Shirtstorm: A Tempest In A Science Lab?

Many years from now (or knowing how the internet works, maybe tomorrow) the time we are presently living in will naturally acquire a moniker. I propose: “The era of the Global Attire Apology.” Lately it seems that sartorially speaking, we are a culture of extremes that just can’t be pleased. No matter how ill advised an item of clothing or an entire outfit may be, should we be shamed into apologizing for it?

My first case in point would have to be the aptly named “Shirtstorm” brought on by one particularly clueless British physicist, Dr. Matt Taylor. This no doubt brilliant, yet tatted-up-with-sleeves-and- thigh design-of-the-Rosetta-mission, man managed to engineer the comet landing of the Philae space probe but couldn’t figure out that a bowling shirt printed with voluptuous scantily clad women toting space guns (even though it was made and gifted to him by a female friend) might send the wrong message to those on earth, particularly the increasingly verbal Gamergate and Tumblr feminists who are, shall we say, “having a moment.”

After the outcry reached a critical mass and basically overshadowed the scientific achievement, Dr. Taylor decided to make an apology on a Google hangout where he cried and called the wearing of the “offensive” shirt a “big mistake.” And what was he wearing for that appearance? He took one out of the “Mark Zuckerberg Normcore Uniform” playbook and wore what I’d like to call, the “hoodie of shame” although it had the Rosetta logo on it making it completely appropriate. See Video click here to play In an interesting twist of further “misogyny,” a similar shirt known as “Gunner Girls” with the same fabric as the objectionable one, quickly sold out online and has been placed on an eight week reorder. See website here.

Dr. Taylor has been accused of promulgating the “good old boys” network of science or STEM, however it doesn’t seem to have phased his female colleagues at the ESA (European Space Agency) who probably just know him as a quirky guy perhaps along the lines of Doc Brown in “Back To The Future,” who wore Hawaiian shirts. Otherwise it seems likely that one of these women (or even a slightly media savvy male) might have suggested he “rethink his wardrobe” especially for an important TV appearance, much like Julia Roberts as mini skirted Erin Brockovich was told to do when she joined a law firm and needed to be taken seriously. (Of course, she wasn’t having it and retorted that her boss might want to “rethink” his ties and that as long as she had “one ass instead of two” she would continue to wear what she wanted).

Urban Outfitters Kent State Sweatshirt

Other recent apologies have come from several mass market clothing chains who either employ morons or sick jokesters. Examples of these are the Urban Outfitters Kent State red tie-dyed sweatshirt which resembled a bloodied mess reminiscent of the shootings there in the ’70s and a Zara’s children’s striped shirt emblazoned with a large yellow star recalling a holocaust prisoners uniform. Both companies apologized once outed for any “unintended similarities” to that which they were compared and quickly withdrew the errant items. In an apparent attempt for a quick laugh which was supposed to be renamed before going live online, Walmart had to eat crow for featuring a line of plus-size Halloween offerings as “Fat Girl Costumes.”

Katy Perry

Then there are the “cultural appropriations,” those who don an outfit indigenous to another culture than their own ie. Katy Perry in Geisha clothing for her performance of “Unconditionally” at last year’s American Music Awards which was termed “racist.” It’s ironic that Madonna did that many decades ago and it was just called art or a tribute. Similarly, Selena Gomez took heat for wearing a sparkly bindi (a Hindu religious ornament) during a performance of “Come and Get It” during the MTV Movie Awards, also last year. To my knowledge, neither of these performers ever addressed the backlash and I don’t think they should as it seems clear that these performances were both beautiful and done in a spirit of honoring the cultures that they were accused of “appropriating.” Is it too farfetched to think that a woman wearing a fabric with an animal print will soon be accused of “species appropriation”?

I suggest that the logical conclusion is that we all start apologizing for everything we’ve ever worn that could be construed as offensive, off-color, insensitive, tacky or just butt-ugly. I’m sure that there are plenty of bad prom dresses, leisure suits, bell bottoms, “obscene” fish ties–hell, how about any of the fashions from the entire ’80s, that we should be doing penance for. A friendly reminder: brace yourselves for those soon-to-be trotted out abysmal yet campy, hideously ugly Christmas sweaters that someone should be atoning for.

Roselyn Sanchez

On the other hand, I wonder what it says about those who leave off an article of clothing particularly undergarments, as well as donning entirely sheer dresses (Rihanna at the CFDA Awards, Roselyn Sanchez at the Latin Grammys, Kim Kardashian just about every day) that they never feel contrite. This is the last offshoot of the “wardrobe malfunction” as demonstrated by Janet Jackson who may or may not have meant to expose her breast to the entire Super Bowl audience, thereby coining the term and the 5 second broadcasting delay (which will most likely be deployed during Iggy Azalea and J-Lo’s “Booty” performance this Sunday at the AMA’s).

J.Lo and Iggy Azalea

Once we went down that slippery slope it seems not a day goes by that some actress/singer can’t keep her breasts under wraps or her privates private. They are allowed to show or celebrate the female form whereas it’s termed as sexism if a man does it. The fact that they are unrepentant attention whores certainly gets the “haters gonna hate” juices flowing and inspires yet a different type of ire. Where’s that spare hoodie when you need it?

Laurel Marcus

OG journo major who thought Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style" was a fashion guide. Desktop comedienne -- the world of fashion gives me no shortage of material.

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