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Fashion

Nike comes under fire for selling ‘menacing’ balaclava

Marketing of product appears aimed at youngsters aiming for gang-inspired look, critics say

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 August, 2018, 11:04am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 August, 2018, 8:09pm

Nike has come under fire for selling a balaclava that critics say plays on stereotypes of black youths involved in gang violence.

The Nike x MMW balaclava, which appeared to have been removed from sale on the company’s UK website on Monday, is a full face covering that extends down the neck and across the upper chest of wearers.

It is intended to keep wearers warm in cold weather. But critics say that its marketing, including pictures of it worn by a young black model in a T-shirt and another garment similar to military special forces webbing, appears aimed at youngsters aiming for a gang-inspired look, of the kind popularised by drill music videos.

In one widely viewed video on Facebook, Paul McKenzie, a commentator who regularly tackles issues of crime affecting London’s black community, said: “You know these young people on the street adore these manufacturers, they buy everything that they sell.

“We look at images of young people on the street and they look menacing already, and so Nike decides to bring out a balaclava range which looks absolutely menacing. Maybe I’m getting old, maybe I’m a dinosaur, but this balaclava range looks quite inciteful [sic].”

In another video posted on Twitter the comedian White Yardie also condemned Nike.

“Tell me this a joke, because right now it looks like you are targeting the young people who are involved in gang crime, and with all these recent stabbings that we have been seeing right now in London, this is definitely something we don’t want to see,” he said.

The NikeLab NRG Beryllium Balaclava x MMW was launched in July, priced at £69 (US$90), as part of a range of collaborations with Williams, a designer whose clothes have been worn by Kanye West, Travis Scott and Tom Sachs, among others.

Most of the range has sold out, yet the balaclava appears to be the only product completely withdrawn from sale.

Its webpage on the Nike website was replaced on Monday with a message stating: “The product you are looking for is no longer available”. However it still appeared to be available for sale through Nike’s Hong Kong website.

Also included in the range is a £385 (US$490) jacket with a hood that includes a built in face mask.

A Nike spokesperson said: “These products were part of a wider Nike Training collection, styled on different models and available in multiple markets around the world. We are in no way condoning or encouraging the serious issue of criminal and gang culture.”