American Apparel Has Policies About Black Hair

Originally posted this morning on BV Hair Talk.

The litany of complaints about American Apparel’s advertising and hiring policies are so long, we could write a book about them. The company is known for chic, trendy, affordable locally made clothes yes…but they’re also known for being sexist, judgmental, and discriminatory based on the aesthetic attractions of its owner, Dov Charney (who – let’s be honest. By his own standards of appearance, would he be welcome to work in his own store?)

If you want to work at American Apparel you’ve got to meet the criteria. You’ve got to have the right look. You’ve got to have a strong fashion sense. And if you’re black, you need to have the right style of hair. Several ex-employees recently wrote into Gawker about their experiences, and one former manager said she was told this about what types of black women to hire during the American Apparel’s open casting calls:

“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 had said.”

Wait, what?

A company discriminating in favor of black natural hair? Is “nice hair” the new “good hair”?? What does that even MEAN?

I’m not sure what to make of this news from American Apparel, so I’m just gonna keep doing what I do – which means not shopping at American Apparel. Which I couldn’t do anyway, because they don’t do plus size clothes, either. Ugh!

What are your thoughts on this latest American Apparel scandal?

For more see The Root and for LOTS more, check Gawker – they’ve been on this story ever since the company was founded, it seems!

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Comments

  1. Marlena says:

    Wow,this has to be the most moronic thing that American Apparel has done to date.

    I wonder if “nice” hair is some sort of hipster code for the “curly biracial look?”

    • marissa says:

      lol @ hipster code. I was looking into using AA products for a shirt line I am doing. Glad they like natural hair but I am super sick of white people tellng us how to express ourselves. You don’t see black managers telling their white employess ” if you going to wear those hair extentions at least make sure they are belivable. Oh and becky I don’t ever want to see your roots again.”

  2. Nice hair – ha, I would not wait for AP to define it for you.

  3. CashmereCurls says:

    I don’t shop at American Apparel for the same reasons that I don’t shop at Abercrombie – bad clothing aesthetic, borderline pornographic imagery being pushed as creative marketing and style and crappy hiring policies – but what stood out about the nice hair thing is that I don’t think it was about all types of natural hair. I think they specifically want black girls that have a loose curl texture like Tracee Ellis Ross or Sanaa Lathan in Something New when she “went natural”. A lot of people think that that is what we all have going on under the weaves and relaxers. I don’t think those with tighter curl patterns need apply at AA. Funny enough, I was on their website the other day and I only recall seeing black models with straight hair. I guess it only applies to the stores?

  4. LOL @ Kasalina!

    Funny, even when I was in the prime age demographic, I had an aversion to this store. (I’m only 30.) I just remember they seem to change in the mid-to-late ’90s and ever since then I could never bring myself to walk in their store. I have a similar, more visceral reaction to A&F.

    I’ll just continue to keep it moving…

  5. I have never shopped at American Apparel. I will never shop there after reading how they make their employees email in a picture to see if they are attractive enough to work there.

  6. I’m sorry but this cracks me up!!! my husband and I couldnt stop laughing ….WHAT?????? now the times are changing?, Because JO Schmo decided being natural is now IN he is going to discriminate against women with STRAIGHT hair?? and “none of the trashy kind”? what?? lol!!! I love my natural hair but this is ridiculous. I have one shirt from this place and I’m going to burn it now. Imagine if I straighten my kinky hair for the interview, now I’m NOT going to get the job because my hair wasn’t kinky ???? (faints)

  7. That owner looks like a child molester for 1.

    2. Strange position indeed. Kinda hard for me to form a decent opinion on this one.

  8. YumYumDumSum says:

    I live in NYC and I remember back in the late 90s when the whole “neo-soul” movement came into being how most of the clothing stores (A&F, The Gap (Greenwich Village locations, etc.) would only hire black females who had this look. I guess, now “the look’ has been made popular again.
    What amazes me most is that people are surprised by this idiot. Most clothing stores have an image that they want to sell to their target clientele. In Lane Bryant, do you ever notice a skinny stylish girl working there? There’s discrimination EVERYWHERE YOU LOOK. What only makes this story different is that the head of the company got caught. Check out the latest Gap ads and notice who type of black people are in it.
    Not to say that I agree with this idiot, but the “racial profiling” is out there in all aspects.

  9. The fashion world is notoriously fickle, so I just can’t take these kinds of comments about “nice black hair” seriously. I think it’s kind of funny that they are trying to avoid “trashy” looking black girls, when their ads are, IMHO, some of the trashiest. They have some cute things, but my goodness… how many sheer thong leotards does one need?

  10. Black Honey says:

    Perhaps he considers non-straightened afro hair more fashion-forward.

