H&M Pulls Offensive Star of David Shirt from Stores Worldwide

Beth Greenfield, Shine Staff

Swedish clothing retailer H&M has apologized for selling a shirt perceived to be anti-Semitic and is removing it from its racks after an outcry on social media.

The tank top, which sold in stores around the globe for about $14, featured a graphic of a creepy skull on a red-and-black Jewish star. Eylon Aslan-Levy, a master of philosophy student at the University of Cambridge, first noticed the shirt and posted a photo of it to Twitter on Sunday, noting, “Why is H&M selling a vest with a skull emblazoned over a Star of David? Email Customerservice.UK@hm.com to complain.” That sparked an avalanche of outraged replies and, apparently, enough complaints to persuade H&M to capitulate.

“We are truly sorry if we have offended anyone with the print on this t-shirt, this was of course never our intention. We have unfortunately failed in our routines and have therefore decided to immediately remove the T-shirt from all stores,” a company spokesperson told Yahoo Shine Friday. In response to specific queries regarding who designed the shirt and how many stores had been carrying it, a spokesperson replied in an email that said: “These questions are very important to us and we continuously discuss this internally. We fully understand the feedback that has been given to us and we are very sorry if we have upset anyone.”

It’s not the first apology H&M has issued. In 2012, the company came under fire from the Swedish Cancer Society for featuring an overly bronzed model in its swimsuit ads; it quickly said sorry and that it had “taken note of the views and will continue to discuss this internally ahead of future campaigns.” The retailer is also not alone in making apologies, as other retailers including Urban Outfitters, Target and Hollister have recently found themselves under fire (sometimes repeatedly) for upsetting the public with everything from over-altered model images to offensive T-shirt slogans.

This time around, reaction was swift, with H&M apologizing to various media outlets by Wednesday. Earlier in the week, Mark Gardner, director of communications at anti-Semitism watchdog Community Security Trust, told the Jewish Chronicle that fashion brands need to be more aware when choosing which religious-inspired prints to sell.

"The assumption is that the designer and H&M did not mean to offend Jews," he said. "Nevertheless, fashion statements can work in diverse ways and if you randomly saw somebody wearing this in the street, then you might well believe it to be anti-Semitic and purchased from a neo-Nazi website or similar. It is for H&M to decide if they care about such things, but would they risk such reactions with a Christian crucifix or a Muslim crescent?" Stay tuned, because if the past is any indicator, we may very well get to find out.