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Black fraternity pushes back against Ralph Lauren

Pair of pants with the Greek letters Phi Beta Sigma on them.

Photo Credit: Ralph Lauren website 

By Amaya Woodley

It’s clear there aren’t any Black people working on Ralph Lauren’s merchandising team after a link started to circulate of a pair of chinos stamped with the Greek letters Phi Beta Sigma. Fraternity members of the Greek organization Phi Beta Sigma and those in the Divine 9 community shared their frustrations.

The pants which are covered in an assortment of marks and drawings with the Greek letters posted to the back of the knee, retail for about $335.77

Instagram account Watch the Yard posted the pants to their page which garnered dozens of comments.”But why?!!! This shows that there is no representation in their company, even if a person of color was not Greek, they would not have let this slide,” one person commented on the post. 

“This lets me know everything I need to know about the lack of melanin in their corporate office,” another said.

Someone else pointed out the symbol which resembles the masonic square and compass used by the Free Masonry organization, which includes the historic Prince Hall branch for Black men.”What’s up with the fake Mason s**t on there too?”

Members of the fraternity have created a petition to have the letters removed from the pants.

“We are a week away from 106th anniversary of the founding of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. and what is plastered all over Social Media? An ad for Polo Ralph Lauren Chino Graphique Droit with the letters that represent Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. Greek Letters on the back crease of said pants!” the petition read.”Members of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., an illustrious organization stared & shared in utter disbelief! One member said ‘this is copyright infringement at its finest, they have no permission using my letters to sell their pants,'” the petition continued. “We are demanding that Ralph Lauren do the right thing and RECALL, DESTROY, & PUBLICLY APOLOGIZE for trying to capitalize off of Black Culture! We don’t know WHO thought that this was a good idea, but they need to fix it quick!  Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. is a professional organization that [is] not for sale!” 

Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc. was founded on the campus of Howard University in 1914 by three Black students. Founders A. Langston Taylor, Leonard F. Morse and Charles I. Brown established the organization to render service to the community while creating a space for Black male students who upheld the ideals of brotherhood, scholarship and service.

Ralph Lauren isn’t the only brand that has come under fire for their clothing, though.Back in February, Gucci caught serious heat when a turtleneck resembling blackface appeared on their website. The turtleneck which was black and had a red cutout for the mouth was removed from the site but not without being slammed on social media first.

The brand tweeted an apology saying the shirt was a part of a collection inspired by face masks.

In 2018, Prada was accused of racism when they released their holiday collection with a figure resembling blackface, as Blavity previously reported. The company said they “abhors racist imagery” and removed the items from their shelves.Unfortunately, it’s only the beginning of the year and some fashion brands are getting a head start on their foolery.

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