The United States Supreme Court listened to oral arguments for Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Abercrombie & Fitch, the lawsuit in which the “all-American” retailer is defending its decision not to hire a woman who wore a hijab to her job interview with the retailer last month.
Abercrombie claims her hijab violated its look policy because it prohibited its ?employees from wearing caps.
Looking beyond the possible Title VII violations, something that grabbed my attention was Abercrombie’s ‘look policy.’
What exactly does Abercrombie think all-American look like? And if a hijab is fundamentally ?incompatible with that ?vision, why?
“All-American” is often longhand for “prep.” As the term implies, prep, or preppy, originated as an adjective associated with the preparatory schools of the Northeast, in all their cloistered white Anglo-Saxon Protestant glory.
With time, the definition of prep has changed, but it has retained some of its basic tenants: tradition, wealth, good taste, wholesomeness and salmon pants.
In fact, selling the lifestyle is a multimillion-dollar industry.
Ralph Lauren is the perfect example of how the clothes and lives of the Brooks Brothers-wearing aristocrats Lauren worked for was packaged nicely and put within the reach of ?Middle America.
Other retailers, such as?Abercrombie, have tried to sell different versions of it to varying degrees of success.
Nowadays, prep has been modernized on college campuses and sold as something else you might recognize: #Frat.
Fratty regional brands such as Southern Proper, Vineyard Vines or Kiel James Patrick are all more recent incarnations of the trend, yet still sell the ?“all-American” shtick.
Peruse through their sites and you get the same thing — pretty white people in pretty bright clothing.
In 2015, is this what ?all-American still means?
Sure, preppy icons like JFK will always be ?considered all-American.
But how is it possible that in a multicultural society such as ours the definition of all-American is still rich, white and coastal?
It makes you wonder if we’ve been taught to hate ourselves and love their wealth, as Kanye West iconoclastically says in his ?album “The College ?Dropout.”
I don’t believe there’s something fundamentally wrong with wanting to pursue the aspirational satisfaction a preppy lifestyle brand will sell you.
A nice button-up, some khakis and a pair of Clarks can really ground your style at a time when fashion is changing so much.
And yeah, it will probably still look good five or 10 years down the line.
Still, it’s long overdue that we redefine what ?all-American means in our country.
Preppy East Coasters weren’t the only ones that built the U.S. and aren’t the only ones that inhabit it or even the only ones that rule it.
Why should Barack Obama be considered any less American than Mitt Romney?
Is a hijab really un-American, or is the person wearing it not American enough?
We have to ask these questions. Because if we don’t, who will?