Did Forever 21 Just Pull Its Ayn Rand Shirt?

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Oct. 10 2013 8:30 PM

Did Forever 21 Just Pull Its Ayn Rand Shirt?

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Shoppers walk in downtown San Francisco as they take advantage of the post-Christmas sales.

Photo by David Paul Morris/Getty Images

Mixing politics with commerce is usually a dicey proposition for the pretty apparent reason that if half of America votes one way and the other half the other way, you’re cutting your potential customer pool in half if you pick a side. But that hasn’t stopped companies, or their leaders, from weighing in in the past.

The clothing chain Forever 21, however, has, perhaps inadvertently, taken it one step further with the “Unstoppable Muscle Tee” emblazoned with a quote from author and philosopher Ayn Rand. Here’s the Rand quote in question: “'The question isn’t who is going to let me, it’s who is going to stop me" and a picture of the shirt itself.

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While the shirt's sentiment could just as easily be a Michael Jordan quote in a Nike commercial a decade ago, because Rand’s political theorizing is part of the conservative ideological canon, it makes the quote a potentially far more divisive one. Even still, this isn’t the first time an apparel company has peddled a Rand quote, Lululemon also sold a Rand inspired “Who is John Galt?” bag.

But, will the Forever 21 clientele recognize, much less mind, the quote's backstory? Seems unlikely. As for the company itself, what makes the whole thing a bit awkward is that Rand was a staunch atheist and Forever 21 is most definitely not. “John 3:16” is printed on the bottom of the store’s shopping bags after all.

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So was the quote an oversight? Or will it sell like gangbusters? Maybe money, and fashion, trumps religion and politics these days. But, then again, maybe not? If you were worried about beating the crowd and snapping up one of the tees online, you're apparently too late.

Elliot Hannon is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter.

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