Perhaps it's not as iconic a still life as the cop-shattered storefront window with the big Huey Newton poster in it. But the image of an American Apparel shop's plate glass, smashed because it displayed a pro-gay marriage T-shirt, should give us pause. The incident happened this week at a suburban Washington, D.C. store in Silver Springs, MD, and was followed by death threats phoned to employees of the Georgetown American Apparel store. At the center of the storm is a company-made T-shirt whose lettering proclaims, “Legalize Gay . . . Repeal Prop 8 Now!” — a reference to last November's successful ballot measure that overturned the right of same-sex couples to marry in California. (A previous message shirt had zeroed in on California's alien amnesty debate, with the legend, “Legalize LA; Immigration Reform Now.”)
American Apparel is now in combat mode, defiantly selling the shirt
but also directing all media queries to its L.A. headquarters — in
order, it says, to protect its employees.
“We printed out 5,000
shirts yesterday and will send them free to any gay groups who email
us,” says Los Angeles corporate spokesman Ryan Holiday. He said his
company has also sent a shipment of 1,000 shirts to Charlotte, North Carolina, in time
for Pride Charlotte, the city's gay festival — which, Holiday says, ant-gay protesters are planning to attend.
Apparel,” Holiday says, “has a history of putting its money where its
mouth is. We have some resources and assets that your average protester
doesn't and we want to use those when we can.”
To that end, the
garment giant is supplying a Saturday UCLA rally for Iranian democracy with “Free Iran”
T-shirts. Not that American Apparel is treating the Americn protest cycle as a
fashion season — it plans to revisit its “Legalize Gay” theme.
“We're expanding different kinds of Legalize Gay men's brief and women's panties,” Holiday says. “They're being tested now.”