    Considering the aesthetic of the store, straighten bobs a la Condi Rice and Mrs. O might not fit the bill but a sharp, spiked razor cut might.

  11. Black Honey says:

    Then again spiked razor cuts might not worked. Do you think he was also talking about bad weaves and wigs?

  12. Little Miss V says:

    With regards to the ‘nice hair’ comment, many black female models have afro/curly hair because its seen as exotic, different etc. In fact I’ve heard of models getting more work with natural hair as opposed to straight/weaved etc. So perhaps the natural haired black woman is seen by AA as being more fashion forward and perhaps more educated.

    Either way I wouldn’t support AA, or any cimpany that supports racist employment policies. Its utter discrimination!

  13. although I do have natural hair. I am not a fan of prejudices of any form. I understand what a commenter a few above mine was sayiing though… EVERY store has a certain demographic they are trying to serve and that requires paying attention to every “detail” from the models used even down to the employee sweeping up trash…the only way to combat this stupidity and/or ignorance is to simply not support it until things change. This was interesting..Although I am a size 12-14 there are some things on the site that I have bought and i love the clothes. The interesting thing for me though was as soon as I started reading the article..I assumed that the hair policy was going to be that they wanted blacks with natural textured hair. idk why but I knew it.

  14. Thank you for sharing this about AP. That’s just mind-boggling and thats why I just keep walking when I see AP in the city. There is nothing in that store for me…

  15. Someone should start a clothing line called African American Apparel. Just a thought.

  16. Dov means curly springy natural hair. If it is any way kinky (the 3C and above), he does not want you working there. My friend used to work there and when 2 girls let their natural curl pattern shine, they were asked “Exactly what they were trying to do with their hair?” It wasn’t the AA look.
    Like mainstream media, Black women’s beauty is still only recognized in certain forms. If the hair is spiral or corkscrew curls, natural hair is beautiful. If it’s kinky, it’s time hasn’t come – yet.
    It’s funny that Charney’s company is trying to eliminate “trashy” girls when their ad campaigns are shot to look like porn videos. I wouldn’t want to be associated with that company.

  17. crystal g. says:

    Thanks for this post afrobella

  18. Simplynaturel says:

    THis is very interesting. I never shop there simply because I think there adds are too revealing and I dont think think the price represents the quality…looks like i will continue to not shop there. Even though I have natural hair and they “may” consider it “good Hair” whatever that means! One of my friends who has been natural for all of her life said “all natural hair is good hair!” I like that comment and i’ll stick to that. Nappy, curly, locks …all are beautiful and good hair

  19. Londoner says:

    1. they clearly mean trashy as in, hood, ghetto, fake nails, nikki minaj wanna be which is frowned upon in our shop.

    2. I have a tight curl afro but i usually plait it in big plaits then undo it before i go to work so it’s this frizzy wavy thing.. i work there, have been 6months.. never had an issue with my hair.. i even have it twisted up sometimes.. so this is bullshit.

    3. theres always been this trendyness about having afro hair..well in london anyway regardless of whether its tight curled or not, i guess it fits their niche of worker the fashionista that lives or studies fashion, art media most people that work in the london stores generally fit this criteria or appear to..

  20. NatashaStar81 says:

    Wow, just because a black woman has relaxed hair makes them trashy?! Hello, Michelle Obama has relaxed hair and she’s more classier than the natural sistas. Looks don’t mean anything. There are some black women who have bad attitudes and dress like a hot ghetto mess, but that don’t mean that’s just the straight haired sistas, the ones with afros and dreads do it too! I never shopped at American Apparel and never will, not because of this crap, their clothes are crappy too.

  21. angelpie28 says:

    I used to work there and they want people to look like the brand. What that means is that they want women that are working in his stores to be white. They do not promote any type of diversity. As far as the hair situation they want black women with “good hair” (i.e soft and springy). He did not mind the women wearing their hair straight. His main gripe was with the women who wore weaves. They do not hire that many blacks unless u work in NYC. The other stores have maybe a token black person.

  22. Interesting, I was there last weekend and saw a pink towel with a picture of a naked man on it. Classy!

    I am not all that offended by the owner’s comments. I am sure they have a preferred look for their white employees as well. I don’t think straight hair is trashy, maybe bad weaves or wigs…which is trashy looking.

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  24. Very awesome!

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  27. Bc afros are more natural, boho, and hipster than straightened or braided.

  28. I’m not offended at all and I will still shop at AA because it is American made clothing at an affordable price. Plus the models he hires are average looking and quite plan so the CEO will be able to work at the store.

    P.S AA does sell xl and xxl clothing.

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