Abercrombie & Fitch Asian T-Shirts Trigger Boycott
Shirts Depict Stereotypes Of Asians
Posted: 9:45 a.m. PDT April 18, 2002
Updated: 3:38 p.m. PDT April 18, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO -- A new line of T-shirts depicting stereotypes of Asians has triggered an e-mail and phone campaign to boycott clothier Abercrombie & Fitch.

One of the Ohio-based company's T-shirts reads "Wong Brothers Laundry Service -- Two Wongs Can Make It White" and shows two smiling men with slanted eyes wearing conical hats.

Abercrombie said the shirts were supposed to be funny and cater to Asian customers. The company said it will pull the shirts from the company's 311 stores in 50 states.

"We personally thought Asians would love this T-shirt," said Hampton Carney, a spokesman for the company.

"We're very, very, very sorry," Carney said. "It's never been our intention to offend anyone."

The T-shirts prompted a late-night meeting of Stanford University students Wednesday. The Asian American Students' Association encouraged calls to the company, and said Abercrombie & Fitch should apologize.

"It's really misleading as to what Asian people are," said Michael Chang, vice chairman of the student organization. "The stereotypes they depict are more than a century old. You're seeing laundry service. You're seeing basically an entire religion and philosophy being trivialized."

One shirt features a smiling Buddha figure with the slogan "Abercrombie and Fitch Buddha Bash -- Get Your Buddha on the Floor." Another shirt reads "Wok-N-Bowl -- Let the Good Times Roll -- Chinese Food & Bowling."

Carney said the company received about 60 phone calls Wednesday about the shirts. Employees received a memo Thursday morning to pull the T-shirts in question from the shelves, according to April Balunas, Abercrombie & Fitch manager in San Diego.

Abercrombie makes fun of everyone, Carney said, noting the company's previous clothing designs have included foreign waitresses, taxi drivers and Britons.

The company's advertising campaigns have come under fire before. Last year, women's organizations and conservative politicians rallied against the company for its ads featuring young, barely clad models in sexually suggestive poses.

Still, some were not bothered by the new T-shirts.

"I don't know why anyone should be angry or upset," Lisa Tan, 20, told the San Jose Mercury News. Tan stood in line with her cousin, Stephanie Wu, both Chinese Americans, to buy a blouse. "It's a fun shirt."

Copyright 2002 by TheSanDiegoChannel.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.