Opening Day of H&M New Orleans Flagship Store

Oh, come on. H&M has pulled a culturally insensitive garment off their racks following a backlash from offended customers. The shirt was a tank top with a Star of David–an important religious symbol for Jewish people–surrounding a skull. So that’s not great.

The Star of David certainly isn’t the first religious symbol to be seen in fashion–just think about how ubiquitous crosses have become. However, it’s not really the Star of David in use that makes this shirt awful–it’s the shirt’s resemblance to a certain anti-Semitic group’s iconography that pushes this into the realm of get-that-the-hell-off-the-shelves. As Mark Gardner, director of communications of Community Security Trust explained:

“If you randomly saw somebody wearing this in the street, then you might well believe it to be antisemitic and purchased from a neo-Nazi website or similar.”

I don’t personally find the use of a Star of David particularly offensive on its own, but the idea that H&M thought neo-Nazis were all the rage for Springtime is pretty upsetting. It’s significantly less palatable than the use of Nazi symbolism in the 70s punk scene used as shock value and not to espouse Nazi ideology. You know who espouses Nazi ideology? Neo-Nazis. That shit is real and still very much alive in this country (I was once on a subway car full of actual neo-Nazi convention attendees and it was one of the scariest experiences of my life, and not my only run in with neo-Nazis). Any one of them would have worn this shirt. I don’t want to see it on the shelves at H&M.

H&M pulled the shirt and issued a statement that didn’t pass the buck to an independent designer or deny wrong doing, exactly:

Please accept our most sincere apologies that this has caused offense. We understand the criticism and in response to this have decided to remove the T-shirt from all stores with immediate effect.

Saying something “caused offense” isn’t the same thing as owning up to unacceptable ignorance. So, again, not great.

I don’t think that this was Phase One of some secret anti-Semitic agenda, to be followed by a line of H&M green jackets with swastikas (talk about cultural appropriation) and SS embroidered on the sleeves. I believe they didn’t make the neo-Nazi connection, and thought it was some sort of edgy take on a religious symbol. But that doesn’t really exonerate them; they should have known better. This shouldn’t have happened in the first place.

Photo: Tyler Kaufman/Getty Images