Urban Outfitters ‘Eat Less’ t-shirt: are you offended?

Earlier this month, Urban Outfitters were forced to remove a t-shirt bearing the slogan “Eat Less” from their website (although according to some reports, the shirt is still being sold in-store), after complaints that the message was pro-anorexia, and therefore offensive. We guess the fact that the model wearing it definitely doesn’t need to “eat less” didn’t help matters there…

IS it offensive, though? After all, it seems to be perfectly acceptable these days to tell thin people they “need to eat a sandwich” and obesity is a huge (pardon the pun) issue too, so the counter-argument being made by those who don’t find the shirt in the least bit offensive, is that it’s simply a health message.

The fact that Urban Outfitters are hedging their bets by removing the shirt from the website but still selling it in store suggests they’re not quite sure where they stand on this issue (although, let’s face it, they’re no strangers to controversy either), and to be completely honest, neither are we. So we’re going to ask you to decide the matter for us, readers: is this shirt offensive? Tell us in the comments …

33 Comments

  • June 23, 2010

    Michellime

    I live in New Zealand, in the part of the country where obesity is the biggest issue. Perhaps there could have been a better choice of words, but K.I.S.S. (Keep it simple, stupid) is a very persuasive argument.
    I can see how the model wearing the shirt gives off the wrong image, but offense is a choice. Personally, I feel this message should be on billboards.

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  • June 23, 2010

    Roisin

    Well, I think that the gaunt and ill-looking model who is wearing the t-shirt makes the picture a bit offensive, but I don’t think the t-shirt is by itself. My issue is that while ‘eat less’ is not an offensive message in itself (and it’s probably good advice for a number of people) putting it on a t-shirt is a bit inappropriate. Like, who is going to wear this t-shirt? And who is going to look at it and think ‘you know what? That’s darned good advice, I’m going to follow that!’ – it’s just not an appropriate or helpful thing to put on an item of clothing.

    I don’t know if I’d argue that it’s pro-anorexia, but the fact that the t-shirt is for sale in urban outfitters (which is not a store that particularly caters for anyone even remotely plus size) leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It’s smug and I don’t like it.
    .-= Roisin´s last blog ..Regret for the past is a waste of spirit. =-.

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  • June 23, 2010

    Cookie

    Hmm, the only thing I find offensive is the way that shirt looks, not what it has written on it. 😉

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  • June 23, 2010

    EricB

    The message on the shirt will be a problem for any man who wants to take her out for dinner.

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    • July 16, 2010

      Mel

      That shirt is something I would wear. I found it a bit humourous, and I know my humour can be a bit black and backward but I still like the shirt.
      I don’t find it offensive at all and I think it would only be offensive if I wore it, went up to an obese person and pointed at it, saying “read the shirt, fatty”.
      wearing it would be an individual’s choice too, and people often to choose to wear things ironically. fashion is art and you should not censor art.

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  • June 23, 2010

    Rock Hyrax

    Given that obesity seems to be caused more by the type of food many people eat (combined with what they drink), “eat less” could not be construed as advice for a healthy lifestyle. (Would there be an “obesity epidemic” if it were cheaper to fill your face with salad than dodgy burgers?)

    As such, I believe it is pro-anorexic, and it is hard to imagine it being targetted at any group other than women who may already be in danger of suffering from this illness.

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    • June 23, 2010

      Amee

      Exactly. It’s not how much people are eating, it’s what they are eating. This shirt is offensive, and Urban Outfitters shouldn’t try so hard to be so “edgy”.”Edgy” people do not shop at Urban Outfitters.

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      • June 24, 2010

        ay0x

        Oh come on. You could have a Big Mac Meal, and as long as you didn’t over do it on anything, you wouldn’t gain weight or exceed your daily calorie limit.

        Eating too much of ANYTHING (except green vegetables), including fruit, high carb veggies (potatos, corn, carrots), legumes, wholegrains… will make somebody gain weight.

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  • June 23, 2010

    Moni

    I, too, am confused as to who is supposed to wear these shirts.

    Very thin people would give off the message of being anorexic and proud of it.
    Normally built people would seem cocky and self-righteous.
    Overweight people would appear to be hypocrites.

    So any way you look at it it seems wrong.

