Urban Outfitters’ ‘Eat Less’ Shirt Perpetuates Idea That Thin is In

When I got an e-mail from Urban Outfitters yesterday, I didn’t bother to open it. I was still turned off by an Urban Outfitters shirt that my friend brought to my attention earlier this week. The shirt says “Eat Less” and is modeled by a skinny girl who looks like she could stand to eat more.

The Huffington Post reported Thursday that Urban Outfitters has since pulled the shirt from its website. Phew. It’s still being sold in some stores, though. The shirt is almost as bad as the ones that tout Kate Moss’ pro-ana saying: “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.”

One of my friends said the “Eat Less” shirt is mocking skinny hipsters and isn’t meant to be taken literally. Even if that is the case, the shirt still sends the wrong message. Impressionable young girls already have enough places to go for “thinspiration“; they don’t need a shirt to reinforce what they’re already telling themselves to do every day. Eat less and you’ll be skinnier, prettier and more popular with the guys. Eat less and you’ll feel better about yourself. Eat less and you’ll be the envy of all the girls.

Yes, too many Americans are obese, but that doesn’t mean large retailers should market apparel that oversimplifies the issue or makes people feel even more paranoid about their looks. Some girls who have experienced eating issues and seen the shirt agree. In response to a “Deal Divas” blog post about the shirt, a commentor named Kate wrote:

“When I saw this linked on Tumblr, it really cut me pretty deep. I love Urban Outfitters, and it really disturbed me to see a store I like reinforce my bad habits. I mean, it’s not just offensive to overweight people, but people like me who are on the verge (or deep in the middle) of an eating disorder? I’m having a hard enough time trying to convince myself that yes, it IS okay to eat!”

No doubt, the shirt could be offensive to people of all shapes and sizes. Urban Outfitters has some cute clothes and accessories, and I occasionally buy merchandise from there. But for now I’m turned off by the store and the message it’s sending. It’s safe to say I don’t plan to buy the store’s clothes, or heed its unsolicited nutritional advice, anytime soon.

Published by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

Mallary is a mom of two young kiddos -- Madelyn and Tucker. Mallary absolutely loves being a mom and often writes about the need to find harmony when juggling motherhood and work. Mallary is the Assistant Director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin, where she manages the Center's various programs related to distance learning, freedom of expression, and digital journalism. Previously, she was Executive Director of Images & Voices of Hope and Managing Editor of The Poynter Institute’s media news site, Poynter.org. Mallary grew up outside of Boston and graduated from Providence College in Rhode Island. In 2015, she received a certificate in nonprofit management from Duke University. She now lives in beautiful Austin, Texas, with her kids, husband Troy and cat Clara. She's working on a memoir, slowly but surely. You can reach her at mjtenore@gmail.com.

2 thoughts on “Urban Outfitters’ ‘Eat Less’ Shirt Perpetuates Idea That Thin is In

  1. Thanks for posting this! I can’t believe that in today’s society where models are starting to look slightly healthier (at least in my opinion) and companies make a little more effort with their model choices that a store would come out with a shirt with such a slogan. I generally love Urban Outfitter’s clothing but I might think twice next time I go out to shop. It might be intended for mockery but the shirt is just plain inappropriate and sends the wrong message to women and girls who are already overly body-conscious.

  2. What was Urban Outfitter’s thinking? I work in a OB\GYN office. Part of my job is to release medical information to fertility centers. Some of these woman are very under weight, and suffer from eating disorders. Many women just want to be happy, and like what they see in the mirror. It’s all about eating in moderation and fueling our bodies, so we can acheive our goals in life. Women have enough to think about, they don’t need others thinking for them.

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