Glossed Over: Taking a closer look at what advertisers are really selling.
I’ve tried so hard to like American Apparel, with its “Made in LA” sweatshop-free guarantees. Lately, they’ve gotten more press for thinking neon high-waisted leggings are an important fashion statement (they are not) than their pro-worker practices. But they’re still the only clothing company I’ve found that publishes their factory workers’ salary and benefits info on the website so I try to keep an open mind.
But there’s no question that founder Dov Charney is a total weirdo (remember that bizarre Jane Magazine interview? No? You’re better off). And now, his sexual harassment-fueled managerial style has extended to dictating beauty standards to his female employees, as in the above lesson on eyebrow grooming, leaked to Jezebel by an outraged staffer.
Okay, so most workplaces have a dress code. At Beauty U, we wear all black under our uniform aprons, and we’ve been given clear directives about making ourselves presentable before interacting with clients. And I get that working fashion or beauty retail means personifying the brand, and entitles your employer to a say in your appearance.
But the eyebrow thing crosses the line because American Apparel doesn’t seem to care about the eyebrows of male employees — and because it encourages female employees and customers to dress like prostitutes on clown detail. If you work there, are you just supposed to make your peace with that, the way any Dunkin Donuts employee resigns herself to the orange polyester? Uniforms serve a practical purpose in the retail workplace, enabling customers to identify employees, but they’re also a none too subtle way of making sure your workers know their place. Should that level of employer control extend to your body?
When a company like American Apparel markets extreme personal style and freedom of expression (because I can give no justification for those leggings beyond the First Amendment), they should keep their hands off employees’ brows — and bodies in general. And I’ll be bearing that in mind the next time I’m running low on baby tees and unitards.