Consumerism
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Consumerism: Austintown and Fitch

Teenagers all over America open up boxes with Fitch t-shirts this time of year, whether their families celebrate Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Roman Christmas, New Year’s Day, or Russian Orthodox Christmas. They may think they have something that’s crazysexycool, or just a shirt that’s acceptable to wear to school, but some of us from Northeast Ohio know the truth.

When I see a Fitch t-shirt, I think Austintown Fitch High School, and I want to shake my head. At first, I thought that the Fitch shirts were some kind of slumming-chic thing, like Pabst Blue Ribbon beer or the Levi’s ads set in Braddock, PA. But I don’t think so. I don’t think the average customer of Abercrombie and Fitch Company (NYSE: ANF) is sophisticated enough to understand the concept.

Austintown is a suburb of Youngstown, Ohio, and it is the kind of place where the claim to fame is that it is not Youngstown. In fairness, Youngstown is pretty bad, so I can see why Austintowners would be proud of that. Austintown has about 31,000 people and a median income of $38,216, less than the national average of $44,512 but positively hoity-toity when compared to Youngstown, with a median income of $24,201. Zillow.com reports that the average house in Austintown is worth $66,700; in Youngstown proper, the average house costs $21,500, and no, I did not forget a zero.

Austintown is fine, but it’s not fancy. I think of good food and petty crime. It’s worth getting off the turnpike to get some mighty fine Wedgewood Pizza. You will probably find my father at Trax Lounge, which does not have a Web site because my father does not use the Internet. If you want to call, though, the number is (330) 799-2249, and the address is 4250 New Road. I recommend the pepper and egg sandwich, and I’ve heard good things about the sufrite, if you like that sort of thing (organ meats are involved); sufrite isn’t exactly preppy, but it might fit the image of Abercrombie and Fitch as the hunting outfitter it once was.

In the olden days, Austintown Fitch High School had a gang known as the Wedgewood Rats, after the shopping center that houses Wedgewood Pizza.  The members were alleged to be the brothers and sons of different Mafia types, and they were bad news. They were fond of breaking and entering, threatening classmates, and putting bombs in school lockers, among other things.

It seems strange that the purveyors of sexy clothes for relatively upmarket teenagers would want to be associated with a relatively downmarket spot. The mystery deepens, because Abercrombie and Fitch is headquartered outside of Columbus, Ohio. Surely someone who works at Abercrombie knows about Austintown? The population of the greater Youngstown area has shrunk faster than a 100% cotton graphic t-shirt in hot water, so former area residents can be found everywhere.  Didn’t someone explain that Fitch’s demographic image is pretty much the opposite of Abercrombie’s? That maybe using the Fitch name without its Abercrombie buddy was not a great idea? Or did the folks at A & F just figure that there weren’t enough of us to matter?

Some of the Fitch t-shirt designs even feature eagles, and the Austintown Fitch mascot is a falcon. Abercrombie and Fitch likes an all-American, red white & blue color scheme, and Austintown Fitch’s colors are red and white. Could it be that some former Youngstowner working at Abercrombie’s headquarters is playing a big prank on the customers?

If you’re wearing your Fitch sweatshirt some day and a nearsighted white woman comes up and asks you if the Rats are still running a prostitution ring in the parking lot during lunch period, you’ll know why. And if you are out looking for clearance-sale bargains in this post-Christmas season, choose shirts that say “Abercrombie” over those that say “Fitch”. Unless, of course, you hang with the hoods and not the preppies.

Filed under: Consumerism

by

Ann Logue is a freelance writer and consulting analyst who is fascinated by business and technology. She has a particular interest in regulatory issues and corporate governance. She is the author of "Emerging Markets for Dummies" (Wiley 2011), “Socially Responsible Investing for Dummies” (Wiley 2009), “Day Trading for Dummies” (Wiley 2007), and “Hedge Funds for Dummies” (Wiley 2006), and has written for Barron’s, Institutional Investor, and Newsweek Japan, among other publications. As an editor and ghostwriter, she worked on a book published by the International Monetary Fund and another by a Wall Street currency strategiest. She is a lecturer in finance at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her current career follows 12 years of experience as an investment analyst. She holds a B.A. from Northwestern University, an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago, and the Chartered Financial Analyst designation. How's that for deathly dull?

  • Erika

    I am a proud resident of Austintown and a former Fitch Falcon, whose colors by the way, are red and BLUE. My son is a now a student and athlete at my alma mater. Every city–or township, in this case–has a history, and I’m sure if you dig deep enough, you will find crime, “gangs,” and shady characters to exploit. Austintown is just the right size to be bustling, but with a “small town” closeness. We know our neighbors around here. None of mine were ever a Wedgewood Rat. Half of them have probably never even heard of them, that’s how insignificant the group was. We should talk instead about the new racetrack that was recently built in our town; about the commerce it is bringing to our area; about the stores, restaurants and hotels that are going up at an impressionable rate. Austintown is not some crumbling little Youngstown spinoff. We are thriving. I flaunt my A-town colors proudly. Half of every resident’s wardrobe consists of Fitch gear. And WE know our spirit has nothing to do with Ambercrombie.

  • Imladris18

    This terrible, uninformed, and pretentious article sure is rustling a lot of soccer mom jimmies on facebook.

    The ‘Fitch’ in ‘Abercrombie & Fitch’ was named after co-founder Ezra Fitch, a busniess man from New York who died on his Yacht in 1930 in California.

    The ‘Fitch’ in ‘Austintown Fitch’ was named after John H. Fitch, a farmer in Austintown who donated the land for the school in 1914.

    The clothing company is in no way, shape, or form related to the high school in any way other than name. My favorite part was the stretch in logic between, “oh hey, the Abercrombie logo is an eagle,” and “Wow! The Fitch logo is a falcon,” means the clothing store MUST be ripping off AFHS as if there aren’t thousands of other schools with birds as their mascot, or that the ‘American Eagle’ brand may want to use America’s national bird for their logo.

    What horrid research from a purported professional “analyst.”

  • MarciH

    “Fitch’s colors are red and white” – I was thinking, “Did they change the school colors?”

  • Erika

    The article is ruffling our Falcon feathers because of the author’s defamation of the place we call home. We are unconcerned about her claim that A & F is “associated with” us, just her comments about how they should be ashamed to do so.

  • Imladris18

    I understand that, I’m on your side. I was highlighting how little actual thought was put into the article, and how nothing the author said should be given any weight after such ridiculous, uninformed claims, including her thoughts on Austintown.

    No one who thinks that the ‘Wedgewood Rats” are somehow in any way still relevant, let alone relevant to a massive clothing company, knows anything about Austintown or should be taken seriously in any way.

  • Erika

    :)