With the current season, stores are stocking their shelves with winter essentials, but one item stood out for its allegedly disrespectful nature. A scarf from H&M is getting flak on social media because it resembles a tallit, a traditional Jewish prayer shawl commonly worn in synagogues and temples. The Swedish fashion retailer had to apologize and say that it wasn’t the brand’s intention to offend anyone.
“We are truly sorry if we have offended anyone with this piece. Everyone is welcome at H&M and we never take a religious or political stand. Stripes are one of the trends for this season and something we were inspired by. Our intention was never to upset anyone.”
The H&M cream-colored shawl bears dark stripes and also includes knotted fringes that are reminiscent of the tallit’s “tzitzit.” The controversial shawl retails for $17.99. Some quipped if H&M may already be considered a cheap source of the prayer shawl. An online Jewish store retails a tallit for $79.99.
While H&M’s shawl remains in stock on the brand’s website, a spokesperson already told Independent that “the quantities were small and the products are no longer available in some markets.”
Several Twitter users reasoned that H&M’s choice to use a religious item as a fashion statement was distasteful.
— Gil (@GilAllcar) January 7, 2016
The Tallit is too holy to be copies as a casual or everyday fashion garment! https://t.co/jPmdHWUvll
— Yitzchak Strauss (@benbaruch3) January 7, 2016
— K.I.N.G. Chuck (@K1NGChuck) January 7, 2016
On the other hand, some urged people to “lighten up” and save their battles for more important matters.
I don't get the outrage over the H&M scarf. Some poor sod probably just thought stripes & tassels looked cool, and why not? WHO CARES?!
— joannavos (@joannavos) January 8, 2016
The H&M scarf looks like… a scarf! It's so offensive! How dare they make a scarf that's so scarfy??? #SJW
— Amkiram Moors (@Amkiram) January 8, 2016
This isn’t the first time that H&M has stepped on the toes of the religious community in an attempt to introduce a new fashion item. In 2014, H&M had to pull out a tank top design from its shelves that featured a superimposed skull over a Star of David.
The top triggered a social media firestorm when Israeli writer Eylon Aslan-Levy shared his sentiments in a blog post.
“I doubt that there were anti-Semitic intentions but there is no escaping that the juxtaposition of these two symbols is entirely inappropriate and offensive. The more I look at it, the more I am at a loss to explain how H&M commissioned or even approved this item.”
Mark Gardner, director of communications at the anti-Semitism board Community Security Trust, reminded fashion labels to be more careful when incorporating religious icons in their designs. He told The Jewish Chronicle that although H&M and its designer did not intend to offend the Jews, they could have exercised caution before releasing the tank tops.
“The assumption is that the designer and H&M did not mean to offend Jews. Nevertheless, fashion statements can work in diverse ways and if you randomly saw somebody wearing this in the street, then you might well believe it to be anti-Semitic and purchased from a neo-Nazi website or similar. It is for H&M to decide if they care about such things, but would they risk such reactions with a Christian crucifix or a Muslim crescent?”
H&M’s shawl carries a striking resemblance with the tallit, but interestingly, its matching poncho is not being targeted. The poncho also has fringes at the hem that complement the shawl’s design.
[Image via Adam Berry/Getty Images]