Hollister Stupidly Promotes Disastrous "Thigh Gap", Then Takes It Back

Editor’s Note: As readers pointed out, an earlier version of this story came across as slightly negative towards thin bodies and may have even been – unintentionally, of course – a little mean. It’s important to us to be a supportive, safe community that’s inclusive and positive about all shapes and sizes, so we’ve edited the piece to convey just that. Thank you to our readers for being so honest and engaged with HelloGiggles. We love you all.

After Target’s major fail with their badly Photoshopped teen model who looked more like a Sims character than a human being, you would think other companies would be more careful about what kind of message they aim to send to their target market (um, do I win the pun game yet?). Apparently, Hollister hasn’t learned much. Several days ago, the clothing company (whose parent company is the infamous Abercrombie & Fitch) uploaded a photo of a girl modeling one of their new spring dresses, but quickly deleted it, due to a high volume of backlash. 

The photo would be fine – after all, who wouldn’t want to spend a day at the beach in a pretty overall dress? – if it weren’t for the obvious message this photo is sending. It’s unclear whether Hollister Photoshopped the image, if the girl has health problems or is just naturally thin, but the fact that they chose someone with extremely thin legs is a problem. There’s nothing wrong with being naturally very thin, of course, but there are already too many advertisements that tell girls it’s not okay to be over a size 2 and market the “thigh gap” as a desirable trait.

I honestly thought clothing companies were progressing and celebrating diverse bodies. Brands like Modcloth, H&M, Forever 21 and Aerie showcase their clothing collections by using models of all shapes and sizes.




It’s super disappointing to see Hollister, a brand which is already under fire because of its anti-plus size CEO, Mike Jeffries, falling into this pattern. In 2006, Jeffries told Salon, “In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.” The brand didn’t carry XL or XXL sizes and marketed their clothing to size zero customers.

Luckily, Hollister took the photo down after an avalanche of negative feedback and criticism:

“it freaked me out when I saw it lol it’s gross!” -@danica2013

“@HollisterCo ewwwwwwwwwwwww” -@hootsforseutts

“Advertising Anorexia mmm?” -@greenpesto1 

It’s a shame that Hollister needed the Internet to scold it for poorly-made marketing choices, since we’re clearly headed in a direction that encourages and accepts all body types. After the ordeal, a spokesperson for Hollister stated, “Leading a healthy and active lifestyle is a core part of our brand and company culture. We think these are qualities that appeal to our customer base. Because the photo may not have been consistent with this message, we have removed it.”

To me, this is a psuedo-apology. Basically, they are saying “We think skinny and ‘fit’ people should wear our clothes –we maybe went too far with this photo, but you get the idea!” It is Hollister’s past comments about its culture that made this new campaign so damaging. Context is everything, and Hollister’s big picture was not a pretty one not because of the model herself (who we do not know and would never want to judge), but because her selection furthers the company’s drive to promote the idea that coolness = thinness.

Did Hollister learn from their mistake? I hope so. They certainly witnessed the disgust and anger from their “customer base” and as they say, the customer is always right.

Featured image via, other images via, via, via

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003982820905 Emily Reese

    It’s important that people are accepting of all kinds of body types, though. This girl may or may not have anorexia, but I know a lot of people who are her size (or even smaller) who definitely do not have an eating disorder. Some people are naturally thinner than others. I think that it’s important to embrace all body types, big, small, and everything in between. Sometimes the way people talk it’s like they are almost criticizing some people for being thin, when they are that way and try to gain weight or whatever. Hollister should not be promoting a girl with an eating disorder though, if that’s the case. There is nothing beautiful about being sick and by advertising people like that, it shows other girls that it’s okay to skip meals so you look thin. I don’t agree at all with promoting eating disorders or models with them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001400742506 Neely O’Hara

    Why is she unhealthy? Because her thighs aren’t thick? Ive been seeing a whole bunch of anti thin backlash, this article is not pc at all, a body type should not be excluded in marketing because you personally find it offensive. Its just as bad as saying, ew that girls thighs are so fat, she must have binge eating disorder!! How unhealthy. I think you should have addressed this in a more professional manner, because the point is completely lost when its so offensive.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=97000187 Elizabeth Smith

    So I’m totally in favor of models of all sizes advertising for clothing companies but here’s my issue with the comments in the article regarding the woman’s legs: I know plenty of women who eat everything in sight but due to high metabolism can’t gain wait and instead are stuck with what you refer go as “emaciated legs” and would give anything for curves. The thing about this whole debate on a woman’s self image (and a man’s) is that its never going to end until we can truly celebrate all figures from women who can’t gain weight and are “too skinny” to women who are “full figured” and everything in between.

