american apparel now hiring sign

Photo: Getty Images

King of sleaze tees Dov Charney is at it again.

The American Apparel CEO is denying accusations from media blog Gawker that it hires employees based on their beauty -- claiming that they hire based on "sense of style," according to a statement posted on the company's Web site.

You say style, we say beauty -- let's call the whole thing off!

It all kicked off last summer when a former American Apparel store manager reportedly told Gawker that Charney insisted on having group photos of job applicants so he could scrutinize their looks while allegedly encouraging managers to fire "ugly" employees.

At the time, Charney denied the claims, insisting that employees should have "good fashion sense," but that they needn't necessarily be knockouts.

Fast forward to Gawker's new report that an inside source revealed American Apparel's new hiring policy, which allegedly demands that applicants -- as well as current employees hoping to get a raise or promotion -- have their "full body head to toe" photos taken, at which point they are analyzed by someone within the company.

"Your looks determine your position and pay rate, not how effective you are at your job," the source reportedly told the site.

Gawker referenced an internal transcript of a conference call referencing photos, but again the company commented that the photos were required to evaluate "personal style," not beauty.

The next day, Gawker posted a reportedly leaked employee contract covering employee style guidelines, which the retailer described as "Classy-Vintage-Chique [sic]-Late '80s-Early '90s-Ralph Lauren-Vogue-Nautical-High end brand." Funny, we thought they were going for "color-blind hipster."

The document also specifies which shoes employees can wear. Former employees also reportedly spilled their stories to Gawker, alleging incidents that ran the gamut from workers being told off for gaining weight to one manager being asked to hire "classy black girls with nice hair." Gulp.

Now Charney himself is reiterating that position "in light of recent erroneous online coverage."

"American Apparel does not hire or retain applicants based on 'beauty,'" Charney says in the statement.

"Our main priority is finding people with a strong sense of style who can inspire customers as they make selections from our extensive line.

"This is an integral part of the job, and we look for people who will enjoy it as a creative outlet.

"It has never been the policy of American Apparel, as some blogs claim, to fire employees who are not 'good looking' or any of the other accusations implied by the anonymous or unverified third party sources.

"The company legitimately reviews current photographs of job applications and employees to consider their sense of style and the way in which they present themselves.

"Through personal interviews, we evaluate whether they possess the skills and personality required to successfully sell our products. This is a standard practice among fashion-forward retailers."

Charney also encourages concerned citizens to email or phone him directly, or to send in "photos showing your personal style" to help land a job folding T-shirts.

Hmmm. Nothing American Apparel does really surprises us anymore (Best Bottom contest, anyone?), and judging people by their looks (style, beauty, whatever you want to call it) wouldn't be a big shock.

Then again, if American Apparel employees are meant to be so darn good-looking, why are they still hiring models for their "employees only" campaigns?

What's your take? Is American Apparel right to evaluate applicants' "style" for branding purposes? (All's fair in love and fashion, right?) Or do you find its hiring practices to be offensive and unfair? Leave a comment!

Speaking of judging people based on their looks, read Julien Macdonald's catty comments about plus-size models.