August 13, 2012
A Recent History of Offensive Clothing

Clothes aren’t just utilitarian, they’re a statement. And if you’re a racist/sexist, there’s clothing out there for you that will help you express yourself, at least judging by the controversy that surrounded some articles of clothing released by big clothing companies.

Not too long ago, via Facebook, Adidas released an image of
a new sneaker called the JS Roundhouse Mid, a purple and gold suede high-top that would be perfect if you were cast in a Slick Rick music video circa 1989. The color scheme isn’t what sparked a controversy that led to Adidas announcing the cancellation of the shoe…

…it was the golden shackles attached to the shoe that got people doing something no one ever thought would actually happen – call out a shoe for being racist.

Under normal circumstances, looking at a shoe with disgust and screaming “racist!” at it would net you more than a couple of strange stares from the subway commuters currently occupying the space you call home. But there’s a first time for everything…or is there?

Nope! Not too long ago, Emma Barnett, a tech reporter for The Telegraph, was cleaning up her apartment when she noticed
the washing instructions on a pair of her boyfriend’s pants.

The label starts off with some basic washing instructions – machine wash, warm water, flip them inside out, which itself sounds like the maker of the pants giving up and conforming to our collective laziness to un-flip our pants; pretty standard fare for words on pants. But then, for no apparent reason, we’re given an “or” that’s followed by “Give it to your woman. It’s her job.”

Who is this tag for? If the assumption made by the pants were at all true, that it’s a woman’s job to wash the pants, who do they expect is going to read the label? The pants made it abundantly clear that all men are slovenly assholes and would never read the label. The argument can be made that the designer of the pants was trying to add a bit of guy-centric humor and whimsy to the world of pants. Sadly, pants aren’t a very good joke delivery system. No one turns to pants for a quick pick-me-up when they’re feeling down. “Oh, pants! You slay me with your comfortable inseam and biting critique on traditional gender roles!”, is a sentence no one has ever said.

And then, almost inevitably, we come to that wonderful cross-section where hipster meets douchebag with the numerous clothing controversies sparked by Urban Outfitters and Abercrombie & Fitch.

In 2002, Abercrombie & Fitch released a line of T-shirts
featuring Asian caricatures. Asians steering Rickshaws, Asians running laundry mats, Asians operating dojos – basically every Asian stereotype on the books was turned in to a T-shirt so hilarious that Abercrombie & Fitch had to pull them from store shelves, presumably because Asian Americans were laughing so hard they could no longer function like normal humans.

As for Urban Outfitters, the question is who hasn’t felt offended by their clothing? Jews?
Check. Native Americans? Check. Black people? Check. And while it may not be clothing, Urban Outfitters once royally pissed off the black community by selling a version of the board game Monopoly called “Ghettoply,” in which “playas” received game cards that contained jokes we’re sure would be a hit at The Klan’s weekly game nights, like “You got yo whole neighborhood addicted to crack. Collect $50.”

Adidas causing a stir with some shackles that look like a pre-schooler’s My First Slave toy playset isn’t anything new, and it won’t even be the last time a clothing company releases a product they think is funny or cool but is interpreted as dumb and offensive. But there is one thing that is becoming clearer as the controversies pile up – these companies employ a lot of out-of-touch white guys.

This article was originally pitched to as a Quick Fix, an article for their new section that features shorter, occasionally topical articles. This one didn’t make it out of the editorial process alive, so that means it ends up here. They can’t all be winners, folks. I’ve already had two Quick Fix articles published on Cracked. You can read about how Demolition Man is prophetic, or you can read about violent urinals that burn dicks.

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