Dear Urban Outfitters: Why So Super Infuriating?

Darlings, Urban Outfitters is at it again with some truly awesome clothing faux pas. This time they featured a cropped tee with the word “depression” all over it, which is described on the website as “Super depressing tee from Depression topped with an allover logo graphic.” Another particularly disgusting product from Urban was a tee that said “Eat Less” on the front, and appears to have been removed from their website. Whenever I see products like these shirts from Urban Outfitters, my brain is immediately inundated by a wide variety of thoughts and emotions, and thus figured that it might be worth everyone’s time to spell some of those out.

One of the first and most obvious is incredulity that at some point in the review process of the products, no one said, “Hey, that’s actually really offensive and we might get some unwanted backlash for selling it.” I mean, seriously?

Now let’s talk about why, on so many levels, the “super-depressing tee” is super out of line. Looking at the numbers (as of October 2012), the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that about 350 million people are affected by depression. Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, can be a chronic condition, and is categorized as mild, moderate, or severe. Depression is a complex disease and can severely impact every facet of an individual’s health. At its worst, depression can lead the sufferer to attempt suicide, and an estimated one million suicide deaths per year are attributed to depression. These are absolutely staggering statistics. In light of the numbers, the depression tee is not only completely out of line, but I would also go as far to say that it is highly offensive and makes light of a serious problem.

As someone that has struggled with serious chronic depression, I frankly get pissed off. Would someone wear the same sort of tee but with the words “heart disease” or “cancer” on it? I certainly hope not. It is never acceptable to make a clothing item that pokes fun at a crippling and deadly disease—regardless of its location in the body. Just because one cannot see the depression on my body or with an X-ray does not mean that it does not exist, and does not mean that it’s any less serious. I would love to have the designers of that shirt walk for a day in my shoes when I am struggling against a depression relapse. Let me tell you, the brain fog, emotional apathy, crying, self-harm, suicidal ideation, and overall dysfunction (to name a few) are really sexy. So bravo for stamping that across a shirt like it’s freaking rhinestones.

The “Eat Less” shirt reminds me of several other shirts and quotes floating around that attempt to make light the serious problem of eating disorders. For example, the infamous quote by Kate Moss, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels,” and which provided ample fodder for thinspiration sites (the topic of which is another post for another time). Or the shirt that any individual can wear with “I beat anorexia” stamped across the front of it, but which is most frequently worn by overweight males as a “joke” (just look at me laugh). Let me stop you right there—I SERIOUSLY doubt that anyone who has actually struggled with anorexia is going to wear a shirt advertising it. I might be wrong, but I don’t think so. Moving along. I also am reasonably sure that the shirt is not saying “eat less” in terms of overweight or obese individuals who are working on healthy weight loss, where they will frequently hear the mantra, “Eat less, move more!” Again, I could be wrong, but I doubt it. I am of the opinion that the shirt is encouraging women to eat less, whether you need to or not, and not for the right reasons. Eat less so you can look like airbrushed models. Eat less so that men will find you attractive. Eat less so you can look good in a bathing suit. Eat less so that you can feel in control. Eat less because there’s an obesity epidemic going on that you need to avoid. Eat less because people with anorexia are so attractive. Just eat less, and you’ll find a reason for it eventually.

Reality check from someone who is working on recovery from anorexia. Like depression, anorexia nervosa (and every other eating disorder) is a severe mental illness. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, either from physical complications from the disorder, substance abuse, or suicide. In addition, the effects of anorexia that often require hospitalization are anything but attractive, to name a few:

  • Early-onset osteoporosis (reduction of bone density; dry, brittle bones)—I’ve known girls who are diagnosed with it at the age of 18 or 19 years.
  • Heart problems—when the body has no fuel, it will essentially cannibalize its own muscle for energy. Also, as starvation continues the heart rate and blood pressure continue to drop, putting the individual at increased risk for a heart attack. At one point my heart rate was around 40–45 beats per minute and I had to get an ECG and cardiac ultrasound to make sure prolonged starvation hadn’t damaged my heart.
  • Lanugo—growth a fine downy layer of hair all over the body in an attempt to keep the body warm
  • Major organ failure—heart, liver, kidneys, etc.
  • Brain shrinkage—which I’m sure really helps with the rampant cognitive distortions…

All of that to say, the shirts that Urban Outfitters produced that ridicule depression and eating disorders are anything but trendy. I also think that they perpetuate stigma surrounding mental illnesses, which is already brutal enough without clothing graphics dumping it on everyone. Mental illnesses are serious global issues and these shirts simply come across as petty, tactless, and lacking education on what the words actually mean. In case you couldn’t guess, I certainly won’t be shopping at Urban Outfitters ever again. Keep it classy, darlings.

Let Urban Outfitters know what you think by tweeting them at: @UrbanOutfitters

See Also
family having dinner together

If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Collage photos from Urban Outfitters.

View Comments (2)
  • Great piece!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am done with Urban Outfitters forever unless they issue an apology and give away a certain percentage of their profits to help women with eating disorders and other mental-health issues.

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