Abercrombie targets consumers with ‘irreverent’ t-shirts

Karen Grennan

Imagine seeing a t-shirt portraying your heritage. Imagine this t-shirt portraying your heritage in a racist manner. Imagine that this same t-shirt was designed with your particular heritage in mind as to whom the t-shirt would appeal to. Outrageous? Well, that is what clothing maker Abercrombie & Fitch had in mind with a new line of Asian-themed t-shirts that hit the stores last week.
The shirts carry caricatures of slant-eyed Asians in conical hats along with such slogans as “Wong brothers’ laundry service: two Wongs can make it white” and “Wok-n-bowl – Chinese food and bowling.”
In a CNN report from last Friday, Abercrombie spokesman Hampton Carney said the popular young clothing maker had believed the shirts might appeal to Asian-American consumers, and was surprised by the hostile reception they received. Hostile reception? Were the clothing designers expecting letters of gratitude from their consumers, of Asian descent or not, thanking them for their lovely displays of blatant racism?
This day in age, people try to be as politically correct as possible. I even heard the abbreviation “P.C.,” standing for “politically correct,” used in an episode in NBC’s “Will & Grace” last month. With as much awareness as there is this day in age, how can a clothing line as remarkably popular among college-aged kids as Abercrombie be so insensitive?
Carney said Abercrombie designers thought the Asian-themed shirts were “cheeky” and “irreverent,” and that “everybody would love them.” In other words, designing the shirts to be rude and disrespectful would encourage shoppers to purchase these shirts. That’s what the designers had in mind. Adding humor and a sense of rebellion in a line of clothing in an attempt to attract young consumers is a legitimate way to sell clothes, but purposely being disrespectful at the expense of others, particularly a certain race, is unfeasible.
This is not the first time Abercrombie has been a target of customer complaint. In 1998, Mothers against Drunk Driving protested an advertising spread entitled “Drinking 101.” Also, other parents have complained that the “youth-orientated” company frequently features “overtly sexy photos in its advertising layouts.”
Although not intended to offend anyone, but rather to add “humor and levity” to their fashion line, the shirts are being recalled from Abercrombie’s 500 stores nationwide.