Are Oakley's "Asian fit" sunglasses offensive or simply a case of a company filling a market need? A recent article from Quartz titled "Why Oakley's 'Asian Fit' aren't racist, just science" aims to put the long-running debate to rest.
The line of shades, designed to sit higher on the face, have been around for years. And with a name like "Asian fit," one might think that people would be up in arms. But the product hasn't sparked much outrage.
Why did Oakley design an entire line of glasses for the Asian market? Quartz writer Matt Phillips spoke with Mark Hubbe, assistant professor of anthropology at Ohio State University. Hubbe focuses on craniofacial differences among human populations.
Hubbe told Phillips, "Asian individuals tend to have more of a flatter face with the cheek bones very projected compared to the typical European." That's something Oakley and other glasses manufacturers, including TC Charton, have built businesses around.
Via Oakley's official site:
Getting the right fit is essential for comfort, protection, and even optical performance. You may have heard industry terms like “European Fit” and “Asian Fit”. If sunglasses tend to sit too low on your face or slide down your nose, touch at your temples or cheeks, or feel narrow at the sides of your head, try our Asian Fit. The tabs below show all the technology we put into making these frames fit with perfection.
A scan of blogs and Twitter posts suggests that few are bothered by the concept. A blogger from Lovelyish writes, "initially, I was a little offended, because the implications of making an Asian Fit mean that the 'normal' fit would be Caucasian, and once again heteronormativity is portrayed as a white male, while everyone else is labeled as 'other.' Or in other words, everyone who is not white is seen as a freak (Am I reading too deep? Perhaps, but if you get offended and can’t realize why, it probably boils down to something along these lines.)."
If people are upset it appears to be due to the name, not the concept. That's something that Oakley has struggled with, according to a 2008 article from W Magazine.
But the decision to go with the Asian-fit name hasn’t been without controversy. According to Wade Cleveland, the firm’s eyewear business unit manager, Oakley has received several complaints about the moniker, primarily via customer letters. “A long time ago we tried to use the term ‘alternative fit,’ and that turned out to be worse,” he says.
Still, a scan of Twitter indicates a collection of grateful customers.
— Francie Diep (@franciediep) June 27, 2013
— APRIL WILKNER (@APRILWILKNER) October 11, 2013
Is the name of the product offensive? Does it need to be changed? Or is this all much ado about nothing? Please leave a comment below.