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

by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

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.