Job Seekers Pose for American Apparel Jobs
By Tom Ryan
American Apparel felt the heat again last week but this time over its hiring practices. The apparel chain reportedly now requires job applicants to have full-body photos taken and then have their looks approved by corporate before they are hired.
An internal transcript of American Apparel’s May 18 conference call with retail managers, which details the new hiring process, was leaked to gawker.com. According to the gossip website, the photos of job applicants are sent to the email address firstname.lastname@example.org, where they are “approved” by a nameless person as a first step in the screening process. Current American Apparel employees also must have their photos approved before they are given a promotion or a raise, sources told gawker.com.
Documents on a company intranet website indicated the new policy is part of push to make the chain more fashionable. The transcript said, “American Apparel is headed in a more sophisticated, expensive, classy direction.”
The policy includes guidelines for how employees are to apply makeup, cover up piercings and tattoos, what shoes can be worn, and how employees can remain “on brand” in “The New Standard.” The ideal look was described as: “Classy-Vintage-Chique-Late ’80s-Early ’90s-Ralph Lauren-Vogue-Nautical-High-End brand.”
One source told gawker.com, “Your looks determine your position and pay rate, not how effective you are at your job.”
American Apparel, often in the line of fire for its sexually-suggestive ads, released a statement from creative director, Marsha Brady, that said, “We do screen, but not for beauty. What we look for is personal style. We carry year round basics that are easy to understand and pretty much sell themselves as basics. But to really showcase the fashionability of our products, we have to rely on the way our in-store employees style themselves with our clothes.”
Among other chains, Abercrombie & Fitch has also been similarly scorned for its hiring policies. The restaurant chain, Hooters, has faced similar charges.
As expected, many responses to the gawker.com articles were irate over the hiring policy. Said one, “All the more reason to continue not shopping at American Apparel.” Said another, “This makes me want to go into AA shops and rearrange things just for the hell of it.”
But another felt such policies are “pretty normal at retail” with another saying the only mistake was putting such a policy in print. Some saw it as a huge overreaction. Wrote one, “And?? This is a marketing game. Whenever a hot model does a beer commercial nobody says fat people are being discriminated against for a position in that commercial. This is no different.”
Said another, “Isn’t this the same hiring policy in place for the entire city of Los Angeles?”
Discussion Questions: Is it acceptable for retailers to make physical appearance one of the criteria in deciding what applicants to hire? Do you believe it is acceptable as criteria for continued employment with a company?
- American Apparel Has a ‘Full Body Head to Toe’ Employment Policy – gawker.com
- American Apparel: Internal Documents Reveal Uglies Not Welcome – gawker.com
- Abercrombie & Fitch’s ‘Look Policy’ that employees must follow – The Telegraph