Let’s examine a hypothetical situation, shall we?
For the purposes of our story, let’s imagine a retailer. It has a storied history of selling overpriced, mass-produced clothing for young adults. Because it is not known for being inexpensive, it must ruthlessly maintain an image of being cooler than all the other fast-fashion retailers. This consists of partnerships with artists and designers looking to make a quick buck by slumming, and oftentimes generating outrage by selling clothing that is offensive as it attempts to remain edgy.
Sometimes, this means appropriating the name of a minority group to sell panties. Other times, it means selling products that are at best dunderheaded appropriations of clothing items from other cultures or an unfortunate arrangement and placement of “patchwork and geometric patterns.” At worst, the retailer steals ideas and designs from the independent artists who are arguably cooler than this hypothetical retail behemoth. In each case, the retailer apologizes for its poor taste after dozens of shocked media outlets call for comment.
So when this hypothetical retail store elects to sell an article of clothing that is, at best, a very inappropriate placement of “holes… from natural wear and fray” on a shirt referencing the location of a massacre on peaceful protesters 44 years prior, who would be surprised? Why would we breathlessly scorn this retailer for its poor choice of color and complete lack of respect for American history, spilling barrels of ink to in the rush to be the first to condemn this theoretical idiocy?
I’d like to think, in this entirely hypothetical situation, we’d raise our collective eyebrow. Instead of rushing to tweet our outrage, we’d explain to our kids why a blood red sweatshirt with the name of that particular location is a reminder of a hideous event in American history that should not be repeated—especially as we, as a nation, continue to grapple with how to handle peaceful protest without resorting to violence against our own citizens. We’d see this naked grab for headlines and outrage for what it is; an attempt to appear ballsy and antiestablishment for kids who are too young to know that actual rebels don’t buy pre-distressed shirts at the mall.
Good thing this is all hypothetical.