A Company Just Put This Black Model in the Worst Possible Shirt

February 10th 2016

Aron Macarow

File this under 'What were they thinking?' — online retailer ASOS failed to recognize that having a black man model a t-shirt emblazoned with the word "slave" might be construed as racist. In a marketing oversight, the Wasted Heroes brand t-shirt was posted to their website's marketplace.

The internet rightfully blew up, and the photo was quickly removed from the online store after being roundly criticized on Twitter:

When asked about the misstep, ASOS took no responsibility, placing the blame on the manufacturer. Responding to the outcry, a spokesperson for the company told Mic: "Marketplace is a collection of independent sellers [like Wasted Heroes] who must agree to our terms and conditions when they join. Whenever we find a product that violates our policies we remove it immediately."

ASOS also responded similarly on Twitter, deflecting angry followers to the manufacturer:

Meanwhile, the seller Wasted Heroes tweeted out a feeble apology, calling the decision "extremely stupid of us" while defending the shirt by suggesting shoppers had misinterpreted their product:

The t-shirt is still available on Wasted Heroes' site along with other slave-themed merchandise. Rather than physical models, the shirts now hang from a bar and chains.

Wasted Heroes slave shirts

This has happened before.

This isn't the first time that a retailer has been criticized on the internet for making poorly guided, culturally insensitive marketing decisions.

Spanish fashion retailer Zara was forced to remove a children's shirt that was reminiscent of concentration camp uniforms in 2014, and Adidas pulled a pair of trainers before they ever reached stores in 2012. Why? They included Velcro shackles to apply to the wearers' ankles, which some felt were too similar to those worn by slaves or prison inmates.

Unfortunately, ASOS has run into this issue before, receiving criticism for selling bindis in their site's Halloween section — a massive display of cultural appropriation — as recently as October 2015.