American Eagle Outfitters, the commercial retailer that was ultra-popular in the early aughts, is, like most of its peers, fighting to maintain its relevancy at a time when many mall brands are struggling.
The answer to weathering the retail storm, however, is not to sell shackle-like accessories. As some Twitter users pointed out, American Eagle stocked some stores with screw cuff bracelets that resemble slave shackles. The company responded on Twitter with an apology and pledged to stop selling the items. (They are not listed on the brand’s website, but some Twitter users noted that the bracelets were still in stores.)
We’ve heard and understand the concerns about the bracelet. We apologize and will remove the product from our stores and website.
— American Eagle (@AEO) December 12, 2017
While screw cuff bracelets aren’t uncommon, the brass-colored American Eagle version seemed tone-deaf to some. AEO and its peers — Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister — are no strangers to public relations problems, specifically when it comes to size inclusivity and vanity sizing. In 2016, Refinery29 pointed out American Eagle’s problem with inconsistent sizing, and Abercrombie & Fitch’s now former CEO Mike Jeffries, unapologetically created body-shaming, white-washed branding.
“I’m not sure this is a ‘we got caught and are sorry’ moment. Who designed it?” wrote one Twitter user about the AE bracelet. “Who gave this the ok? Nobody thought it was a bad idea? It shouldn’t be the job of offended customers in stores to be checking your products?”