Gucci has issued an apology for a $890 sweater that some said was racially offensive and looked like blackface. The luxury brand said in a statement that it had already removed the “balaclava sweater” from all of its online and physical stores and apologized for any offense the sweater had caused. The statement came after an outcry and accusations of racism, with some people calling the sweater a “blackface sweater.” Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Black Sweater Covered the Wearer’s Lower Face & Had a Mouth Cut-Out With Big Red Lips
Gucci has pulled its black balaclva sweater from stores and from its online catalog. The sweater, a knit black turtleneck, covered the lower half of the wearer’s face and included a cut-out for the mouth. That cut-out was surrounded by thick red lips. Many social media users said that the sweater, when worn, resembled blackface. Others referred to the turtleneck as a “Jim Crow sweater,” a reference to the institutionalized segregation and racism in the American south.
In an online statement, Gucci wrote, “We consider diversity to be a fundamental value to be fully upheld, respected, and at the forefront of every decision we make. We are fully committed to increasing diversity throughout our organization and turning this incident into a powerful learning moment for the Gucci team and beyond.”
2. Some Say the Balaclava Sweater Is ‘Just a Ski Sweater’ & Shouldn’t Be Seen as Offensive
Many social media users said they were offended by the balaclava sweater — but others seemed surprised by all the uproar. Some people pointed out that the new Gucci collection also includes all-white ski masks with blue cut-outs for eyes and red cut-outs for mouths; they questioned whether Gucci’s black sweater is in fact racist and suggested that it’s just one more item that fits in with Gucci’s ski-wear theme.
One user wrote, “Maybe I am naive, but black is a basic color in fashion, and it looks like it could be a ski sweater. If it also came in white, would it send the same message? Does this Gucci mask from same collection imply racism?”
3. Some Social Media Users Said They Were Especially Offended Because the Sweater Was Released During Black History Month
Many social media users have pointed out that Gucci’s controversial sweater was introduced at the beginning of Black History month. Many people pointed out that the sweater was released at the same time as several Virginia politicians are embroiled in a scandal about wearing blackface; one woman wrote, “We have ONE month to celebrate the history of African Americans. Feb. 2019: Multiple accounts of politicians wearing blackface. And now news Gucci was selling a $890 blackface sweater. We are a nation desperately in need of diversity training.” Another Twitter user wrote, “2019 February black history antics starting . Virginia administration blackface allegations now Gucci with looks like sweater resembles blackface i think were missing the point of Black History Month.”
Some people wondered how the sweater made it through multiple levels of inspection to be released during Black History month; one person wrote, “So this $900 sweater would have had to go through multiple teams at each level – no one stopped it AND it’s released on #BlackHistoryMonth ? This is no accident. This is bs unacceptable racism that was condoned at every level of @gucci”
4. Adidas Recently Pulled Its All-White ‘Uncaged’ Sneaker from Shelves
Sporting goods giant Adidas recently issued an apology for a sneaker which had been released for Black History month. The all-white sneaker, an UltraBoost model, was called “Uncaged” and had been included in the company’s Black History Month collection. After receiving online criticism, Adidas pulled the shoe from its shelves and issued an apology, writing,
“Adidas released a new collection in celebration of Black History Month featuring designs inspired by the Harlem Renaissance. It includes footwear and apparel across a variety of categories. Toward the latter stages of the design process, we added a running shoe to the collection that we later felt did not reflect the spirit or philosophy of how adidas believes we should recognize and honor Black History Month. After careful consideration, we have decided to withdraw the product from the collection.”
5. Virginia’s Governor & Attorney General Have Recently Admitted They Wore Blackface When Young
Virginia’s Attorney General, Mark Herring, said earlier this week that he once wore blackface to a party when he was in college. The announcement comes as the governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam, faces calls to resign over a racist photo from his medical school year book page. The photo featured two people standing side by side: one is wearing a Klansman’s hood, and the other is wearing blackface. Northam says that he is not one of the people in the photograph. But he told reporters that he once “darkened” his face and dressed up like Michael Jackson as part of a dance contest.
After a meeting with the legislative black caucus on Wednesday morning, Herring issued a statement admitting that he and some of his college friends “put on wigs and dark make up” and dressed up as their favorite rappers when they went to a party. Herring says he was nineteen years old at the time and stressed that he feels deep shame and regret about his actions.