Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

January 16, 2014

Zizek and Abercrombie-Fitch

Filed under: Zizek — louisproyect @ 3:21 pm

Slavoj Zizek

Zizek’s client


That Time Zizek Wrote for Abercrombie & Fitch

March 19th, 2013  |  by Eugene. Published in Theory and Theorists

Slovenian critical theorist Slavoj Zizek isn’t always spending his spare time marrying Argentine models or psychoanalyzing toilets. Back in the day, the philosopher also found time to write ads in Abercrombie & Fitch’s “Back to School” catalog.

At one point, Abercrombie & Fitch was trying to appeal to 14-year-old douchebags by publishing soft core porn under the auspices of product catalogs. At another point, Abercrombie & Fitch decided to try a permutation of softcore porn and Slavoj Zizek’s rambling. The results are amazing.

A PDF of the catalog was spotted on The New Yorker today. The full catalog is available for free here (NSFW).

NY Times June 17, 2003
Clothing Chain Accused of Discrimination

Abercrombie & Fitch, the clothing retailer that appeals to the college set with blond-haired, blue-eyed models, was sued yesterday for racial discrimination, accused of favoring whites for its sales floor jobs.

The lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court in San Francisco, charges that Abercrombie discriminates against Hispanics, Asians and blacks in its hiring as it seeks to project what the company calls the “classic American” look.


Poseurs Paradise! What’s it really like to work at the new Abercrombie & Fitch store?

Two young, shirtless men in low-slung jeans greet you at the door. Disco music pounds out, the air is full of a sickly sweet scent and it is so dark, customers get lost and panic. This is shopping Abercrombie & Fitch style. Savile Row will never be the same.

I’ve been working undercover there after I took a job as an in-store model at the multi-billion dollar U.S. clothing company’s new London store – their first venture into Europe.

My aim was to report from the inside. It happened by chance. You don’t see many Canadian woman in turquoise wellies on public transport in London, so I had already noticed the store’s talent scout when she noticed me, at a London Tube station. I was curious. So was she.

“You’ve got just the right look to come and work for Abercrombie & Fitch” she told me. I was taken aback, flattered, but had no idea what she meant.

“Fantastic” I replied. Abercrombie & Fitch? The name rang a bell. Shortbread? Why would a biscuit firm want to employ me?

She explained that Abercrombie & Fitch was a clothing store and that they were hiring “models”

to “just hang out” around the shop, wearing the company’s clothing.

The penny dropped. I’d seen those risque; posters of a muscular man with a builder’s bottom adorning London buses. I knew this homoerotic campaign has caused a stir.

This, I realised, was the American chain whose use of blatant sex to market their U.S. preppy style has attracted critics as well as custom. They promise a store full of “gorgeous kids”.


  1. >GROAN!<

    Comment by Todd — January 17, 2014 @ 2:09 am

  2. The Zizek comments are witty and uniformly attempt to deflate the pornographic solemnity of the images they describe. Those who don’t get it may of course feel otherwise, but to me these light-hearted remarks are neither particularly difficult to understand nor flattering to A&F, whose hand Zizek is obviously trying (perhaps ineffectually) to bite.

    No doubt, the whole escapade may be taken as preposterous if not shameful, whatever Zizek’s intent. However the thing is what it is, and not the revelation of total hypocrisy that Louis Proyect–a less successful self-advertiser–makes of it.

    I am far closer to Noam Chomsky–although I disagree sharply with him about many things–than Zizek, but I do think that the facile anti-Zizekism espoused by some on the left borders on slander, and is at least as offensive as the po-faced devotions of theory mavens who adore the man.

    Zizek will not inspire any theorists to absurdity who weren’t already absurd. Since these are qualitatively as ridiculous as it’s possible to get, little harm will come. I myself find the few writings of his that I have actually read to be at least interesting and often full of insight. I am unlikely to become a Zizekite, but I will certainly read more.

    Comment by Fred Barton — January 17, 2014 @ 4:40 pm

  3. The Zizek comments are witty and uniformly attempt to deflate the pornographic solemnity of the images they describe.

    Of course. That’s why they hired him. The whole marketing strategy of Abercrombie-Fitch is to be edgy. Who else would they have hired to foster this image? Tim Gunn? Howard Stern? Zizek is perfect.

    Comment by louisproyect — January 17, 2014 @ 4:45 pm

  4. True. But I think Zizek’s aim was satire, which, when successful, often damages its patrons even though they have paid for it. In this case the project may be futile, but isn’t necessarily–or at least completely–phony.

    Comment by Fred Barton — January 17, 2014 @ 5:02 pm

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