In high school, I had a teacher who strongly believed any logo, symbol, picture, or phrase we wore should be significant to who we are. On one of the rare occasions we didn’t have to wear uniforms, a boy in my class decided to wear a shirt with a bicycle on it. Horrible mistake. Even before starting the class, my teacher pointed directly at him and demanded to know if my classmate frequently rode a bike or if he had some sort of emotional connection to the form of transportation. The kid laughed nervously and shook his head. Ever since this experience, I am conscientious of my fashion choices, but it seems most others don’t care what they wear or how others might perceive it.
If people do not take the time to research what they are buying, they may unknowingly purchase offensive material. On the alternative side, if they are conscious yet indifferent of their decisions, that concerns me of rising levels of insensitivity in youth. Derogatory and distasteful material can be found everywhere, and it only seems to be expanding and becoming more acceptable by society.
Almost every brand out there has a t-shirt selection that features a variety of slogans and designs to attract a wide audience. However, people seem to mindlessly buy them without really knowing what exactly they are wearing and what impression it gives off. Very quickly, something can become a trend; suddenly, everyone is wearing it, yet no one could actually tell you the meaning behind it. A prime example of this is the hamsa symbol, which is the upside down hand frequently seen in jewelry at trendy teen-oriented stores, such as Forever 21 and Brandy Melville. Embedded in both Jewish and Middle Eastern culture, the hamsa is believed to keep away the “evil eye.” This is probably not the reason most people incorporate it into their wardrobe. Rather, it has carried over into the hipster trend. It could be an insulting symbol and only those educated on its meaning would know.
Over the past week, Urban Outfitters has yet again been in the hot seat for selling controversial items, this time focusing on a tapestry featuring grey stripes and a pink triangle. At least to me, it first appeared like a simple design. If I hadn’t seen the uproar online, I wouldn’t think much of it. The problem is that it is unnervingly similar to the uniforms gay male prisoners were forced to wear in concentration camps during the Holocaust, which is obvious to anyone familiar with the attire. There is no way that all the people at the company who saw the tapestry, from the original designer to the store sellers, were completely oblivious to the resemblance.
Whether Urban thought it would go unnoticed, or did it as a sick publicity stunt, it is completely unacceptable–there is no excuse for commercializing one of the most horrific events in history. While it has been taken off the website, people certainly purchased it and have unintentionally draped their vintage couches with the symbolic bloodstain of millions.
There are plenty more glaringly concerning items of clothing on the market that girls and boys alike are sporting. If you just look at the website of Brandy Melville, a popular west coast inspired brand, the “graphic” tab features shirts saying, “drop out of school” and “mermaids don’t do homework.” While they do not contain profanity, the minds of young teens are malleable. It may not have a negative effect on the buyer, but there is no way of knowing who will read your shirt on the street. Especially with the Internet’s wide reach of viewership, a wide demographic is able to see these idolized models advocating to quit school. You could go on almost any clothing site and find similar problems. With the rising concerns of anorexia, depression and general insecurity in society, companies should be marketing clothes with positive messages.
Fashion and decorations can be fantastic forms of expression and individualism, but designers and consumers need to be more aware of the power they have. If the product sells, companies will continue to produce it. Therefore, it is left up to us to spend our money wisely.
Marisa Nobs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.