Abercrombie & Fitch Co. said Monday that authorities overreacted when they confiscated two display photos of scantily clad men and a woman from a clothing store and cited the manager on a misdemeanor obscenity charge. A city official later said the charge would be dropped.
“The marketing images in question show less skin than you see any summer day at the beach. And certainly less than the plumber working on your kitchen sink,” the company, based in New Albany, Ohio, said in a statement.
One photograph showed three shirtless young men, with one man’s upper buttocks showing. The other image was of a woman whose breast was mostly exposed, authorities said.
Deputy City Attorney Mark Stiles said the charge would be dropped even though the photos might technically meet the nudity portion of city code that makes it a crime to display “obscene materials in a business that is open to juveniles.”
But he said it would be difficult to meet the other standards of the law: that the display had to appeal to prurient interests, lack redeeming artistic merit and be offensive to prevailing community standards.
“You might see that typical vision walking down a street,” Stiles said of the photo with the men.
Virginia Beach police issued the summons Saturday after Abercrombie management did not heed warnings to remove the images from the Lynnhaven Mall store after some customers complained, police spokesman Adam Bernstein said.
Bernstein said police had charged the manager because there is no legal way to issue a summons to a corporate entity in such circumstances. If convicted, the manager faces a fine up to $2,000 and as much as a year in jail.
The manager declined to comment.
Abercrombie & Fitch has earned a reputation for its risque catalogs and promotional photography featuring scantily clothed models.
In 2003, the company halted publication of its seven-year-old A&F Quarterly catalog. There had been complaints about sexually suggestive photographs, though Abercrombie spokesman Tom Lennox on Monday would not concede that that was the reason the catalog’s U.S. run ended. “The Quarterly just ran its course, and it was time for a new direction,” Lennox said.
In 2004, the retailer agreed to pay $50 million to settle a lawsuit that accused the company of promoting whites over minorities and cultivating a virtually all-white image.