Abercrombie & Fitch is selling a new style of shorts — and they might look a bit similar to those familiar with startup shorts brand Chubbies.
The teen retailer recently started carrying men's "Campus Fit Shorts," which come in bright colors such as lime green and royal blue, and fall to the mid-thigh, a much shorter length than its three existing styles. They appear almost identical to those from Chubbies, a fast-growing online-only shorts brand that's pioneered the style, and made it especially popular among college frat guys. Abercrombie's shorts also have an elastic waistband (which is where the name Chubbies comes from), and their price is also $50.
What makes the apparent imitation especially entertaining is that Chubbies' four co-founders, a group of Stanford University graduates who established the company in 2011, wrote a jokey open letter to Abercrombie & Fitch Chief Executive Officer Mike Jeffries in October 2012, informing him that cargo shorts were over and that it needed to start investing in other parts of its business.
"Simply put, your organization sells cargo shorts. Lots of them. And we want you to stop. Cold turkey," the letter read, declaring a "shorts revolution" was afoot. "After a brief evaluation of your men's shorts line, millions of people, ourselves included, are left with one (of many) massive questions: Why invest in and promote such a blight on this fine planet?"
Changing the design of cargo shorts has actually been a point of contention in the past with Jeffries, who still approves merchandising decisions at the company, former executives have told BuzzFeed. While Abercrombie still sells the style, it's beefed up on its other shorts offerings. Cargo shorts are still more expensive than its other designs, though, at $68 a pair.
Chubbies, in response, has penned another open letter to Jeffries, an excerpt of which is here:
"It seems that in your forays into the unfamiliar territory of proper-length shorts, you stumbled onto a design of short that you quite liked. One with a silky smooth ideal inseam and an uber comfortable elastic waistband. Although your execution is thoroughly lacking, it is clear that the inspiration for your design is effin fantastic. I mean that thing's good. Unfortunately, however, that design just so happens to be the exact design of our shorts! You know, the ones you probably bought from our website. Total brain fart, I know!...
Our fault Mike. Looking back, I see that it's a pretty logical reaction to straight panic upon reading our open letter. Then, instantly look for the perfect pair of shorts to copy. Lo and behold, the shorts you settled on were none other than those of your gracious benefactor Chubbies Shorts. The very same company that went out of its way to help you see the light. To help you unshackle your quads. To help rid yourself of hopelessly pocketed shorts.
So, I must close with a hearty apology, Mikey J. We're looking forward to seeing your next foray into the world of real men's shortswear."
Abercrombie didn't respond to a request for comment on the Campus Fit shorts.
Chubbies will probably be just fine with the added competition — the brand has grown to about 30 employees after more than tripling its sales last year. Its campus ambassador program, in which Chubbies gives free products to college kids it sees fit to represent the brand on their campuses, is booming, and it's foraying into more designs, including athletic shorts.
On the bright side for Abercrombie's shareholders, perhaps it's a sign that the company is paying more attention to the evolving tastes of the teens and college students that it has recently lost touch with.
Abercrombie's evolving shorts.
Sapna Maheshwari is a business reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Maheshwari reports on retail and e-commerce.
Contact Sapna Maheshwari at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.