    • Micaela Kauffman

      As someone who can never find pants or boots that fit right because my legs are twiggy, THANK YOU.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1495170146 Caitlin Rumler

    What offends me about this is not that girl’s thigh gap, but peoples’ reactions to it. The girl in the Target ad was obviously butchered by photoshop. This girl is probably just little. I understand that you’d like to see all kinds of different girls in these ads; I would too. But making fun of this girl does absolutely nothing to help that. I’m really disappointed that you used peoples’ tweets who used the words “ewwwww” “gross” and – SHOCKER – “anorexia” to help your article. Tearing down one girl does nothing to help another girl. It is never, EVER okay to say that about someone. And it’s not okay for you to support it. As far as I’m concerned, the internet wasn’t scolding Holister. It was scolding that girl in the photo. Shame on all of you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1372980050 Ashley Fox

    While I completely support the array of bodies that are now being used in advertising (because that reflects the real world beautifully), I think claiming that the model may have ‘health problems’ if that is her without photoshop is definitely the wrong thing to say. It’s not right to assume that she looks like she does because she is sick, she may be completely healthy – as it would be just as wrong to say that a plus size model was unhealthy because she is larger. Let’s just support and celebrate all types and sizes of bodys rather than putting down one in support of another.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=572605102 Vikki Kate

    i get all of this and for the most part agree, but i can’t help but feel bad for the girl in question and other girls who are talked about like their mannequins and not even real people. we don’t know this person, she could very well be naturally that shape, people are, and i think to refer to her as emaciated and especially “abnormal” is not setting a good example in promoting an equal love and acceptance for all body types,. no i don’t think any brand should be “promoting skinny” but that’s about the company not about the women themselves. i just think maybe we should stop and remember that these girls have feelings and maybe our language choices could be a lot more sensitive to that when writing about these issues.

  • Gina Vaynshteyn

    Hey guys, I really apologize for sounding like I’m size zero/thin shaming. I’m not trying to. A woman can absolutely be a size zero and healthy. The point I’m trying to make is the fact that Hollister is using this model to suggest that her body is what every teen girl’s should look like, and if it doesn’t, then that body is “unhealthy,” “unfit” and not beautiful. THAT’s my problem with Hollister. I think Hollister exploited this young woman’s picture to represent THEIR ideals to impressionable young men and women. This is a company that does not support the variety of body types, and I find this problematic.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=796177706 Sara Roush

      That’s how I felt too when I saw it, Gina. Thanks for putting it so eloquently.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1548011455 Shar Rowell

    Why does it have to be photo shop or “health problems”? She can’t just be thin? I’m 32 years old, 5’1″, and I have a thigh gap. I look good in all my clothes. I eat foods I like and go to the gym less often than I like (umm never). It’s just how I’m built. If I was heavier, I doubt I’d have a thigh gap. But I’m not heavier. I don’t want to be heavier. I’m fine just the way I am. I enjoy eating and I enjoy wine and hell I even enjoy sweets. I will be damned if anyone ever looks at me and says “Ewww” or tells me I look “gross” because I’m thinner than average. That’s just not fair and that’s that sh!t I don’t like. We know jack about this model and what her body looks like in real life. Putting her down is bringing shame on her, who was probably ecstatic to be featured, and in the meantime, Hollister keeps doing the same sh!t over and over.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=16709191 Kinsey Cogburn

    This article is so disappointing. In focusing on the fact that a model with a considerable “thigh gap,” the author–and, apparently, many others–are failing to consider the fact that, in doing so, you’re alienating the girls who may actually posses this recently sought-after attribute. If we all truly welcomed the idea of young girls accepting their bodies as they are and advocate the celebration of all shapes and sizes, the author would stop for a moment to consider that there are thin girls out there who have body image issues, too. Not because they look in the mirror and want to be even thinner, but because they look in the mirror and want to gain weight. As a girl who’s been six feet tall since age 15, I wanted nothing more than boobs, a butt, and–dare I say–bigger thighs and calves. Fifteen-year-old me would have gladly handed over the “thigh gap” for a cup size increase. I played sports, ate like a horse, and maintained great health, but my genetic disposition refused to allow a booty. I hated it, and knew that guys did, too. The gap has since filled-in and I’ve eventually learned to embrace the overall thinness. However, one thing I don’t embrace: negativity regarding anyone’s body shape and size. Can no one else see the hypocrisy here? Bottom line: Let’s stop commenting on people’s bodies, period. I know it’s not okay to use the term “fat” as an adjective in a negative manner because it’s cruel…so, consider the inverse.
    Meanwhile, we can progress in our thinking, choose words with consideration, and leave the Hollister CEO–and his tanking company–behind. (Seriously. NYSE: ANF) Mike Jeffries: Regina George called about that opening for publicist. She thinks you’re a little mean.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=786337703 Joalena Moore

