Blog: The summer of the politically incorrect T-shirt

Petah Marian | 14 September 2011

Topman has withdrawn the above T-shirt after being criticised for encouraging domestic violence

Topman has withdrawn the above T-shirt after being criticised for encouraging domestic violence

This summer is likely to go down (in my memory, at least) as the season of the badly thought-out T-shirt. Topman today has sparked a social media backlash, accused of promoting and trivialising domestic violence on one of its T-shirts.

The retailer announced on its Facebook page two hours ago that it had decided to remove these T-shirts from its stores, and stressed that they were meant to be "light-hearted and carried no serious meaning". Since that post, it has received over 150 comments on its wall, half critical and half thinking the T-shirts are hilarious.

It also offered a T-shirt, also now withdrawn, that said: "Nice new girlfriend. What breed is she?"

Topman is not the first retailer to face criticism this summer over offensively printed T-shirts. JC Penney was forced to halt sales of a girls' T-shirt that says "I'm too pretty to do homework, so my brother has to do it for me." Meanwhile, only yesterday, Forever 21 found itself in the firing line for a sweater that says "Allergic to Algebra" alongside T-shirts with messages that say its cool to hate school.

Offensive T-shirts are nothing new - it's difficult to walk through my local shopping mall without being bombarded with T-shirts emblazoned with quotes like "I'm drunk but your [sic] still ugly".

In the past, consumers would have perhaps told their friends about the crass T-shirt they've seen, but with the prevalence of smartphones, online shopping and social media it only takes one person to share an image of a badly thought out product to generate a fairly serious barrage of negative PR.

It's not surprising that T-shirts that encourage domestic violence, that denigrate women, or encourage girls to be stupid are so widely criticised. And it's something retailers ought to think twice about before they go into production.


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