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  • June 23, 2010

    naomi

    IMO, this comes off offensive
    The message itself is not terrible, many people, especially in the first world could really stand to eat less instead of super sizing everything
    BUT…given it is on a t-shirt with no context other than a very thin model wearing it Urban Outfitters comes across as another instance of the fashion/retail industry promoting thin as the only acceptable body type
    I truly could see anorexia or other E.D. sufferers purchasing this shirt as a “badge of honor” or “inside joke” or even as a “note to self” type of thing
    Also, if a friend was wearing it, tell me anyone who looked at it on them wouldn’t wonder if it was a dig at their body type

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  • June 23, 2010

    Laura

    When I first looked at this, I interpreted it as an environmental message. As in “Eat less, don’t waste food”, not “Eat less, try to get skinny”. Maybe I just have the environment on the brain.

    That’s definitely not the message most people would get though, and the shirt is ugly to boot, so I definitely wouldn’t wear it.

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  • June 23, 2010

    Lola

    I definitely think it’s inappropriate and irresponsible. Particularly as Urban Outfitters’ target audience (teenage/young adult girls) tend to be more likely to have eating disorders than other social groups. It’s probably intended as satire, but it’s extremely poorly executed.

    This top, and the one that said ‘Fathers, it’s up to you to protect your daughter’s virginity!’, is why I’ve really gone off Urban Outfitters.

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  • June 23, 2010

    Kookakicha

    I though I like Urban Outiftters stuff, this is offensive. And I’m betting it would be over 25$ for this simple t-shirt. Which is exaggerated.

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  • June 23, 2010

    thecatthatbit

    no, i dont think its offensive at all. people are so overly sensitive nowadays, anything can be interpreted as anythig if some fun killer wants it to be

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  • June 23, 2010

    thecatthatbit

    and like laura said i thought as well that it was to do with not destroying our planet and all

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  • June 23, 2010

    Sarah

    I personally don’t find it offensive (and I *am* overweight). I simply find it ugly and find Urban Outfitters overpriced for what they sell anyway.

    I can however understand how some people may find it offensive. While yes, I think the message is a good one (I absolutely know eating and drinking less unhealthy things would be good for me), their target market is already susceptible to peer pressure about staying thin, sometimes unhealthily. Plus, while people may be overly sensitive sometimes, a lot of people are also rude and mean, plain and simple. And I think this shirt could also be used to make people feel like crap instead of motivating them to eat more responsibly.

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  • June 23, 2010

    Margaret

    I think personal commentary on other people’s size or eating habits is offensive, no matter what their ‘problem’ is (too thin, too fat)

    It comes across as arrogant and intended to offend. Americans do tend to eat way too much of all the wrong stuff. Even skinny Americans. However some of us can eat less, exercise like maniacs, and still gain wait due to health problems. If someone complains to me about their eating habits or health and asks for advice, it might be socially appropriate to offer some advice based on knowledge or personal experience. Barring that, it’s rude.

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    • June 23, 2010

      The Fashion Police

      You’ve just said exactly what I was thinking about this, now that I’ve had time to think about it. I absolutely hate reading comments about people’s weight, whether it’s of the “too fat” or the “needs to eat a sandwich” variety: it’s almost always innapropriate, and yet people continue to think it’s acceptable. It doesn’t insult me, exactly, but I do find it incredibly rude.

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      • June 24, 2010

        MrsBossa

        Hear hear!
        They know the deal re eating disorders and how much attention is focused on what women weigh – to produce this tshirt knowing that is at worst offensive and at best REALLY tacky.

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  • June 24, 2010

    Emily

    hahaha, as a very skinny girl myself, one of those types that everyone hates for being able to eat what ever I like and as much as I like and just not put on a pound…, I find the T-shirt kinda funny…
    Myself, I don’t see the message refering to the wearer, but rather the person reading it 🙂

    So yes, I don’t think its offencive and I’m saddened I’d missed this post yesterday as I would have watched out for this tee in UO in Oxford St other wise.

    ^._.^

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    • June 24, 2010

      Andrea

      I don’t really understand your comment – since you’re thin and can eat anything you want and the message is targeted at the reader and not the wearer, it is not offensive to you? Okay, but what about the people around you (the readers)? Especially since you are really thin, I’m sure that if you wore that shirt, many people around you would be offended because they would think that you’re saying to them “Just eat less and you can be thin like me.” I understand the irony, since you are still thin, even when you DON’T eat less, but I don’t think an outsider would understand that. Someone who doesn’t know you would just think you’re looking down on heavier people.

