The new Howard Hughes? Michael Jeffries, Abercrombie & Fitch 'Chief Eccentric Officer', dictates what underwear and flip-flops staff should wear on private jet

Outlandish demands made by US clothing boss on crew aboard his private jet revealed

New York

If there is a perfect exemplar of the oddball American boss, Howard Hughes must be it. Among the maverick aviator's directives at his Hughes Aircraft firm, one stipulated the precise type of seat covers for the company's fleet of Chevrolets, according to an ex-colleague tracked down by Fortune magazine in 2005. On another occasion, Hughes is said to have mooted the construction of a missile testing range on his Nevada property.

But if new claims about Michael Jeffries, the 68 year-old head of the fashion retailer Abercrombie & Fitch are accurate, future historians might reconsider their nominee for the country's standout CEO – or chief eccentric officer.

According to a dossier of instructions disclosed as part of an age discrimination case brought by a former pilot, flight crew aboard Mr Jeffries's Gulfstream corporate jet were required to employ white gloves when handling silverware and black ones to lay the table, besides adhering to specific seating arrangements for his dogs – Ruby, Trouble and Sammy – depending on which ones were travelling.

It didn't stop there. The manual, first revealed by Bloomberg news, goes on to detail the uniform that had to be worn by staff, including, in what must be a sterling candidate for inclusion in the annals of corporate overreach, the brand of cologne (Abercrombie & Fitch 41) and kind of underwear for airborne men (boxer-briefs). And woe betide the steward who placed Businessweek magazine in the left side of the credenza. The dossier clarifies that, along with copies of Fortune and other august journals, it had be stored on the right hand side, without any inserts that might unceremoniously rain down on Mr Jeffries, according to partial copies which have appeared online.

The detail extends to the way crew had to address the Abercrombie boss, once labelled the Willy Wonka of the fashion industry by the online magazine Salon. According to excerpts: "When Michael, Matthew [Smith, Mr Jeffries's partner], or a guest make a request, respond by saying 'No Problem'. This should be used in place of phrases like, 'Sure' or, 'Just a minute'."

Flip-flops, meanwhile, were mandatory in-flight, and the crew had to check for fingerprints on ledges, cabinet doors, and elsewhere around the craft. The onboard playlist is equally precise: the crew were reportedly required to broadcast Phil Collins' hit "Take Me Home" over the in-flight intercom as the plane headed home.

The manual, reportedly customised with input from Mr Jeffries's partner, was among the documents in a 2010 case filed in the US by Michael Stephen Bustin, who piloted Mr Jeffries's Gulfstream from February 2008 until he was let go in December 2009. Mr Bustin, now 55, claims he was fired so he could be replaced with a younger pilot more in sync with Abercrombie & Fitch's youthful image.

The fashion retailer has dismissed the claims in court documents, according to the Associated Press, while the company's general counsel told Bloomberg that the pilot's case was without merit. Yesterday, when contacted about the allegations, Abercrombie declined to comment.

The business pays for four cabin crew provided by a management company, and doesn't itself employ pilots, according to an aircraft management agreement filed by Mr Bustin as part of the lawsuit.

The new disclosures come as Mr Jeffries, who, after taking charge in the early 1990s, had been widely credited with turning Abercrombie from an outmoded manufacturer of outdoor gear to a successful fashion brand for youngsters, is struggling to sustain its appeal in the face of changing fashion trends and its customers' tightening purse strings. The value of Abercrombie shares linger at around $32, about half their value a year ago.

This is not the first high-profile case featuring the company to hit the headlines. In 2004, Abercrombie, well known for its risqué advertising, paid out $40m to settle a series of cases which accused it of discriminating against minorities to maintain its all-white public image.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

    £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

    Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

    £26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

    Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

    £14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

    Day In a Page

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
    RuPaul interview: The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head

    RuPaul interview

    The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head
    Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

    Secrets of comedy couples

    What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
    Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

    Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

    While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
    The best swimwear for men: From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer

    The best swimwear for men

    From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer
    Mark Hix recipes: Our chef tries his hand at a spot of summer foraging

    Mark Hix goes summer foraging

     A dinner party doesn't have to mean a trip to the supermarket
    Ashes 2015: With an audacious flourish, home hero Ian Bell ends all debate

    With an audacious flourish, the home hero ends all debate

    Ian Bell advances to Trent Bridge next week almost as undroppable as Alastair Cook and Joe Root, a cornerstone of England's new thinking, says Kevin Garside
    Aaron Ramsey interview: Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season

    Aaron Ramsey interview

    Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season
    Community Shield: Arsene Wenger needs to strike first blow in rivalry with Jose Mourinho

    Community Shield gives Wenger chance to strike first blow in rivalry with Mourinho

    As long as the Arsenal manager's run of games without a win over his Chelsea counterpart continues it will continue to dominate the narrative around the two men
    The unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth - and what it says about English life

    Unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth

    Bournemouth’s elevation to football’s top tier is one of the most improbable of recent times. But it’s illustrative of deeper and wider changes in English life
    A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

    A Very British Coup, part two

    New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms