The Truth About H&M’s Monkey Business and Why H&M Will Remain in My Wardrobe

WHY YOU ACTING LIKE AN UNCLE TOM? I can already hear the peanut gallery clamoring as they read the title. Save the slander because, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

Yes, I had to throw in the most meme-able statement from Sweet Brown’s hysterical YouTube video gone viral. Just as the aforementioned video is silly and outrageous, the same can be said for a calculated and stupid move by creative directors, designers and the like gracing the headquarters of H&M.

Unless you live in an uninhabited earth-scorched community like Will Smith in I Am Legend or you selectively ignore what’s going on around you, then there’s a good chance you’ve heard about the controversy surrounding H&M.

If not, a black boy sporting a hoodie with despicable text was featured in an advertisement on their website a few days ago: The “despicable text” read as follows: “COOLEST MONKEY IN THE JUNGLE.” Pump the brakes. This ad, obviously tasteless and highly offensive, was one of the worst advertisements I’ve seen in quite some time. Not only did the hoodie have this defamatory text plastered across it, but the person inside the hoodie just-so-happened to be an African-American child! Womp, womp…womp.

Lashing out from this tasteless and insensitive advertisement was seen on many platforms, most notably on Twitter. And as you can imagine, people were disgusted by this terrible move on behalf of H&M.

This checkerboard move is just another example of the implicit and explicit forms of racism African-Americans and minorities face in the Divided States of America United States of America each and every single day.

Although this huge mishap was made by H&M, I don’t believe it is a representation of the entire H&M brand. I think it speaks to a collective group of people, namely creative directors, designers and executives who clearly lack social and cultural cues altogether and simply dropped the ball.

I firmly believe they knew what they were doing and understood the repercussions. This is not 1850, where the standard means to communicate and engage in dialogue was purely face-to-face. THIS IS THE YEAR 2018. FOR GOD’S SAKE WE’RE ON THE CUSP OF RIDING IN SELF-DRIVING VEHICLES. Information is being consumed by people at the highest clip EVER. Movements, rallies and protests surrounding racial and social injustices flood the internet daily. So I better not hear ANYONE from the business segments who worked on unveiling this product say something along the lines of “I didn’t know/We didn’t think/That wasn’t our intent.” My intelligence will not be insulted. Not today. Not ever.

What’s the solution?

Instead of making cliché excuses and dropping bad PR jargon, let’s engage in one of many solutions for H&M. Try hiring more diverse individuals within your workplace and breed a culture that persuades people to create with an open, but conscious and socially aware mindset. I guarantee you if there was a minority in any of the meetings surrounding this product, discontent would have ensued. Or so I would hope.

Here’s another simple solution for people currently working in core business segments of H&M (think marketing, business development, advertising, etc): use common sense.

“Thanks for shopping at H&M. Your order is being shipped!”

Although I wholeheartedly disagree with the message and advertisement, I won’t stop shopping at H&M. Do I sound like a hypocrite after preaching to the choir? Maybe. But I would be even more of a hypocrite if I pick and choose when I want to associate myself with a brand.

One of the reasons I will continue shopping at H&M is because I do not believe this mishap is a representation of the entire H&M brand. I think this boils down to a collective group of individuals who made a costly mistake and will leave people scratching their head for quite some time.

If the founders of H&M were fully behind this concept (and at this moment I will assume they weren’t) and proceeded with this roll out with no hard feelings, I might have to take a huge step back. Because then I would start to ponder if this sentiment plagues H&M as a whole.

Even if I hypothetically stopped shopping at H&M for a few weeks, I would eventually find myself back in the store or shopping online at some point. I guess my ability to forgive and forget would rise to the occasion.

Another reason I won’t stop shopping at H&M is because I STILL support other retailers who have found themselves involved with some SHADY BUSINESS PRACTICES – most notably Nike and Apple. And last time I checked at the gym I was wearing Nike shoes, socks, and shorts, and when I finished working out I glanced at my iPhone.

I don’t want to turn this article into a “he said she said,” but there have been multiple reports in the past of the exploitation of workers in sweatshops associated with Nike. In addition, there are numerous accounts of workers in China committing suicide outside of factories that produce iPhones. I’ll let you do your own research.

So I would be a true hypocrite if I were to not buy H&M’s products anymore, yet still buy Nike and Apple products. Yes, I only gave two examples, but the point still stands. In fact, countless other companies allegedly dabble in unethical business practices – that has not stopped us from shopping and supporting these brands. Just because we don’t see exploitation first hand when we’re gazing on our latest Apple product or appreciating some fresh Nike Air Force Ones we just bought doesn’t mean we should believe the exploitation is nonexistent.

Unveiling this product and subsequent advertisement was flat out wrong. That’s not up for debate. What is up for debate is what’s next for H&M as they combat this controversy associated with their brand. I didn’t cut ties with H&M like The Weeknd who found the advertisement highly offensive. Is his position of power and influence a catalyst for his decision-making? Absolutely.

Nonetheless, I can’t flex. You will see me in their stores in the future and hear about me shopping on their website for some new gear. You have the right to be outraged by what occurred earlier this week. But just like the controversy Pepsi, Dove and Nivea found themselves in last year after tasteless and offensive advertisements outraged the Internet – this too shall pass.

Peace, love and style.

Update: Rapper G-Eazy also ended his partnership with H&M after this article was published. H&M also issued an apology which can be found here.

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2 Replies to “The Truth About H&M’s Monkey Business and Why H&M Will Remain in My Wardrobe”

  1. Good piece. I think the solution part of this issue was a nice touch, as it adds an application aspect to your story. I agree this would not have happened if there was someone who identifies as a minority in the room. I do have one point of differentiation from your story. I don’t think they realized that they were being culturally insensitive. I honestly believe they thought it was the right move and did not even recognize the backlash they received. If we find out they did it on purpose, that is when I would stop wearing their clothing. Nonetheless, good piece and way to write about fashion in relation to societal issues and everyday life.

    James Price says:
    1. Thanks for the comment! Yeah, without a doubt if the makeup of the people working on the project looked “different” the outcome would’ve been different! and i think it is interesting you dont think they were being culturally insensitive. that definitely remains to be seen. one thing for sure – those approval processes about to get even more corporate-y lmao thanks for checking it out! much appreciated brother man

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