Why Forever 21 May Be in Trouble With the U.S. Army

Is this T-shirt dress disrespectful to the military? (Photo: Forever 21)
Is this T-shirt dress disrespectful to the military? (Photo: Forever 21)

A controversial dress sold at Forever 21 is being called “disrespectful” and even potentially illegal.

The ripped gray T-shirt dress that reads “ARMY” is a replica of the shirts worn by servicemen and -women during physical training. It ranges from $24 to $28 and is sold in conventional sizes (currently sold out) with a hood and long sleeves, and plus sizes, which have short sleeves. The dresses, which have a knifelike slash down the back, are part of a military line that also includes camo-print overalls and jumpsuits.

The problem: Some say the shirtdress is disrespectful to the men and women who serve their country, while others claim the price is a plain ripoff.

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“Why is this a fashion statement?” one commenter asked on the blog Army Wife 101. “One of the most disrespectful things I see is people wearing our uniform improperly as part of fashion, whether it be PTs or any piece of the combat uniform. These uniforms symbolize so much more than a look. Very disappointing.”

Another wrote, “Forever 21 has lost my business. As a retired veteran, I find this disrespectful. This is something earned, not something to be sold as a fashion trend.”

Blog the Fashion Law even questioned whether the Army shirts are a trademark infringement, given the military’s intellectual property rights to camouflage prints and related slogans.

Photo: Forever 21
Photo: Forever 21

In 2016, Kylie Jenner was also on the receiving end of criticism when she wore a shirtdress by V2 Bentley that bore the word “Army.”

Forever 21 is regularly in the hot seat, it seems — most recently in March, when two customers in Modesto, Calif., drew attention to a graphic T-shirt that featured lightning bolts and the number 88, which they claimed resembled a code phrase used by white supremacists that stood for “Heil Hitler” (H is the eighth letter in the alphabet). The women also said the lightning bolts represented the SS, a military organization under Adolf Hitler.

What’s more, Forever 21 has been accused of copying other designers. In June, it ignited controversy after releasing a T-shirt that was a bit too similar to Kanye West’s “Life of Pablo” tour merchandise. And in March, a Texas-based creative director called for people to boycott the brand after discovering that a Forever 21 bralette resembled his clothing and featured the same phrase he used on his own designs: “Do Not Touch.”

Yahoo Style could not reach a representative at Forever 21 for comment.

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