*TBT Thoughts: Tommy Hilfiger

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In 1996, I heard that Tommy Hilfiger said that he didn’t make his clothes for black people. I admired Hilfiger’s clothing, but there was no way I was going to purchase another piece, if indeed, he was going around making racist comments.

So, I didn’t.

Four years later, Spike Lee’s satirical film, Bamboozled, criticized America’s race relations. In it, Lee also ridiculed America’s fascination with brand-named fashion and alluded to Hilfiger’s alleged racism, with a parody he called Timmy Hilnigger.

As an avid Spike Lee fan, I was amused. I thought it was clever, and I was happy to be on the “right” side of an issue. My position remained, and I didn’t buy any more Hilfiger clothing.

That is until Saturday, September 14, 2019.

On that weekend, I was looking for something appropriate to wear to a tea that I’d been invited to. The host was going to wear a dress, and according to Google, I should too. I ended up at TJ Maxx because I had no intention on spending a bunch of money on clothes I may or may not ever wear again.

img_1646After several minutes, I found a cute, classic navy blue and white dress. The only issue is it was by Tommy Hilfiger! Yes. Twenty-three years later, I was still holding out on my Hilfiger ban. But I tried it on anyway because like I said, it was cute.

It looked even more fabulous on, and I had no hesitation. I was buying this $40 dress, racist Hilfiger or not.

The next day, I showed Dwight, who also agreed it was nice.

“Too bad I’ll be wearing clothes by a racist,” I said. “I’m choosing to exert my willful ignorance for fashion.”

Dwight pushed back a little and wondered what Hilfiger had actually said decades ago. His point was nowadays, people take things out of context, so how did it come about that Hilfiger allegedly said he didn’t make clothes for black people?

Unlike 20 years ago, this time I could Google it. That’s when I found this: Did Oprah Winfrey Throw Tommy Hilfiger Off Her Show for Making a Racist Comment?

And this, Tommy Hilfiger Addresses those Racist Rumors from 1996 One More Time.  

And finally, this, The Racism Scandal that Rocked Tommy Hilfiger.

In case you don’t have time to read these, here’s what I found out. Tommy Hilfiger never said those words, ever.

<sigh>

This revelation is a little more than disturbing. I can’t imagine having built a company, with a primary goal of being the best in my field, having succeeded in that goal, and then having an untraceable rumor ruin my reputation and decrease sales.

What’s equally disturbing is how quickly we will stop supporting businesses with little to no facts. It’s called cancel culture. While I’m not opposed to boycotting businesses with verified questionable practices or opinions and morals not aligned with what I believe, I am opposed to canceling a company or brand simply because of a rumor.

After this incident, it’s clear that I have to do better. But I’m starting to believe we all do.

*And oh! Welcome to my new category…#TBT Thoughts 😉

54 thoughts on “*TBT Thoughts: Tommy Hilfiger

  1. Can’t believe it’s November I wanted to tell you how great you look in that dress but couldn’t find this post! Oh how time flies! This post really made me think about how the words of a public figure can be misconstrued. I read a statement that Tim Burton made about having people of color in his films that I initially interpreted as racist but after doing some research turns out he was just against tokenism. Can we trust ourselves to do the research or stick with knee jerk reactions? Glad I found this post! Always makes me think

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! And yes…all of our words can be misconstrued or even interpreted exactly as we intended. Today’s culture ensures we never are let off the hook for anything. Someone tweeted something LL Cool J did over 20 years ago…saying “never forget.” I read it like, really? Shouldn’t we allow people to grow? Sheesh!

      Like

  2. First of all, the dress looks great and you look great in the dress. Tommy Hilfiger has become one of my favorite brands to wear despite the negative comments I have heard. To be honest most if not all of the top fashion designers are so called racists, especially if you follow what most of them have said in the past. Most of the top fashion designers are homosexuals to add. It’s a fact. With that being said wear what you like if it makes you happy. Enjoy.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You look fabulous Kathy! Phew, for a minute there I was worried because I also remember the rumor but on researching it found out it wasn’t true. Today, I think these rumors take on a life of their own even when people know they aren’t true yet they continue to spread them because they appeal to a broader audience. Like you said it’s a shame that companies, as well as people, are being destroyed due to inaccurate information.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It happens, right!! So soon we become opinionated just by listening or probably because we want to believe it. But unknowingly it might cause so much damage to ourselves also. But I guess we are just humans. We learn from our mistakes.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I heard those Hilfiger rumors too. I knew it wasn’t true the second I heard it because people had also claimed Gloria Vanderbilt, Liz Claiborne, and now the makers of Shea Moisture said the same thing. Interesting, how these rumors resurface every few years. Happy you found Hilfiger again. Nice dress. Did you wear a hat to the tea? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow! Great story! How many times might I have done the same thing — banned someone for vicious remarks that turn out to be taken out of context or misreported. You are so right about cancel culture. I agree that we should boycott racist or other nefarious businesses, but we need to be sure first. IF we spent more time giving each other the benefit of the doubt, looking for and pulling out the good in the people we meet, regardless of race, gender, etc., and less time scrutinizing them for real or imagined moral flaws, the world would be a better place.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really thought I’d responded to this, so apologies for an almost month later reply! Thank you. I agree with what you’ve said here. I think a lot of times it’s easier to believe what fits our narrative at the time, so these things take flight and sometimes lives are ruined in the process.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. It was so crazy. His message and out and so did a message about Timberland boots which were both so prevalent in black culture. The Internet and rumors were no new back then. You could say anything and because people were used to newspapers being at least mostly credible, we believed it.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I always think of Aaliyah when I think tommy hilfiger. I had never heard of the alleged statement. The only tommy i had was a vertical striped work shirt years ago. I think cancel culture has a place, as it highlights nothing is black and white and also calls out behaviours I think society is getting less tolerant of as awareness of issues of minorities become mainstream…but, it needs to be backed up with facts. Nowadays, as you’ve pointed out, there is no excuse to not fact check but people still don’t if ignorance fits their narrative, also there should be room for dialogue and growth of the ‘baddie’ and a chance of redemption. And yes, cute dress 😊

