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.

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