Controversy surrounds popular retailer after it rips off, rips up Army PT shirts

Popular retailer Forever 21 is making waves in the military community for marketing torn, defaced Army PT shirts as trendy.

Some are even calling the move disrespectful and disgraceful.

Various popular military sites shared and received comments from military personnel and military spouses who share varying opinions on the shirts.

According to Army Wife 101, another point of contention is the price tag, which ranges anywhere from $15-$40. Some military spouses were less mad and more inclined to take their spouse’s old PT’s and start their own tee shirt making businesses.

While many brands seem to have an obsession with military related pieces, this one seemed to rub some the wrong way.

The ripped gray T-shirt dress that reads “ARMY” is a replica of the shirts worn by servicemen and women during physical training. It is sold in conventional sizes (currently sold out) with a hood and long sleeves, and plus sizes, which have short sleeves. The dresses, which have a knifelike slash down the back, are part of a military line that also includes camo-print overalls and jumpsuits.

Yahoo says people believe the shirtdress is disrespectful to the men and women who serve the United States, while others claim the price is a plain rip-off.

Truth be told, those in the military community aren’t too pleased.

“Why is this a fashion statement?” one commenter asked on Army Wife 101. “One of the most disrespectful things I see is people wearing our uniform improperly as part of fashion, whether it be PTs or any piece of the combat uniform. These uniforms symbolize so much more than a look. Very disappointing.”

While the discussion surrounding the line mostly centers on appearance, Forever 21 may also be infringing on copyright law.

Yahoo reports The Fashion Law blog is questioning whether Forever 21’s replica Army shirts are a trademark infringement, given the military’s intellectual property rights to camouflage prints and related slogans. The blog also notes in 2014, Pentagon’s trademark attorneys were sending out cease-and-desist letters to protect their brands. The Army maintains a trademark for the word “Army” in connection with “men’s, women’s and children’s clothing,” the blog says.

Forever 21 is no stranger to controversy or infringement allegations.

Yahoo reports in June ‘16, the company ignited controversy after releasing a T-shirt that was a bit too similar to Kanye West’s “Life of Pablo” tour merchandise. Then in March, a Texas-based creative director called for people to boycott the brand after discovering that a Forever 21 bralette resembled his clothing and featured the same phrase he used on his own designs: “Do Not Touch.”

Whether or not Forever 21 will face retribution from the Army is unclear. What is clear is most agree the fashion line is … out of line.

“Forever 21 has lost my business,” a commenter writes on Army Wife 101. As a retired veteran I find this disrespectful. This is something earned not something to be sold as a fashion trend.”

Popular Military has reached out to Forever 21 for an interview, but has not received any response to our request.

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  • Jim Verchio is a staff writer for Popular Military. As a retired Air Force Public Affairs craftsman, Jim has served at all levels. From staff writer to Editor-In-Chief, he has more than 30 years experience covering military topics in print and broadcast from the CONUS to Afghanistan. He is also a two time recipient of the DoD’s prestigious Thomas Jefferson Award for journalism excellence.

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