GAP Pulls "Manifest Destiny" T-Shirt From Website and Stores After Outcry from Native American Community

Categories: Fashion

Following the not-so-fashionable failures of Urban Outfitters, Paul Frank, and Hello Kitty, clothing retailer GAP pulled a T-shirt from its website this week after it sparked a public outcry from countless Native American communities.

The shirt was created by American designer Mark McNairy for an exclusive Gap men's line by "GQ's best new designers." The navy tee was a basic cut with two words across the chest: "Manifest Destiny"

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The origins of the term "Manifest Destiny" are rooted in a 19th century belief that the U.S. was destined to conquer the world. And while the phrase has different meanings to different groups. It was used by Americans as a call to revive the Old World, as a reason to expand the U.S. territory past the Louisiana border, and as reason to go to war with Mexico in the 1840s. And according to U.S. historians, the term and the believe was also used to justify the genocide of thousands of Native Americans.

"It is with great sadness that I notify you I will not be shopping at your store until you remove the "Manifest Destiny" t-shirts available at your stores," wrote Renee Roman Nose, an actress and Native American activist in an open letter to GAP early this week. "Manifest Destiny was the catch phrase which led to the genocide of millions of my people, millions of Indigenous people throughout this country. I am also inviting the more than 1700 people on my Facebook page to boycott your stores and inviting them to shop with their conscience. In the past Gap has been known for inclusion, rather than exclusion. I am disappointed to see that your marketing and sales strategies have changed so dramatically."

GAP responded to Roman Nose and a petition by pulling the tees from all of its websites and stores and publicly apologizing for the design:

"Thank you for your feedback regarding the "Manifest Destiny" t-shirt. Based on customer feedback, we will no longer offer the t-shirt in our stores or online."

McNairy, who designed the T-shirt, was less gracious and turned to Twitter late Monday, writing:


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Gap posted an official apology on their facebook page: "We’re sincerely sorry for the offense that the “Manifest Destiny” t-shirt may have caused. This shirt was part of the partnership between Gap and GQ featuring new designers and was never meant to be insensitive. Because of your feedback, we made the decision to no longer sell the t-shirt as soon as it was brought to our attention. The t-shirt has been removed from and we are in the process of removing it from our stores. We are also focusing on how we select product designs for these types of partnerships in the future. Thank you for your continued feedback; we’re always listening."


Ms. Lawton, thank you so much for writing this article about this issue. I wanted to point out that Gap did NOT apologize for the offensive shirt. Instead, Gap only said that based on customer feedback, they are no longer going to offer the shirt. Could you please clarify this in the article? It's important because the petition is asking for a formal apology, and all we have gotten so far is that they are responding to "feedback." Gap has not yet taken accountability for the offensive content of their merchandise. 

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