether that means light or dark. They already supposedly discriminate based on weight. It just seems wrong to me.
    @dalia – I’ve heard a lot of people say that about a number of stores/manufacturers and we even had this discussion about John Mayer. I think at some point you have to put your foot down. Not every slight is reason to boycott, but I think that if you let too many things slide you end up nicely dressed, but giving your hard-earned money to establishments that don’t deserve it. I think the head honchos at AA are stupid and they just don’t deserve my money. There are too many great stores to spend money at the ones that suck. That being said, I’ve never bought anything from AA, so it isn’t a huge deal for me not to shop there.

  4. nikkele says:

    I agree. In this money-driven society people will always find an angle that most suits their purposes and the facts that it is discriminatory doesn’t mean a thing to them. I never purchased from AA either but nevertheless it is disconcerting to know the employees were hired for a reason other than a proven work history. I hear this is the same in restaurants. Big boobs and a pretty face get you the job.

  5. Nikkele says:

    Here’s another article on American Apparel about their requirements:

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