March 23, 2004

It's All Relative...

by Jeremy Blachman

The New York Times has an article about a new Abercrombie & Fitch t-shirt for sale on the store's website (for $24.50, if you're interested) that features an outline of West Virginia and the slogan, "It's all relative in West Virginia." The Governor is mad because, according to the New York Times, "the shirt is a not-so-subtle play on the stereotype of West Virginia as a haven for incest." Ten bucks says the Governor ain't so thrilled about the wording of that line in the article either. Abercrombie & Fitch, just months after killing its quarterly full-color catalog amid protests it was actually a porn magazine, must be desperate for some new press. "It really hinders our ability to market the state," says the governor's director for strategic communications, who's probably thrilled to finally get his name in the paper. I'm not sure whether the shirt really hinders West Virginia as much as the fact it doesn't have any tourist attractions.

Next in the series for A&F, t-shirts with these slogans: "It smells like a toxic waste dump in New Jersey"; "Everyone's close to death in Florida"; and "Bill Clinton showed me his genitals in Arkansas." Yeah, yeah, you can probably do better.

March 23, 2004 06:42 PM | TrackBack

I'm not sure a t-shirt could get any better than "Bill Clinton showed me his genitals in Arkansas."

Posted by: Greg at March 23, 2004 07:34 PM

I think the Arkansas and NJ ones are a bit too obvious. If A&F wanted to make Governor Goodhair happy, they could make boxers with "Everything really IS bigger in Texas."

Posted by: PG at March 23, 2004 07:40 PM

New Jersey: Where EPA stands for Everyone's Plutonium Accepted.

Nevada: Come visit fabulous Yucca Mountain! Tours Daily.

Posted by: Brian at March 23, 2004 08:05 PM

So West Virginia ISN'T "a haven for incest?" News to me.

Posted by: Centrist at March 23, 2004 11:13 PM

A&F has been doing this sort of thing since it seems like before I can remember. Usually it's racial stereotyping and sexual innuendo. It seems to get them in the newspapers with fair regularity.

One year, when returning to law school, the pass between Knoxville and Asheville was blocked, so I drove through West Virginia. I'm glad I did. It's a very beautiful state.

Posted by: BTD Greg at March 24, 2004 08:32 AM

"Everything really IS bigger in Texas", you know that would be a great idea. I may add that to my e-shop .
By the way, is it copyrighted??

visit my cool website

Posted by: Iysam @1 at March 24, 2004 09:11 AM

West Virginia law actually forbids marriage between first cousins; Texas law (for example) doesn't.

By the way, is it copyrighted??
Normally I would say "No, of course not," but I did read something once about a guy who's been copyrighting and trademarking a lot of common phrases.

Posted by: PG at March 24, 2004 11:09 AM

At the risk of sounding defensive (ok, I am defensive) - I predict West Virginia, with its magnificent hills and forests, will become the next hot "vacation home" place for the rich. As the ocean front fills up, folks will start looking inland. West Virginia has central location (East-coast-wise), low population, cheap land, pretty views. It's a great state.

Posted by: Kelly at March 24, 2004 11:16 AM

I guess I'm a bit defensive as well.

First, WV is of course not a haven for incest. And it is quite insulting to have such a perverse, disgusting and evil act ascribed to you simply by virtue of where you live. The hillbilly jokes are one thing; laughing about incest is like considering rape humoruous.

Second, WV has quite a bit of tourism. White water rafting, skiing, hiking and rock climbing, biking, spelunking, camping, fishing, hunting, boating, and golf are some of the bigger draws. There are also several places of historical significance, notably those involving George Washington or the Civil War. And theres also the Greenbrier Hotel; its where Congress had a secret bunker which was to be there base of operations in the case of a nuclear war. Theres more of course, but thats just some of the basics.

To see why us West Virginians are proud of our state, in spite of the ridiculous stereotypes ascribed to us, see the photos at

Posted by: Anthony at March 25, 2004 03:24 PM

I do not find this shirt offensive at all. I, for one, live in West Virginia, born and raised. I don't really understand why it would offend anyone. The shirt does NOT say, "West Virginia is full of incest." Why get so touchy about it? Yeah, that's how its going to be translated, but to each thier own, I guess. The way I see it is, it shouldn't offend you unless it applies to you...

Posted by: Lana Shenton at April 4, 2004 07:28 PM

If you are a West Virginian and you leave the state, and you get these jokes from almost everyone you meet you'll learn to get thin-skinned about it very fast. Think of other unfair stereotypes--NONE are as mean and insulting as this one. If anyone thinks we should laugh at it, then bear the burden of it for a while. You'll be crying uncle before your first day is through. But worse, this does actual damage to our state in economic development and such by giving us a backward image, and that my dear friends is the very point of it all to begin with. That was the reason for the creation of hillbilly cartoons back in the beginning of the 20th Century. A&F are famously unenlightened in their marketing, and they have to be because, well, have you seen the crap they sell?

