In the summer of 2010, clothing brand Urban Outfitters sold a shirt with the phrase “Eat Less” printed across the chest. It’s hard to say why they would choose such a phrase, but it is safe to say that the people who design their merchandise should have maybe thought a little longer before suggesting that shirt. Also, while I’m sure they were only thinking about profit, whoever decided to sell it should have thought twice before placing the order. Urban Outfitters is no stranger to controversy, but a phrase like that really only has one implication: the wearer is an advocate of dieting. A message like that could not be sold without consequences.
Enter One Tree Hill actress Sophia Bush. Upon seeing that the company was selling the shirt, she immediately took to her blog to put Urban Outfitters on blast. “I have been a supporter of your store for many years, now I’m through,” she stated. While she agreed that, yes, some of the American population did suffer from obesity and may have a need to do as the shirt says, she knew that these people were not the company’s target audience. She worried that the shirt would promote an unhealthy obsession with being thin, something very common among the young girls you so often see browsing in the aisles of an Urban Outfitters. Sophia Bush is absolutely right. A shirt like that would most likely be purchased by a girl who already has an unhealthy relationship with her weight. A shirt like that would validate every calorie she’s counted, every lettuce leaf she’s nibbled,and every step she’s taken on the scale. The type of girl who would buy that shirt would be proud to look in a mirror and see it hanging off of her overly thin frame. No matter what anyone could say, there is nothing ironic about a shirt like that.
According to this article, the product description of the shirt read: “Eat less or more or however much you’d like in this seriously soft knit tee cut long and topped with a v-neck.” Did they really think that such a description would dilute the actual phrasing on the shirt? Regardless, the message was already out there. I wonder about the girls who did buy the shirt. What went through their minds as they either browsed through the Urban Outfitters website or saw it hanging in a store? Did a girl who was suffering from an eating disorder see it and have her eyes light up? Did she see the shirt and think of it as a validation of her illness? Did she think it was mocking her? What about the girl who may be slightly overweight? Was she disturbed by the shirt because it, just like almost everything else in the store, made her ashamed of her size? Was there the girl who did see it as ironic and bought it just to mock such an audacious statement? Either way, the sale of the shirt had to make someone wonder.
Sophia Bush really stepped up to become an advocate for getting the shirt pulled and boycotting the store in general. “You should issue a public apology and make a hefty donation to a women’s organization that supports those stricken with eating disorders,” she suggested. I have to agree with her on that, but she didn’t stop there. She created a shirt stating that “0 is not a size.” You can see the shirt here. While I can appreciate her wanting to stand up for those girls, I don’t necessarily agree with the statement. Growing up, I was very slim and often wore a size 0. I didn’t have an eating disorder, I was just naturally skinny. I know that she isn’t targeting those of us who had no choice but to wear such a size, but it could still make some waves. If I were her, maybe I would have phrased it differently to make it clear that she was standing up for girls with eating disorders and not attacking clothing sizes.
Even though this particular incident took place almost 4 years ago, it is still a hot button issue. I’d love to hear your thoughts as readers. Would you stand by Sophia and boycott Urban Outfitters? Do you see the irony in the shirt? Would you have bought it? Leave a comment and let me know!