24 offensive kids' T-shirts that have made headlines

by Theresa Edwards
Aug 4, 2016 at 6:28 p.m. ET

It's hard to believe that in this day and age, there are people out there who think that a onesie about a baby hating her thighs, or a shirt that proclaims that a girl's greatest aspiration is to be married, is appropriate; but alas, they exist. They exist alongside vaguely racist sweaters and oversexualized T-shirts, and they're marketed toward kids. Then people get upset, the clothing gets yanked, and no one ever seems to learn their lesson. Year after year, clothing makers court controversy, and these are a slew of the kids' T-shirts that have been mired in the most controversy in recent years.

1 /24: I hate my thighs onesie

1/24 :I hate my thighs onesie

Who can forget the "I hate my thighs" onesie from Wry Baby earlier this year? The idea of negative body image projected onto an infant and played for cheap laughs? Yes, who could possibly be offended by that?

2 /24: 'Sheriff' shirt

2/24 :'Sheriff' shirt

This winning shirt was produced by fashion retailer Zara and distributed (incredibly) in Israel, among other places, in 2014. People with eyes noticed that it bore a pretty strong resemblance to the concentration camp garb that Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust. Zara apologized and pulled the shirt shortly after a dressing down on Twitter and Facebook, where consumers expressed their disgust.

3 /24: <em>Fifty Shades of Grey</em>

3/24 :<em>Fifty Shades of Grey</em>

Last spring, Chicago mom Sarah Cervantes found this shirt at Walmart, which she claims is based on the inexplicably popular Fifty Shades of Grey series by E.L. James and as such is wildly inappropriate for kids. Walmart denied the link, saying that they had no such licensing agreement.

4 /24: I only date heroes

4/24 :I only date heroes

Then there was Target's stunning display of bad judgment with two nearly identical baby pajama sets, except that the one for boys proclaimed future super hero status while the one for girls proclaimed future arm-candy status. A Canadian mom found the PJs, snapped a pic, and Twitter did the rest. Even DC Comics weighed in to express chagrin at what was being done with their license, saying, "All our fans are incredibly important to us, and we understand that the messages on certain T-shirts are offensive. We agree. Our company is committed to empowering boys and girls, men and women, through our characters and stories."

5 /24: Formula powered

5/24 :Formula powered

Back in 2010, this onesie made waves among lactivists who thought the onesie was promoting unhealthy feeding habits. One mom expressed her outrage at Old Navy saying, “We all know breastfeeding is best for baby… and mama. Formula simply isn’t the healthy option. So, why doesn’t Old Navy know it?” After enough people called for its removal, Old Navy pulled the shirt.

6 /24: Future bride

6/24 :Future bride

Back in 2013, normally lovable Zulily had this "future bride" onesie for sale, complete with little chokeable rhinestones. Enough people were pissed at the reductive onesie that Zulily pulled it from stock.

7 /24: Oh, brother

7/24 :Oh, brother

Then there was this 2010 debacle, where JCPenney had a shirt that explicitly related intelligence to gender and pissed a number of people not born in the Victorian era off. It was discontinued shortly after outrage started to brew.

8 /24: Where's Leia?

8/24 :Where's Leia?

It's well known that boys dissolve immediately after putting a shirt with a girl's face on it on themselves, which is probably why Target was nice enough to erase Princess Leia on this T-shirt and replace her with her twin brother Luke's face. People were not amused, and this one didn't fly under the radar, even though it came out in the midst of fever-pitched Star Wars pandemonium back in October.

9 /24: My best subjects

9/24 :My best subjects

Unfortunately, The Children's Place still hadn't gotten the message by 2013 that it's no longer — never was, really — cute or flattering or appropriate to urge girls to downplay their intelligence to make themselves more appealing. Also, they apparently never heard that "shopping" isn't a real subject in school.

10 /24: Boo bees

10/24 :Boo bees

Just this fall, New York City moms were all in a tizzy over this boo bees shirt with Mob Wives ties, which features a pair of ghost bees over a pair of you-know-whats. Some claimed they were afraid to tell the owner of the boutique to get rid of it because they feared "mob retribution."

11 /24: Chai maintenance sweater

11/24 :Chai maintenance sweater

Lots of people just last month found this shirt to be in stunningly bad taste. It feeds into a few Jewish stereotypes — chai maintenance sounds just like high maintenance — and includes the acronym JAP, for Jewish American Princess. Nordstrom yanked it pretty quickly after it made the rounds on Twitter.

