White Hot: The Rise and Fall of Abercrombie and Fitch
Watch it for...
The nostalgia of late-90s mall culture, Abercrombie & Fitch’s origin story, and compelling commentary on how the brand was built purposefully on exclusion.
White Hot: The Rise and Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch is a documentary that takes a deep dive into the origins of the once-ubiquitous brand. It charts how the store went from being a late 1800s camping and fishing store to one of the hottest fashion hubs for teens a mere century later. With interviews and archival footage, the documentary exposes how the company’s culture of racism and exclusion created, informed, and reflected its brand. Part history lesson, part walk-down memory lane, and part exploration of what happens when a company’s CEO doesn’t care about inclusivity, White Hot answers a lot of questions…but it raises even more about American society in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and into today.
When I first stumbled upon White Hot: The Rise and Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch, I was really excited to watch because of my connection to the brand. I had friends who’d worked at Abercrombie & Fitch and I knew someone who modeled half-naked for one of their merchandising bags. Now that I’m in adulthood, I have occasionally wondered what happened to the store…usually when a throwback LFO playlist comes on with my girlfriends or I see our family friend from that bag. I can vividly picture the store from my childhood mall, but A&F hasn’t been in it for years.
Complete with interviews of people who were involved at every level of the company, I think the documentary does a really good job tackling the brand’s timeline, as well as painting a clear picture of the brand’s growing success and how things started to take a turn for the worse. At just under an hour-and-a-half, it was really insightful and informative without dragging on. I was forced to reflect on my own complicity in high school and the ways in which 90s culture could be harmful. Even if you never owned a moose-emblazoned polo, I definitely recommend this documentary as an eye-opening look into 90s mall culture!