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  • June 24, 2010

    Shannon

    Not only is it not offensive.
    But I really wish I had seen this while it was available.

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  • June 24, 2010

    Carrie

    If it said “eat more”, wouldn’t it be a cute slogan? Would some of the same people who find this offensive find that a witty commentary? Urban Outfitters breeds controversy in stupid things, like “ethnic” scarves and moronic slogan tees. I hate stuff like this causing controversy. Eat naturally! Live and let live! Siiiigh.

    Tangent: This really reminds me of nothing so much as a fitness video game (Wii Fit, I believe) in the States, based around balance more than anything else, drew flack for measuring young children as being overweight when they were not. If it had said that the same children were underweight, no one would make as much of a deal of it, even though the health issues of being underweight are just as significant, if not worse, than being overweight. Weight is TOO HEATED a topic.

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  • June 24, 2010

    Miranda

    It doesn’t say “Eat Less, Fatty”. However, it is not specific enough, thus it’s “broadness” makes it offensive.

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  • June 25, 2010

    TheAL

    I think people, especially young girls have enough issues with their body image to be adding to it. It’s not the right way to get the message across. I think “Eat Healthy” or “Be Healthy” would have been much better. It’s positive and somehow feels more attainable.

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  • June 26, 2010

    Romanticide

    For some reason I cannot help but think they wanted to make interesting an otherwise boring shirt. Color is boring, how it hangs on the body is boring even the model looks bored. The slogan doesn’t make it make it witty it just make it look tacky.

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  • June 28, 2010

    maddie

    the shirt doesn’t exactly do the model any favors. She sorta look pregnant with that skirt shoved under neath it.

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  • June 28, 2010

    Rachel

    I think it’s funny!

    It could be against bigger people, like “hey look at me, I’m thin, be like me, eat less.”
    Or it could be making fun of the ‘thinner is better’, skin and bones “look”. [I personally feel like it’s more so this than anything else!]
    As someone else also said, it could be about not wasting food, or eating in smaller portions, as we all know many of us don’t.

    With all of the stuff out there now-a-days, I think people should chill out. This really isn’t hurting anybody… It’s up to you as to whether you take it serious or not, and are hurt/offended/persuaded by it.

    The only real problem I see here, is that the shirt is kind of plain, boring and I don’t like the style lol.

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  • June 29, 2010

    Sophie

    Im quite chunky myself.

    My self confidence is very low.

    If i saw someone wearing this shirt, I would probably think theyre not a nice person.
    ide want to hide aswell.

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  • June 29, 2010

    k

    I’m not offended by the shirt, just worried.
    The picture of the model wearing the shirt says it all….America is obsessed with body weight.

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  • August 11, 2010

    Allison

    I’m not offended by this shirt, simply because people have the right to wear whatever they desire. But this demonstrates the unhealthy relationship with food we have developed as a culture. It isn’t about how much you eat (still, moderation please!) but what you eat. Listen to your hunger cues and eat what tastes and feels good!

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  • September 4, 2010

    linda

    In of itself the slogan isn’t offensive, but speaking through the viewpoint of someone with low self esteem, whether heavy or thin it does nothing to help one’s feelings of self confidence and acceptance of their own body shape.

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  • November 6, 2010

    Martha

    What I would like to say here is that people of all shapes and sizes can have eating disorders. There are a lot of people here saying that ‘obese’ people need to learn to eat less, but did anybody ever wonder what led to that obesity? Poor metabolism – leading to weight gain, caused by not eating regularly is one factor. The other is binge eating due to the body craving food after starvation, all caused by people thinking they have to eat less to lose weight. I really dont believe people gain weight because they are greedy and lazy, and I think it is so sad that there is this misconception in our society. Did anyone ever realize that the obesity problem heightened when the emphasis on dieting and eating less heightened? Don’t you see the correlation? As humans we have natural instincts to eat when hungry and stop when full, but distorted messages and unnecessary emphasis on thinness has caused so many of us to over-ride this by thinking we should ‘eat less’ – leading to starvation, guilt, binge eating, overly controlled eating – whatever it may be. I think it is a very good thing that this t-shirt got taken off the market. We need to learn that obesity, just like anorexia, just like bulimia is caused by mental issues that are heightened and triggered by messages like this one. Our values need to change – this type of thing is becoming far too acceptable and normal. Eating disorders kill people – both skinny, fat and of average weight.

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