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Abercrombie & Fitch CEO's Corporate Jet Rulebook Reveals Cult-Like Secret World

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If you thought there was nothing worse than being trapped inside an Abercrombie & Fitch store with hormonal pre-teens, thumping techno and headache-inspiring cologne, think again.

You've never been aboard CEO Mike Jeffries' corporate jet, a luxurious playpen where stewards are male models, Abercrombie & Fitch cologne #41 is sprayed at regular intervals throughout the day and carpets are vacuumed in perfectly straight lines according to details contained in a recent lawsuit.

CORRECTION: This story previously incorrectly referenced and contained a link to the LinkedIn account of Matt Smith, managing director at Jefferies & Co. Matthew Smith, the person referred to in the lawsuit, works for the Jeffries Family Office. We regret the error and apologize for any confusion this may have caused.

In the legal filings outed by Bloomberg today, Jeffries and his "life partner" (as the lawsuit refers to him) Matthew Smith rule over the Gulfstream G550 with a compulsive attention to detail, requiring employees to abide by a 47-page manual that specifies everything from the seating arrangement of Jeffries' dogs to the precise temperature at which the crew may wear winter coats (50 degrees).

The documents in the lawsuit -- filed in 2010 by a pilot who claimed he was fired for being too old -- lay Abercrombie & Fitch's secretive corporate culture and the private life of its CEO nearly as bare as its models' hairless chests.

Here are some highlights from the "Aircraft Standards" manual:

  • The four models or actors who work as cabin attendants must never respond to Matthew or Michael, as the manual refers to Jeffries and Smith, by saying anything but a friendly "no problem." Phrases like "sure" or "just a minute" are not permitted.
  • Crew members are provided with a specific uniform by Abercrombie & Fitch: jeans, boxer briefs, polo shirts and flip flops. When it is 50 degrees or colder outside, all crew members are required to wear winter coats. The jacket should be zipped up to the "forth button from the bottom," the manual specifies. "The lowest button should be left undone," it says.
  • Hats, meanwhile, are against the rules unless the temperature is below 40 degrees. When they are worn, brims must be two-inches thick and pulled down "approximately in the middle of the forehead."
  • Male staff (yes, only males) should "spritz" their uniforms with Abercrombie & Fitch #41 cologne "throughout the duration of the shift."
  • Fingerprints are not permitted. Cabin attendants must constantly check for fingerprints "on the credenza, cabin door, galley door, ledges and the cabinet doors in the lavatory." Seat belts should also be "free of fingerprints or marks."
  • The crew must monitor the tops of lamp bases for dust (they collect dust frequently, the manual states). When they vacuum, the crew must move from the front to the back of the aircraft to create "smooth, even lines."
  • Cabin attendants must remove all loose advertising and inserts from the 13 specific magazines that are stocked in the aircraft's credenza, as well as the newspapers which are bought on board. Different newspapers are to be stocked based on the day of the week and the region in which the aircraft is flying.
  • In bathrooms, eight washcloths (exactly eight) must be "tri-folded" and placed behind the vanity. Toilet paper must be left as a square and not folded.
  • On flights home, the crew must make sure to play the song "Take Me Home" as guests enter the cabin.
  • Before guests go to sleep, crew should "spray the bedding with sleep spray."
  • Michael and Matthew's dogs Ruby, Trouble and Sammy are nearly as picky as their owners, it seems. The manual outlines a five-point instruction set for seating the pets. "When Ruby and Trouble travel, Ruby will sit opposite Michael in the cabin, in Sammy's seat," it says. "When Sammy travels, Ruby will sit in Trouble's seat."
  • Crew can eat meals only on flights longer than two hours, and only food that is not "aromatic."
  • When serving what the manual calls "Matthew's Tea Service" (which consists of Assam tea in the morning and Darjeeling after 2 p.m.) crew should lay out a teaspoon that is exactly 5 and 1/4 inches long.

As Michael Bustin, the pilot suing Abercrombie & Fitch, put it in his deposition, "Every single aspect that you can imagine that affected the airplane or our behavior in it was controlled by Abercrombie & Fitch, specifically, Michael Jeffries and Matthew Smith."

Smith conducted monthly inspections of the jet hangar, according to a witness deposition. Smith had an "affinity for cleanliness and tidiness," the witness said. Once, when a jet mechanic showed up with an American flag sticker on his tool chest, Smith allegedly asked him to remove it because he wanted things to be "clean looking."

Though he turned 68 this year, Jeffries lives and breathes the Abercrombie & Fitch brand. The bleach-haired, taut-skinned executive lifts weights most mornings and sleeps next to a photo of a naked male torso, he told Businessweek in 2005 in one of the few interviews he's given.

According to Bustin, who claims he was replaced by a 32-year-old pilot, Jeffries is a little too obsessed with youth. "Smith and Jeffries made disparaging and exclusionary comments about older individuals and made it clear to [Bustin] that [Abercrombie & Fitch] preferred younger people as employees, in keeping with its 'young' corporate image," the original complaint stated.

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