I’m (Still) With Stupid T-Shirts – Part II
After reading a recent article written by Charles Manning for Cosmopolitan, I was immediately taken back to my original t-shirt blog and how easily designers and creators of clothes can be judged for what they put on their apparel. For designer Christopher Lee Sauve, placing an image on a simple tee in 2010 that read “Nothing Tastes As Good As Skinny Feels” was supposed to highlight artistic ability and the stupidity behind the phrase Kate Moss made so horribly famous a year earlier.
It should not come as surprise to us though, that the exact opposite occurred. He said in the article that Hudson’s Bay, who carries his line, pulled the shirts off the rack right away once the controversy made national attention. According to Sauve, anti-supporters of the shirt would go up to people on the street and ask them, “What do you think of this pro-anorexia t-shirt?’” Sauve lashes back in the article, saying, “No one was doing any research about me or my work. No one even bothered to just ask me, what does this mean?”
This is exactly the statement that brings me back to my original blog post and how I had mentioned that I believe the words or phrases illustrated on apparel should be able to speak for itself. We are, in a visual way, giving our clothes a voice without ever having to utter a single word.
QUESTION: Should these designers be surprised when someone interprets a phrase printed on a shirt negatively or just not the way they intended?
THE ANSWER? Absolutely NOT.
People are going to read a slogan or phrase on a t-shirt, and they are going to get the most literal part from it. That is what will stick with them and either turn them away, or bring them in. The shirts with the recycle symbol, the shirt that reads “Got Milk?” and the shirts with a peace sign on them–these all scream simple points. These are the fashion statements that succeed. The phrase in question, no matter how you spin it, is promoting eating disorders. The only meaning, unless more words or an X crossed out through the phrase is added, is that you will be skinny, and feel good about it if you don’t eat. If Sauve wanted to illustrate how ridiculous the phrase is, he should have added something, ANYTHING that would have made that clear. To me, the shirt is no different than putting the phrase on the red carpet with all of its glitz and glam and giving it an Oscar. In what I believe was an attempt to back pedal and take back the meaning behind the original design, Sauve later created a new shirt with the phrase “Kate Moss called, she wants her shirt back in all sizes.”
QUESTION: If Sauve can be this creative the 2nd time around, why couldn’t he come up with something better the first time around?
THE ANSWER? Perhaps he did exactly what he wanted to do the first time.
That’s right. I believe that Christopher Lee Sauve liked the phrase because it was used by one of the hottest models on the planet and because he thought it could reach a young, beautiful market. Are there people out there who will purchase this shirt because they are slim, trim, egotistical, superficial sheep? Of course! Well played, Mr Sauve. It was only until the shirt attracted national attention for being controversial that Sauve insisted he did not promote anorexia. I highly doubt that if the shirt was still available for sale that he would have created the Kate Moss round two shirt. The same props go to Urban Outfitters who marketed shirts the same year that read “ Eat Less” to promote thin is the new in. It was only a few short months before they too, had the shirts removed from the line due to the controversy and negative publicity . If we talk about all of the lines UO came out with that are offensive though, you would be reading a novel here, so let’s move along. Can only the artist be held accountable here though? Aren’t designers really just artists using clothes instead of canvases to unleash their creativity?
QUESTION: Shouldn’t the consumer know what they are promoting and then be fair game for judging by their fellow peers?
THE ANSWER? Without a doubt YES!!!!
Fashion at first glance, and appearance can speak volumes whether you are just meeting someone or have known them your whole life. Just as I mentioned in the first t-shirt blog, I believe that the person wearing the “I’m with stupid” t-shirt should know that instead of making the person standing beside him look dumb, the opposite is actually what is happening. The shirt makes the wearer look like a jerk. You as a consumer should know what you are wearing, even if the logo or slogan itself is not offensive, it is important to know as much as possible about the designers and their labels before parading it around town. For example, I judge my sister all the time for wearing Abercrombie and Fitch clothes because the negative or offensive meaning is actually behind the company’s CEO, not the clothes. Mike Jefferies uses his marketing power to target just the “cool kids,” repeatedly saying,“ I don’t want our core customers to see people who aren’t as hot as them wearing our clothing.” (This is particularly ironic if you have ever actually seen this guy.) His look most definitely leaves something to be desired…a look that appears to be the product of countless efforts to produce a younger image through artificial means such as plastic surgery. Just to be clear on the imagery…
^ THIS IS MIKE JEFFRIES
“Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive, all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes] and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.” –Mike Jefferies, interview with Salon Magazine 2006.
Oh, need to land a summer job to pay for college? Don’t even THINK about working at any of his stores unless you are professional model material. Seriously dude, how are you still with the company? Call it coincidence, but Business Insider stated the company’s U.S. sales had dropped 18% in the 3rd quarter of last year. 
The moral of the story folks, this is America, and we do thrive on individuality and the freedom to wear what we want. My advice though, is to know inside and out what you are wearing, because you are not just supporting a trend, or wearing it “cause it feels good.” You are advertising, promoting, and directly supporting said attire and everything it stands for. Do your homework and choose wisely so you can always wear what you love, and love what you wear.
 Manning, Charles. “Artist Stands by His Controversial “Skinny” T-Shirt.” Cosmopolitan Magazine. 27 Jun.2014. Web. 18 Jul. 2014.
 Greig, Alex. “Urban Outfitters Under Fire For Selling T-Shirt Glamorizing Depression-Just Two Years After Being Forced to Pull Another With Slogan ‘Eat Less.’” Mail Online. 5 Jan. 2014. Web. 18 Jul. 2014.
 Peterson, Hayley. “Abercrombie Strips CEO Mike Jefferies Of His Role As Chairman.” Business Insider. 28 Jan. 2014. Web. 18 Jul. 2014.‹ All Blog Posts