Zara's 'Holocaust uniform' and other clothing errors

Magazine Monitor
A collection of cultural artefacts

Image source, Zara

It was meant to be a Wild West-inspired T-shirt for children, but to some people a children's top by Zara looked like an eerie reminder of the prison clothing victims of the Holocaust wore. How do clothes brands get some things so wrong, asks Chris Stokel-Walker.

Zara's blue-and-white striped shirt was designed for toddlers up to three years old and featured raking buttons on the left shoulder - with a six-pointed gold badge.

Zoom into the photo and you see the badge says "sheriff". But at the standard resolution on an online catalogue, social media users spotted it looked like the kind of yellow stars Jews in Nazi-occupied territory were forced to wear. Combined with the stripes - reminiscent of prison camp garb - and the Holocaust link was clear.

Zara has apologised repeatedly to Twitter users. "The item in question has now been removed from sale. The garment was inspired by the classic Western films, but we now recognise that the design could be seen as insensitive and apologise sincerely for any offence caused to our customers," the company says.

Offence was surely not intended, but it's not the first time the fashion chain has sold questionable merchandise. In 2007 it withdrew a handbag featuring a green embroidered swastika inside a red sun.

Zara, owned by the Spanish clothing giant Inditex, is not the only fashion seller to get things wrong. Two years ago Urban Outfitters published a prototype version of a T-shirt for sale on its website. The yellow T-shirt with a similar six-pointed star also drew attention for its resemblance to a Star of David.

Footwear brands have offended on a number of occasions. Umbro apologised in 2002 for naming a shoe Zyklon, the gas used in concentration camps. Adidas said sorry for a trainer that featured shackles reminiscent of those used on slaves. And Nike admitted a mistake in naming a pair of trainers Black and Tans to commemorate St Patrick's Day. They had not appreciated the link with the British force of that name deployed to Ireland after World War One which had a reputation for brutality against civilians.

Mark Gardner of the Community Security Trust, a Jewish community group that records incidents of anti-Semitism, isn't enormously impressed by the latest gaffe. "Whatever Zara's intention, many people will be really shocked that this could ever have made it past the design stage," he says.

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