Posted by: David at April 8, 2004 12:42 AM

Alright dave, chill out pal, I'm sure most people acknowledge the stereotype and don't really believe that you spend your time brewing moonshine and rollin about in the clay with your mam. Lif's too short to be so tetchy about such irrelevent things, just think yourself lucky you're from America and not Mozambique for instance, you'd be gutted then. And don't give me any of that 'stunted economic development' tripe, West Virginia is a country state and will never be able to compete with the big players, and nor should you want to, as that will only mean a gradual destruction of the natural environment and increase in migration to the area, with associated pollution and crime.
I personally think the T shirt's pretty funny.

Posted by: JP at May 25, 2004 09:11 AM

that shirt is so funny

Posted by: dayle at June 12, 2004 09:11 PM

I, for one, live in West Virginia and am currently bidding on one of these shirts on E-bay. lol! I am not offended. Every state could have an equally silly slogan on a shirt. Unless you're a moron, you certainly do not think of this state as such. It is simply funny, nothing more. Now, there are phrases and puns that could be said about us on a shirt I would not find funny. . . "It's all Relative" is NOT one.

Posted by: Tinia at July 14, 2004 01:09 PM

First how some of you are saying how beautiful west virginia is with it's hills and white water rafting, it's not that were not making fun of West virginia, it's just a joke. It's not the only state that they are joking about. Also people shouldn't be stupid enough to beleive what a shirt says. It's not a big deal. Get over it.

Posted by: Natalie at July 19, 2004 06:02 PM

I live in Bacup in Lancashire in England and f**k me if you think West Virginia's backward, try living here. I'm thinking of going into business with a t shirt that says, 'Its all family orientated in Bacup' but I don't think it'll go down well with the locals, the majority of whom look like goats.

Posted by: the goatherder at July 21, 2004 08:31 AM

I was lucky enough to have found an "It's all Relative..." shirt last week hidden in an A&F store. The shirt was obviously not meant to be offensive, and, as many of us clearly understand, does not come across as such. I live in Wisconsin: "America's Dairyland." If you think we're not subject to mockery by the rest of the nation, think again. The point is, however, that it's not a big deal. None of us cry at night because our state is known for little more than cattle. If a t-shirt hurt your feelings so much that you are writing letters to have it banned, then congrats!, because you officially have too few problems in your life.

Posted by: Steven at September 6, 2004 09:24 PM

i was curious if they ever printed a t-shirt about pennsylvania?

Posted by: Tina at September 8, 2004 06:25 PM

I see ignorance here. Find me a resource where it says there is any more incest in West Virginia than in any other state. In my work, I have met many incest victims and they come from all socioeconomic levels. It is not just a joke, it shows the ignorance of the joker.

Posted by: Melissa at November 2, 2004 12:08 PM

I see ignorance here. Find me a resource where it says there is any more incest in West Virginia than in any other state. In my work, I have met many incest victims and they come from all socioeconomic levels. It is not just a joke, it shows the ignorance of the joker.

Posted by: Melissa at November 2, 2004 12:10 PM

Melissa, get your panties out of a bunch.

Posted by: Kevin at January 13, 2005 01:41 PM

I am from West Virginia, and I cringe ever time someone asks me where I'm from. Because, believe it or not, half the people I talk to actually have the gall to say things like, "Do you sleep with your sister?" This is not just a joke. This shirt is hurtful, and I take it as a personal insult. I am working my way towards medical school right now, and this shirt demeans my life's work. It will cause people I encounter in my life to write me off as a hick, and if you think otherwise then you are surely naive. Appalachians are the last minority in this country that it's still acceptable to make fun of, and it disgusts me. This isn't about attracting tourists or industry, it's about respect. What I hate most is that it sold out of EVERY A&F in this state. Thank you, fellow West Virginians, for helping to slit our own collective throat.

Posted by: Doc at July 14, 2005 05:14 PM

There is a alot of bull spouted in these responses, as well as the media in general. I am a WV native, currently overseas in the armed forces. Believe it or not I have even been confronted with that sterotype of our state over here in EUROPE.

To those that say, "it's just a joke" (especially the guy comparing it to dairyland) are you insane? There is a HUGE difference between saying "Hey they have alot of cheese" and "hey there must be alot of molestation and abuse in your family." Come on those that do not understand the seriousness of it, just imagine what you'd do if a stranger told you that he thinks you f*ck your sister.

This is a sterotype that has been perpetuated by hollywood (i.e. Wrong Turn) and rural areas in general (i.e. Deliverence, wrong turn 2, the hills have eyes 1&2, etc.) and I have met a number of people that actually believe this crap. And of course noone cares because working white(s) can be sterotyped and insulted all you want.

I usually just laugh the ppl off when possible though for their sheer ignorance and know that's one less person to compete for space in the run up to Sweet's Falls (i.e. the guy that said we have no attractions, sorry pal get out from behind your tv lose about 200lbs and learn about something called OUTDOORS, they can be fun)

As I said next time you say "it's just a joke." Please ask yourself what'd you do if a stranger called your mom a whore, or your dad an abuser, etc. if they aren't one of the latter then you prob wouldnt be to happy either, and this is no different.

Posted by: michael at December 6, 2007 01:02 PM
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