12 /24: Eat less T-shirt

Image: Urban Outfitters

12/24 :Eat less T-shirt

It's not hard to see why folks weren't happy to see a shirt at the hugely-popular-with-adolescents Urban Outfitters that seemed to be encouraging girls to, well, eat less. After Urban Outfitters sufficiently stirred the pot, they pulled the eating disorder-encouraging shirt from their store.

13 /24: Superhero shirts

13/24 :Superhero shirts

In 2014, DC Comics and Walmart each assured customers that they'd learned from their past mistakes and put these two shirts up for sale in Walmart's juniors' and men's sections, one with Superman sticking his tongue down Wonder Woman's throat with "SCORE!" splashed across it, plus the now infamous "training to be Batman's wife" shirt. Both were eventually pulled.

14 /24: Teenagers do it better

14/24 :Teenagers do it better

Professional gross person Dov Charney of American Apparel was no stranger to controversy by the time this T-shirt came out in 2010, but this one was too far over the line for some people. Lest you think this is more innocuous than it looks, be assured that it's not: It was created in collaboration with EY! Magateen, a magazine that features pictures of scantily clad teen boys in vaguely sexual position. Pretty sure the "it" on this shirt is a stand-in for "sex."

15 /24: I had a nightmare I was a brunette

15/24 :I had a nightmare I was a brunette

This snarky, catty T-shirt was pulled from Abercrombie & Fitch stores as part of a "girlcott" in 2005, along with a number of even more offensive shirts with such "clever" phrases as "gentleman prefer tig old bitties" and "do I make you look fat?" So charming.

16 /24: Trophy wife shirt

16/24 :Trophy wife shirt

This shirt, which lived in the juniors' section at Target, rankled moms because it seemed to hint at the concept of girls as objects. You know, as in "trophy wife." Nice, right?

17 /24: Allergic to algebra

17/24 :Allergic to algebra

This one offended because of its old and tired implication: Girls are not as capable or willing as their male peers when it comes to math. What's worse is that this one actually came in the wake of the earlier JCPenney "too pretty for homework" debacle, so clearly no lessons were learned.

18 /24: Little scholar and social butterfly

18/24 :Little scholar and social butterfly

Gap took a trip down memory lane in July... all the way back to the 1950s. UK Gap sent these pictures out in an email promo, and recipients immediately noticed the good ole sexism at play. Because young girls needed one more reminder, let's let Gap tell them that boys go to school to get good grades, and girls go to school to get invited to all the hottest parties. Thanks, Gap! And if this situation couldn't get anymore face-palm-worthy frustrating, take a look at how they spelled "Einstein." Doesn't look right to you, huh? That's because it's not.

19 /24: Imagination is more important than knowledge

19/24 :Imagination is more important than knowledge

After uncovering the "Einstien" debacle, disgruntled shoppers took to the Gap website to see what other offensive finds they could dig up. Enter: this. Though it is an Albert Einstein quote, it would have been nice to see a girl's shirt about intelligence that didn't involve giant hearts and pink sequins.

20 /24: Hola ladies

20/24 :Hola ladies

This little number is from a collection of children's T-shirts by Forever 21 that was removed from its website almost as soon as it was released.

21 /24: Ladies man

21/24 :Ladies man

Apparently meant for children as young as 5, the shirts all contain sexist slogans about picking up women that are definitely inappropriate for young kids.

22 /24: Chicks are all over me

22/24 :Chicks are all over me

Once the shirts were revealed on Forever 21's website, Twitter users began tweeting at Forever 21 about the shirts with #NotBuyingIt. This prompted Forever 21 to issue a statement that read, “Forever 21 takes feedback and product concerns very seriously. With regards to the T-shirts in question, after receiving feedback we have taken immediate action to have them removed from our website.  We sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended by the products.”

23 /24: I only date models

23/24 :I only date models

Seriously, we can just let the shirt do the talking. Ugh.

24 /24: 'Vintage' Kent State sweatshirt

24/24 :'Vintage' Kent State sweatshirt

Though this one wasn't marketed specifically to kids, it's safe to say there are plenty of them perusing Urban Outfitter's website. Oh, Urban Outfitters, how you love to make headlines for all the wrong reasons. They did just that when they released this sweatshirt in 2014 that caused an immediate swarm of outrage and criticism. Advertised as 'vintage,' angry shoppers were quick to point out that the 'faded' design and worn material looked far more like blood spatter and bullet holes, referencing the 1970 Kent State Massacre that left 4 people dead. Since most people don't take too kindly to companies mocking tragedies, Urban Outfitters released an apology, claiming the appearance of the sweatshirt was accidental and that they didn't mean to offend or upset anyone. OK, Urban Outfitters, whatever you say...