Does Urban Outfitters Want Women to be Skinnier?

Urban Outfitters’ latest gasp-inducing product is a form-fitting v-neck tee that screams “Eat Less” across the front. It’s another example of clothing corporations trying to be hip and edgy without realizing the influence their clothing has on impressionable young girls, especially when it comes to body image. [Note: As of 10:55pm PDT, the shirt photo did not appear on the Urban Outfitters web site, but the page was still posted. Does this mean Urban Outfitters just did this as a publicity stunt? –Editor]

What is Urban Outfitters trying to say? Eat less to look like this model? Skinniness is cool? If you want to buy our clothes, you should really consider slimming down?

The clothing industry already promotes sometimes-unattainable body images, what with skinny runway models and size 00 clothing. Now those messages are blazoned across a $30 t-shirt. What happens when this girl sees this shirt or when her friends wear it at school? What happens when she puts it on? Urban Outfitters promotes itself as being a cutting-edge store breaking the molds of other big, traditional clothing retailers. But Urban Outfitters needs to be aware of the influence they have on youth.

Just as American Apparel, in the name of edgy fashion, overly sexualizes their models, Urban Outfitters has had its share of controversies. Along a similar “pro-ana” vein, as some bloggers are saying, pop-culture blogger Perez Hilton was under fire just days ago for promoting a t-shirt that read, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.”

In a Huffington Post poll, a little over half of readers actually say the t-shirt is tasteful. Some commenters claim a shirt is just a shirt, and that if anything, the t-shirt is meant to comment on our country’s over-consumption and obesity issues. But that totally negates the millions of people who suffer from equally destructive body image diseases that focus on thinness as an ideal. Urban Outfitters must realize that promoting eating disorders is not hip. It is not hip to under-eat and it is not hip to be malnourished. There’s hardly a doubt that simply seeing this t-shirt on a thin model will cause some young girls to equate eating less and being skinny to being hip, leading to major emotional and physical problems.

A note to Urban Outfitters: There’s edgy, and then there’s disrespect for the dread and self consciousness millions of girls feel every day, merely by thinking about entering your dressing room.

About-Face readers: What do you think? Can a t-shirt be just a t-shirt? Do you think Urban Outfitters intentionally means to promote losing weight by unhealthy means? How do you feel that stores like American Apparel and Urban Outfitters equate being skinny with being hip? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

And contact Urban Outfitters to let them know what you think about their t-shirt.


5 thoughts on “Does Urban Outfitters Want Women to be Skinnier?

  1. You know, my shirts always say something. My favourite says “Let’s have cupcakes!” My pj’s say “I understand, I just don’t care” (at five-thirty in the morning, when I’m up making lunches before I’ve had coffee, this is true).

    That said, I don’t think Urban Outfitters means to promote anything except themselves. If they can tag onto all the other media currently promoting the ‘lose weight’ theme, they will. Perhaps they’re hoping their shirts will next be worn by Biggest Loser contestants. Who knows?

  2. I used to shop at UO and receive their email updates but I got tired of seeing malnourished models (both women and men) in my inbox every week. This shirt may be a PR stunt but I think it’s indicative of UO overall marketing strategy – skinny, bedraggled and looking like you got dressed in the dark is cool. The models look like they are on drugs or dehydrated, they all have dark circles under their eyes, limp postures and sad expressions – it looks painful to wear UO clothes.

    Of they are equating skinny (and perpetually malaised) with being cool, but they are doing that because this is the overall attitude of their market segment. However they are also fueling this perspective and not just mirroring, it’s a two-way road. They are creating the wants and responding to them at the same time, so it’s up to both sides to change their attitudes.

  3. Tali:
    most of their models i’m sure are not malnourished.
    i myself am 5’6 and 94 lbs, i’ve always been thin and eat healthy! this is the case for MANY models, many people are born with high metabolisms.. you shouldn’t judge before you know a person.

  4. @CAT-

    And it’s girls like YOU, with smug attitudes like THAT, who make every girl who doesn’t possess your miracle metabolism believe there’s something wrong with them.

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