Fashion house will pay reality TV star not to wear its gear
Over the past two years, Michael "The Situation" Sorrentino has overcome a lack of discernible qualifications, talent or even good looks to become one of the most prominent figures in American popular culture.
Famous for appearing in MTV's pseudo-reality television series 'Jersey Shore', the hedonistic 29-year-old -- who gave himself his nickname --- is credited with spearheading a trend among men in their twenties for fake tans, washboard stomachs, intensive grooming regimes and casual misogyny.
By endorsing brands of trainers, vodka and vitamins he earned an estimated $5m ( €3.5m) last year, more than any other male reality TV star. But his crude antics have proved too much for one company with which he is associated.
Abercrombie & Fitch, the all-American outfitters, whose garments are worn by the 29-year-old in 'Jersey Shore', has offered him "a substantial payment" to stop wearing its clothes. "We are deeply concerned that Mr Sorrentino's association with our brand could cause significant damage to our image," the company said in a statement.
"This association is contrary to the aspirational nature of our brand, and may be distressing to many of our fans.
"We have also extended this offer to other members of the cast, and are urgently waiting a response."
A spokesman for Sorrentino, who was last seen onscreen wearing an Abercrombie tracksuit in Florence, did not return a request for comment.
Experts said the move was understandable. Donna Sturgess, the president of Buyology, a marketing company, said: "He doesn't have a job, he's not someone girls want to date because he doesn't treat them well, and guys don't want to be him. He doesn't fit the 'hot-boy-next-door' image."
Mary Van de Wiel, a New York-based "brand anthropologist", said: "Brands these days are like living organisms and need to be nurtured. They have a story and an underbelly that consumers interact with, for instance over social media."
The incident mirrors a dilemma faced by Burberry in 2004. It enjoyed a huge boost in sales of baseball caps in its distinctive check after they became fashionable with working-class men.
Some marketing experts said this new customer base -- dismissed as "chavs" by critics -- did not fit Burberry's image. The caps soon became noticeably harder to find on high streets.
Supporters of Sorrentino pointed out that until recently Abercrombie & Fitch sold a T-shirt bearing the logo 'Fitchuation'. "I mean, where did they get that from?" Sorrentino asked an interviewer last year. (© Daily Telegraph, London)