Abercrombie & Fitch, as it stands today, is a semi-collegiate lifestyle brand targeted to young men and women between the ages of 18 and about 27 who are, or, more likely, aspire to be, “preppy” college students.
The fact that real preps eschew pricey fashion in favor of oft-mended family history in the form of Grandfather’s old blazer and club tie aside, would-be collegians have filled A&F’s registers for years in exchange for cargo pants and t-shirts advertising fictional restaurants which sell fish tacos.
But things weren’t always so. The line, as the oversized corporate biographies A&F calls “labels” proclaim, was founded in 1892 by David T. Abercrombie and an investor, lawyer Ezra Fitch. In its early days, the firm outfitted such noted adventurers as President Teddy Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart, and Ernest Hemingway. Their main business was Brit-esque safari gear similar to what Filson makes today: leather snake boots, rifle cases, upland game pants, gun slings, fly fishing rods, and that sort of thing.
Given the shabby state of A&F’s wilted repertoire today, it’s ironic that David Abercrombie knew the importance of quality clothing: he’s worn his togs hard in his previous profession as a railroad surveyor. He worked mainly in the coal and timber wilderness of West Virginia, scouting promising land for railroad track layers.
After years at the helm of his company, David Abercrombie died at his country estate in Ossining, a stone castle called Elda. Shortly after, Fitch commandeered corporate operations and, to the detriment of all, abolished quality in both the firm’s products and clientele.