2010 | Los Angeles

Quality Control

A guide to being naturally beautiful at work.

From: Katherine Johnson

Sent: Sun 3/28/2010 5:29 a.m.

Subject: Grooming—Females

Hi everyone,

Please keep in mind that American Apparel is a retailer that celebrates natural beauty. We encourage employees to feel comfortable in their natural skin and natural state. This aesthetic is a part of the company image; as we do not photoshop our advertisements and our models appear in their natural state, it’s important that this image is cohesive in the stores.

a) Makeup is to be kept to a minimal—please take this very seriously. Liquid eyeliner, pencil eyeliner, and eyeshadow are advised against; mascara must look very natural (i.e., should not be clumpy or a color that does not complement your skin and hair color). Blush must not be overdone—should not have glitter or sparkles. Liquid foundation is prohibited (under-eye concealer is understandable if it looks natural, i.e., not clumpy or caked-on, must match your skin tone). Please do not use a shiny gloss on your lips; any lip color must be subtle.

b) Eyebrows must not be overplucked. Full eyebrows are very much encouraged. Please do not dye your eyebrows a different color.

c) We encourage long, healthy, natural hair, so please be advised of the following:

—Hair must be kept your natural color.

—Blow-drying hair excessively could cause heat damage, so this is advised against.

—“Bangs” or “fringe” are advised against. It is not part of the direction we’re moving in.

d) Jewelry must not be distracting. Please do not wear accessories with another brand’s logo on it—this includes watches. No gauges whatsoever. One earring per ear is encouraged. Earrings, necklaces, watches, bracelets, etc., must be simple and tasteful. Please email me with a photo if you have any questions about a specific piece of jewelry you’d like to wear in the store.

The White Feather Fan, by John William Waterhouse, 1879. Private Collection.

The White Feather Fan, by John William Waterhouse, 1879. Private Collection. 

From: Katherine Johnson
Sent: Sun 3/28/2010 8:15 a.m.

Subject: Grooming—Males

Hi everyone,

Males as well as females are expected to exude the understanding of the brand’s appreciation for a natural and healthy appearance. Below are a few notes that should be circulated to the staff, specifically to male employees.

a) Hair should look natural. Excessive product to the extent of creating stiffness and an unnatural or greasy appearance to your hair is advised against.

b) Eyebrows should be natural. Please do not dye your eyebrows a different color or overpluck them.

c) Males should not wear makeup.

d) Facial hair needs to be kept clean and well-groomed. Any mustache or goatee of a contemporary style is advised against.

e) No gauges allowed whatsoever.

Reminders about basic dress code:

a) Button-up shirts must be tucked in to trousers.

b) Sneakers of any style are not allowed. Plain white clean Keds or Keds-like shoes are allowed.

c) Please do not wear any earrings. All accessories and watches must be clean, simple, and tasteful. They cannot distract from the garments.

d) Garments must fit properly. Trousers cannot be too tight or too baggy—and must be clean. Shirts cannot be oversized or too tight. If there is an employee that does not wear garments that fit properly, please contact me ASAP so we can resolve the matter.

e) Belts must be worn with trousers that have belt loops.


About This Text

Katherine Johnson, from an email to American Apparel managers and others. These two emails were leaked to Gawker one year after the website had reported that the company was firing employees whose appearences were deemed inadequate. Founded by Dov Charney in 1989, American Apparel is known for its MADE IN THE U.S.A. tags and its provocative advertising campaigns, often featuring seminude girls of indeterminate age.