In 2002, Abercrombie & Fitch came out with a line of graphic t-shirts that featured Asian caricatures and slogans. The “Wong Brothers” t-shirt, featured here, was one of the most well-known and controversial. Depicted as an ad for laundry service, its tagline read: “Wong Brothers - Two Wongs Can Make It White”, and it featured an illustration of two smiling men in rice hats.
What are some of the historical stereotypes of Asians that are present in this T-shirt design?
Some people maintain that a T-shirt like this is meant in good fun, and that it can be embraced as humor by both Asians and non-Asians. What do you think? Should ethnic humor like this be fair game for major corporations like Abercrombie & Fitch?
This graphic t-shirt reinforces a number of offensive stereotypes about Asians – substituting “Wong” for “wrong” and “white” for “right” in the slogan caricature Asian speech patterns. By depicting the “Wong Brothers” in rice hats, it also perpetuates the idea that Asians are necessarily “forever foreigners”, separate from mainstream American culture. Some Asian American groups were outraged by this shirt and others. Abercrombie and Fitch apologized for offending members of the public – a spokesperson maintained that they were surprised by the backlash, adding: “We personally thought Asians would love this T-shirt.”