      Well-said, Kinsey! It is complete hypocrisy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1197663180 Traci Walters

    If you only meant to bash Hollister, why would you write that the model is either photo-shopped or has health problems. That’s making fun of a person regardless of how you defend it. Totally unacceptable. That poor girl who might see all this trash written about her.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=9303090 Nikki Salisbury

    Can you please explain to me how you defend your stance of “encouraging and accepting all body types” while in the same article you ridicule a girl for being thin? Is she not included in the “all body types?” At what sizes, small and large, do people stop being included in the “all” category and start being the sick, gross, and/or ugly categories?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1235441597 Krystal Tucker

    This article needs to be deleted. I feel like it goes against hellogiggles’ foundation of trying to keep a positive, friendly atmosphere. I 100% agree with the commenter below, and I feel so bad for the girl pictured above.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000610326346 Samantha Mason

    Not to take away from the meaning of the story but Mike Jeffries is the CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=10135202 Laura Elizabeth Donovan

    I’m with Gina on this. It’s a problem within the company and not at all an attack on the model.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=786337703 Joalena Moore

    Well, if you’re saying that model is sick because she is thin, then I MUST be anorexic, because I’m skinny and probably about the same size as that “unhealthy girl”. This article is offensive. Just because a person is thin does not mean that they have an eating disorder. I am so sick or the ignorance from people who make those type of comments. Who are you to say her legs are “abnormally thin”? Are you aware of the definition of the word….let’s see : “abnormal: not normal, average, typical, or usual; deviating from a standard.” So, while the author is spouting about encouraging all body-types, she is calling one body-type “abnormal”. Sounds pretty hypocritical to me. I am not advocating Hollister at all, but I think one should refrain from making such insensitive comments and assumptions about someone and their health or well-being when you really have no clue.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001031869107 LaTonya Roberts

    The average body type is………………drumroll please!……………….healthy and happy. If you’re too fat to get out of bed without EMT help, you don’t count. If you’re too skinny to get out of bed without rehab professionals, you don’t get to count either. That’s how I see it, but this is based off my idea that healthy and happy people can get up and do what they feel without their body taking a toll on them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=654909472 Melissa Gaggiano

    It’s not the girl per se being attacked. It’s the overall attitude of Hollister that is being called into question.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1422006876 Ann Ross

    This article is sickening and is illogical! They are not promoting how ALL women should look with the pictures and you have no reason to say this despite being overly sensitive and thinking you’re being discriminated against.

    Everything is NOT for everybody. Are those plus size campaigns unfairly discriminating against naturally thin women and pushing unrealistic standards on them or saying that everyone should look that way?

    Their clothes are targeted to women who are slender, slim and not fat and they are free to promote to any style of audience they wish.

    Also, lots of women have thigh gaps and can get them in a natural way through diet and exercise. You might want to look up a little best selling book (http://www.thighgaphack.com) and read it for some research the next time you want to put down women with thin thighs

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=504004790 Amanda Adamson

    The thing most of the negative comments about this article seem to miss is that the author said we don’t know if the girl was photoshopped, has health issues, OR IS JUST NATURALLY THIN. Seems everyone missed that last part and just jumped all over the health issues or photoshop part of that comment. I agree, Hollister has made it very clear that they WANT to only promote super skinny. Anything other than super skinny is “Uncool or unpoplular”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000901934306 Elba Demko

    I think too that so many models have come out and said that the modeling business is basically starving yourself, smoking and eating air that we automatically think all models this skinny are sick. Is it fair? Probably not. I highly doubt with so many exposes and stories written about the modeling business that most of these are not starving themselves to fit into the “model” mode. How many designers have said time and time again that a “sample” size is a size 0??? It certainly does not seem like they are “sampling” real world girls and women. I’m sorry, but this look is overall sickly and disgusting. And you do not have to agree with me, but it is my opinion.

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