Jack Mendel
The Online Editor at the Jewish News

Offended by a scarf? Stop getting tangled up in your own moralising

You don’t need to be an avid reader of Vogue to know what happened in the fashion world over the last week.

Major high-street retailer H&M was forced to issue a public apology after it put some stripes on a scarf, inspired by a Jewish prayer shawl: a tallit.


Everyone seems to be offended , all the time, at everything, so let’s not start having imaginary offence.

Offence is brought on by insult.

One can understand why it is tasteless when shops have products which mock or ridicule.

I have seen Stars of David with skulls and blood, tops with flashes akin to the Nazi SS, and that look like concentration camp pyjamas.

Generally, when people have complained, major retailers have apologised and removed the product, as it is offensive to some people.

But for this to be really offensive, someone has to find it so.

The few sensitive souls that did, and I mean very few, from trawling through Twitter, seem to be getting tangled up in their own moralising.

One said “Dear fashion. Please step off other people’s ritual items.”

Another said H&M were doing it because “being Jewy was so fleek”.

Whatever that means.

People were on the whole joking about the scarf, though. Some were even disappointed it had been removed.

H&M said “we are truly sorry if we have offended anyone”.

The reality is, cultural appropriation of practices and symbols is not off limits. It happens all the time, and if it didn’t, everyone would be walking around in grey T-shirts (providing it doesn’t offend anyone).

H&M say: ““Our intention was never to upset anyone”, which on the whole it didn’t. “Stripes is one of the trends for this season and we’ve been inspired by this”, which is good. Jewish practice is inspiring, even if it is for just a scarf.

Here are some of the responses Jewish News received:



You see, most think it was a positive thing.

A major clothes store adapted a piece of Jewish culture, tradition and ritual, and marketed it as fashionable.

I know I’d prefer that, to Nazi-chic.

If it’s offensive to inspire, then we live in a warped world.

H&M should have stuck to their guns. It was tasteful and respectful.

If they liked the patterns on a Tallit, and Jews on the whole didn’t mind it, then it’s totally theirs.

About the Author
Jack Mendel is the Online Editor at the Jewish News.
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