H&M’s Hoodie Controversy


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“Coolest Monkey In The Jungle” Hoodie

Bita Zadeh, Photojournalist


H&M is under fire after putting a product photo featuring a little black boy in a hoodie with the world’s “coolest monkey in the jungle” printed on the front. The hoodie may seem innocent on its own, but when a photograph of a young black model wearing it was posted, accusations of racism began to swirl. The hoodie sparked a huge backlash with social media causing many shoppers to vow to never shop at its stores and call for an investigation. H&M apologized for the hoodie and said that the image would be removed. As of Monday, January 8th, the hoodie is still available on its website, but the model’s image was taken down.


The Weeknd, who has been starring in campaigns for the company since 2017, said that he would no longer be working with H&M after discovering what they had done. “Woke up this morning shocked and embarrassed by this photo. I’m deeply offended and will not be working with @hm anymore,” the singer tweeted on Monday. G-Eazy has also followed The Weeknd’s lead and ended his partnership with H&M after discovering the controversial advertisement. “Over the past months I was genuinely excited about launching my upcoming line and collaboration with H&M,” wrote the rapper on social media, along with an image replacing the original message with “coolest king of the world.” “Unfortunately, after seeing the disturbing image yesterday, my excitement over our global campaign quickly evaporated, and I’ve decided at this time our partnership needs to end. Whether an oblivious oversight or not, it’s truly sad and disturbing that in 2018, something so racially and culturally insensitive could pass by the eyes of so many (stylist, photographer, creative and marketing teams) and be deemed acceptable.”


With plenty of people still very upset, the musician Chris Classic decided to alter the photo of the young boy (Liam) into something much more powerful, creating a piece of art that showed Liam in the green hoodie with a crown instead of the original slogan. “I made this because I don’t wanna see this young king’s face anymore with the shirt he was hired to wear by H&M,” Classic wrote on Instagram. “I just hope he gets to see this one or any like it that celebrate him.” Other people such as Diddy, T.I. and LeBron James shared similar images on their social media accounts.


Amid all of the outrage, people wanted to know what Liam’s own family thought about the image. In comments on the Facebook page of Liam’s mother, Terry Mango, it appeared she didn’t agree with the outrage. “I am the mum and this is one of hundreds of outfits my son has modeled,” Mango wrote. “Stop crying wolf all the time, unnecessary issue here… get over it.”

In another comment, she wrote, “If I bought that jumper and put it on him and posted it on my pages, would that make me racist? I get [people’s] opinion, but they are not mine.” People at YLHS seem to have the same stance on the topic. “Honestly I think it was made into a bigger deal than it should’ve been because when I saw it first I didn’t think of that,” says Amanda Perez (11) when asked about her opinion. Cheryl Pham (11) thinks that “It’s dumb that people rioted by knocking stuff over because the employees are teens and they are the ones who have to clean it up and they have nothing to do with it. Knocking stuff over and trashing the store does not affect the executives who made the decision to approve the shirt”.


Over the weekend, this controversy finally caused real damage. In South Africa, a group of protesters known as the Economic Freedom Fighters protested and damaged several H&M stores. This involved pushing down mannequins and displays, and in at least one store, shooting rubber bullets.


What will be interesting to see is how long this controversy continues on. With the way the world is today, it could all but disappear tomorrow. Yet with many twists and turns, it seems this particular controversy’s roots may run deeper than a simple mistake.