Healing Hate With Tommy Hilfiger

DENVER -- This fall, Colorado high school students touched by the April 20th massacre at Columbine High will be wearing a new fashion accessory: small patches bearing the four simple words "RESPECT, By Tommy Hilfiger." The patches will be available at most major retailers for $22.99.

See also...
... by Keith Sanders
... in the Whoa! section
... from September 3, 1999

"In the wake of this horrible tragedy, we wanted to do something to bridge the gap between these different social groups," explained Samantha Ramirez, a spokeswoman for Hilfiger. "We realized that the two things capable of bridging that gap were respect and the hip, urban fashions of Tommy Hilfiger."

As Ramirez explained, the layout of the new patches -- which include a blank area at the right that may be filled with the logo of a favorite professional sports team -- are designed to appeal to "the angry, fashion-conscious youth of today." Students will be able to personalize later versions of the patches with embroidered images of in-line skates, pom-poms, computers, and other "hobby-oriented" items, Ramirez said.

Other top labels were quick to follow suit with their own Columbine-inspired fashions. Benetton announced the introduction of a series of T-shirts, caps, and bracelets bearing the slogan "No Bullets, No Boundaries." Todd Johnson of Benetton said that the clothes would inspire teens to "overcome their differences through friendship and fashion."

"We see these new designs as the 'What Would Jesus Do?' of the new millennium," Johnson said, referring to the popular line of religious-themed bracelets that first offered teenagers the opportunity to express vaguely-articulated moral and philosophical positions through a token fashion gesture.

At a hastily-arranged press conference in Los Angeles, a Calvin Klein representative expressed confidence that his label would soon unveil "some kind of fashion item" that would assist young Americans in "acknowledging their different identities without feeling the need to shoot each other in the face or whatever." The spokesman, Blake Jacklyn, said that Calvin Klein would be targeting a "more upscale market" with their thoughtful designs.

Keith Sanders is an independent practitioner of experimental cognitive pharmacology, and a student of linguistics at UC Berkeley.