Abercrombie and Fitch (A&F) was founded by David Abercrombie, a former trapper, prospector, topographer and railroad surveyor who was a also a brilliant camping equipment designer, as a waterfront shop and factory in downtown New York City under the his own name (David T. Abercrombie Company) in 1892 as a men's outdoor clothing store. In 1900 an avid customer of Abercrombie's, a lawyer by the name of Ezra Fitch persuaded Abercrombie to allow him to become a partner in the growing company and the current name reflects the short-lived partnership.
As aforementioned, Abercrombie and Fitch's partnership deteriorated by 1907 when David Abercrombie quit the board. The conflict and subsequent split resulted in Abercrombie and Fitch's stubbornness and different views of the company's future. Abercrombie wished to lead the company along the same path it had been going for the past 20 some odd years while Fitch wished to see the company's market extended more to the general public.
With Fitch now in charge of the company's direction, he quickly went about giving a truly rustic feeling. Merchandise was placed as if it was actually used, a campfire burned in one part of the store, and an experienced guide was always on hand if customers need advise. In addition to that, the clerks at Abercrombie and Fitch were actual outdoorsmen who were not there to push people to sell, they were there to converse (Of course, they still sold stuff).
In 1913 A&F moved to a building near Fifth Avenue and became the first store to supply outdoor clothing to both sexes. Also, a catalog had been published shortly after Abercrombie's departure and led to more than 50,000 orders from all corners of the globe.
Around 1917, A&F became the world's largest sporting goods store and moved to Madison Avenue and 45th Street, where it occupied an entire twelve story building. Outside a sign proclaimed "Where the Blazed Trail Crosses the Boulevard". Fitch himself had a log cabin built on the top of the building as a townhouse. There was also a casting pool for fisherman to try out A&F's on the top as well. The building also housed a shooting range, golf school, a floor dedicated to set-up tents, and even a kennel for dogs and cats. A&F had also expanded to include non-conventional sporting goods such as hot air balloons, yachting pennants, portable trampolines, treadmills for exercising dogs, throwing knives, shirts of chainmail, leopard collars, and everything a person could possibly need for falconry.
A&F was also one of the hotspots for celebrities. President Theodore Roosevelt bought supplies for his trips to Africa and the Amazon there, Ernest Hemingway bought guns from the store, and Presidents Hoover and Eisenhower bought their fishing equipment there. Other well known store patrons included: Amelia Earhart, Presidents Taft, Harding and Kennedy, the Duke of Windsor, Bing Crosby, Howard Hughes, Katharine Hepburn, Greta Garbo and Clark Gable.
In 1928 Fitch retired from the company and spent his last years enjoying the outdoors.
A&F continued to grow up until the 1960s when financial troubles engulfed the company and it was forced to declare bankruptcy in 1977 and purchased by Oshman's Sporting Goods, based in Houston, Texas. Business was still poor and it was eventually bought out by The Limited Inc. in 1988 and remade into a lifestyle clothing store.
A&F had its initial public offering in October 1996, and was spun off as an independent company in May 1998. It mostly caters to adults, and especially college students. Currently there are 2 subsidiary companies, Abercrombie Kids which caters to 7-14 year olds which came out in 1997 and Hollister Company in 2000 appealing to the 14-18 age group.
Abercrombie & Fitch once stood out as one of the world's most famous sporting goods stores; now they're known for dumb controversies and skimpy, overpriced clothing. While personally, I find that their style isn't all bad, although some of their marketing department needs to have their heads examined (Thongs for kids...come on!). (Except the ones where you're a walking billboard. Why do you pay $40 to sell their brand?) What I do get angry at is the fact that they sell what is probably worth $30 directly because of the brand. I mean, why buy A&F if you can go to Ross and find a nice warm jacket for $20 less than A&F's? Maybe I'm just practical, but if A&F sold their old rugged clothing... I'd buy that I mean, that stuff was meant to last. Not like their new, thin fabric jackets and t-shirts. And as a side note, go to your neighborhood A&F and ask if they sell any sporting goods... they'll be baffled.