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Let me preface this article by letting you know that I am an orthodox Jew. Like, legit. I keep the holy Sabbath (don’t be callin’ me on a Saturday cause I be PRAYING AND EATING), I dress within the modesty laws of my religion, I cover my hair every day, I only eat kosher food and I am a real tight-ass with my money (lols just jokes, make it rain).
This morning my boss sends me an article with the subject line “Does this offend you?” I click through to discover that H&M is selling a scarf that looks a lot like a Tallis – a Jewish prayer shawl – and people on the interwebs are NOT HAPPY. Not only are they not happy, they’re offended. Dun, dun, dunnnnn.
Now, first, I should probably let you know that I actually already knew this scarf existed because I saw something on my extremely Jewy Facebook timeline last night about how “Lol this looks like a Tallis” and because I work in fashion I was like, “Welcome to 2016, where literally everything with stripes looks like a Tallis” and kept on my aimless scrolling.
As I read through the article I saw the tweets:
Dear Fashion: what if you used your creativity to, like, create something entirely new, instead of jacking ppl's holy stuff? #JustAThought— Rav Danya Ruttenberg (@TheRaDR) January 6, 2016
Oh, and this really opinionated guy…
Does anyone remember that scene in The Devil Wears Prada where Anne Hathaway is like “I dunno it’s blue” (don’t quote me) and Meryl Streep comes back at her with this whole long hoo-haa about how that blue started on the runways of Paris before Anne even knew it existed, which kick started a trend in high fashion which was then eventually picked up by the mainstream and eventually trickled into our department stores and eventually landed in the sale bin at Kmart? Well, just so you know, that is exactly how fashion works. Actually that whole monologue was probably the only realistic reflection of the fashion magazine industry in that whole movie.
High end designers are inspired by many things. They are inspired by cultures, by religions, by cities and by artists, amongst other things. They send their inspired collections down the runway, giving a detailed explanation as to why they’ve made what they’ve made and from where their ideas are birthed and eventually brought to life. Most people don’t see the runway shows, nor do they care for their interpretation. That is, until it is “mainstreamed” and altered enough that the general consumer will approve of it. It’s like how my mum used to tell me that city kids think that milk comes from a carton when really it comes from a cow. Most people think that clothes are designed by places like H&M and Zara, when really they were the brainchild of someone like Karl Lagerfeld or Olivier Rousteing about 3 or 4 seasons ago.
Stripes aren’t exactly a new trend. They’re a classic. They roll around every single year, usually with a new twist or an updated look, but at the end of the day, they’re still just stripes. Blue uneven stripes on white or beige backgrounds have been “in fashion” for about 18 months now, maybe more. And H&M is NOT the first person to make an item of clothing that looks like a Jewish prayer shawl. Here are some other things I found online that remind me of our traditional garb…
Are we seriously going to restrict design freedoms and creative licence because we’re offended that someone has been inspired by our heritage? To be honest, I don’t think ANY of these things, including the scarf in question, were inspired by our heritage. Let’s call a spade a spade shall we? It’s a beige scarf with navy stripes. Nothing more, nothing less. If we’re going to go down that dark road, we may as well ban all prints of Buddha on T-Shirts and maybe lets also throw bindis to the flames. And hey, don’t you even think about wearing a scarf wrapped around your head cause that is NOT COOL (I’m being sarcastic. Wear headscarfs. They’re awesome.)
Sure, there are some things that are out of line. Like that Zara t-shirt which resembled a concentration camp uniform. But that was a blatantly obvious reference, not a blasé geometric design and popular colour combination.
Enough with the political correctness, already. I am an orthodox Jew. Does this scarf offend me? Not at all. What offends me is that people think it’s their right, nay, their responsibility, to stand up for something that literally means nothing, subsequently forcing people to apologize for things they needn’t be sorry about.
"We are truly sorry if we have offended anyone with this piece," an H&M spokesperson told Seventeen.com in a statement. "Everyone is welcome at H&M and we never take a religious or political stand. Stripes is one of the trends for this season and something we were inspired by. Our intension was never to upset anyone."
No, H&M, I’M sorry.
To my non-Jewish peers and colleagues who think that speaking out against this scarf is helping our cause, please don’t. You’re just feeding the brainless trolls.
And to my fellow members of the tribe, don’t we have bigger gefilte fish to fry? Like, say, anti-Semites and neo-Nazis and perfecting the size and consistency of our matzo balls?
That’s what I thought.
The reactions shocked me.
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