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It’s funny how we can associate things with popular culture. They said that’s how TH became popular…R&B and rappers.

      As far as fact checking, what’s fascinating to me is that we have soooo much info, but soooo little time (seemingly), so we just jump on whatever (as you’ve said) fits our current narrative. We have to do better.

      Like

      1. Yeah I agree! Was just saying to a new friend who I caught up with this morning (in real life) that lately so many of my biases and assumptions are being turned upside down…I see that as a great thing but some people find that scary as it can shake the foundation of who you are…after all, our beliefs are only thoughts.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you for bringing up such an important subject! I see memes and posts on Facebook all the time that are simply not true…and yet they are posted, and yet people make decisions to boycott or protest certain people and companies based on them. Like you, I have no problem when with boycotts or protests when those decisions are based on fact. But since it is very easy to spread rumors these days (thank you, social media!) I think we do need to be very careful to verify the information we’re getting.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. We absolutely do! There’s power in numbers, and there always has been, right? But now, the numbers are uninformed sometimes, so we end up enforcing a mob mentality on the undeserving…smh.

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      1. Yes, well… maybe it was female intuition after all 😉 We’re all just human, flaws lie in our nature. Don’t beat yourself up too much over it. If it bothers you, take it as a reminder for the future to handle it differently. If it’s not that big a deal, simply enjoy 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Rumours can do so much damage. I’ve become even more vigilant in these age of dangerous memes, and some people sharing them abundantly without even bothering to find out about the source and what they mean exactly. I’m glad the rumour proved to be false, after all. Because you look absolutely gorgeous in that dress.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Interesting. We think an era of ‘post-truth’ news is recent, of course it isn’t. I’d still note, however, all those ads from Hilfiger in the 90s/early noughties – rows of youthful faces and hardly a non-white one (the ones we saw in Europe, anyway).
    The dress looks great by the way.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Once a while back I heard we weren’t supposed to wear Timberland boots cause the Tree was supposed to be about lynchings. I was too young at the time to care. I still wore them but I didn’t research it either. Later, I discovered the word Timberland means “land that is covered with trees and shrubs,” (i.e. the term, “Timber!” when a tree falls), so it kinda makes sense to have a tree as a logo.

    Another rumor was about an entire poem written by Maya Angelou where she mentioned both rumors (the Tommy Hilfiger & Timberland) in a poem. The poem was to support the rumors talking about the clothes Blacks wear that are owned by racist white companies. I can’t remember the name of the poem but they later proved it false. Turns out the poem wasn’t even written by Angelou.

    I think the moral of the story is for us to do our research, especially in the age of information. We live in an era of memes and I cannot tell you how many Black History ones I’ve seen that contain such false information.

    Bamboozled is my movie tho. 😩 lol

    Liked by 3 people

  13. I remember that rumorI remember that rumor.. Like you I didn’t research it but I had a hard time believing that a designer, in business to make money, would say something like that to alienate a large group of consumers. I purchase his clothes often, especially those cute dresses sold in Tj Maxx and Marshals. BTW, I love the new category.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Wow, what an enlightening post, Katherin. At first, I thought maybe his comment was misconstrued. When he said he didn’t making clothing for black people, he was meaning that anyone could wear his clothes – he wasn’t assuming a certain style/look for them.
    But to find out he was blacklisted wrongly is simply terrible. I am glad that you researched this and even happier that you bought the outfit. You look stunning!

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Kate, you are really pretty in that cute dress. How sad that false rumours
    and preconceived judgements can damage so much. Yet, it happens one way or
    the other every day.
    Your post is a call to be careful before accepting rumours as true.

    Thank you

    Miriam

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Oh wow! How devastating for TH. As an artist I would be crushed to put something out there and then get falsely labelled. Thanks for writing about this, I am going to be a lot more careful about what I ban, because I am definitely guilty of playing the cancel culture game! Its so important to do our research!

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Wow! I am in disbelief! My mom definitely refused to buy me clothing after the alleged statement. Also, I proudly agreed that I shouldn’t wear his clothing items. Wow is all I can think! I agree we must do better! With that, I’m going to make the time to read the articles.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah it’s hard because we’re all on the go, and if I post something then you or other may find the likelihood of it being true to be better, when really we all must do our due diligence 😉

      Like

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