Cotton On forced to re-design boys shirt after mum spots 'upsetting' detail

Queensland mum Sonia Brownsett complained to the Cotton On group after noticed the T-shirt design, claiming it resembled a Nazi symbol.

Cotton On Kids store front pictured in Australia.
A T-shirt sold in Cotton On Kids has been pulled after a mother complained about the 'upsetting' design. Source: Google Images

Popular retail giant Cotton On has been forced to pull and redesign a children's T-shirt after a mum complained about an "upsetting" detail in its design. The Aussie mother argued two seemingly innocuous markings on the clothing item closely resembled a Nazi 'SS' symbol, prompting a mea culpa by the retailer.

Sonia Brownsett, 43, said her 10-year-old son was gifted the garment for his recent birthday by a friend — which depicts a skateboarding creature wearing sunglasses — admitting "no one had paid much attention to the details of it". However she and her husband were quick to notice the reflections in the glasses — ostensibly bolts of lightning — which she described as "horrifying".

She claimed the lighting bolts resembled the SS, known as the Schutzstaffel and Saal-Schutz, who were the guard of the Nazi regime within the Third Reich. Brownsett said; "it was a bit horrifying to see a kid quite proud of this T-shirt with that symbol on it".

"It was really upsetting … but mostly because it was on kids who aren’t going to have any idea,” she told the Geelong Advertiser, adding that the parents made their son take it off.

"So all these kids are walking around Australia with these T-shirts oblivious of the pain they are causing for the Jewish community. It’s just a symbol that shouldn't be sold by a mainstream shop."

Left: Cotton On Kids T-shirt with lightning bold sunglasses. Right: Nazi SS flag.
The image on the t-shirt depicts a skateboarding creature wearing sunglasses, but the lighting bolts on the glasses resemble the Nazi SS symbol, the mum claims. Source: Geelong Advertiser/Google Images

The disgruntled parent complained to Cotton On Group which contains Cotton On Kids, Typo and Supre among other popular brands, with the retail giant reportedly issuing an apology shortly after. A Cotton On Kids spokeswoman confirmed to Yahoo News Australia a review had been conducted following the complaint.

"Following the customer query, we have reviewed the design with our team and will adjust it in future so there is no confusion with the intended design," the spokeswoman said in a statement on Tuesday. The design on the shirt is supposed to depict a "playful monster on a skateboard with bolts of lightning reflected in its sunglasses" the spokeswoman confirmed.

"We have careful consideration for all our designs, including an Ethical Design Program where all of our designers participate in regular training," the company said. "We have sold this product for over six months globally without any other feedback."

Brownsett reportedly received an apology and was told the design had "no association with any symbols" in relation to the Nazi party.

Speaking on the incident, Dr Dvir Abramovich, Chairman of the Anti-Defamation Commission, said he understood how some people could consider the shirt to be in "poor taste and obscene". He added, "any imagery that resembles Nazi symbols must be off-limits".

"Businesses should be respectful and sensitive to their customers’ concerns and Cotton On has demonstrated such an approach," he said, according to the paper and welcomed Cotton On’s "swift and thoughtful response" to Brownsett’s complaint.

Previously, Abramovich condemned a set of "concerning" antisemitic number plates that were spotted on Victorian roads. The plates in question, seen in Doncaster in Melbourne's northeast, read "88-SS".

The plates upset the Jewish community with many claiming the 88 alluded to the code used among neo-Nazis for "Heil Hitler" and SS referring to the Schutzstaffel.

But speaking to Yahoo News Australia, Michael Hooper, Chief Operations Officer at VicRoads said the plates actually refer to the driver's birth year and initials and did not have antisemitic sentiments.

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