(photo via Twitter)

Throw out your art supplies and dive into into engineering and policymaking instead because being an artist isn’t worth it — or at least that’s what Old Navy suggests with a line of T-shirts.

The clothing retailer is facing backlash for white shirts on its website emblazoned with the slogan, “YOUNG ASPIRING ARTIST” except the word “ARTIST” receives a colorful strikethrough (is that a brushstroke?), replaced with the apparently more respectable careers of astronaut and president. The shirts, which each carry a price tag of $9.94, are meant for toddlers, sending the message that one should just quash any creative drive as early as possible. Halt the craft projects; kill the finger painting. Your kids are much better off with “technical training that can lead them to an honorable career.”

Unsurprisingly, a lot of people are furious, with many quick to point out that the clothing giant itself relies on artists and designers to envision their products. Old Navy has yet to issue a public response, and while the shirt remains on its website as of press time, the link to its product page now leads to that of another graphic tee. The brand also sells a shirt that reads “Imagination is Everything” — just funnel that creative power into anything but art-making, I guess.

But at the end of the day, never forget:

(screenshot via @gregorg/Twitter)

(screenshot via @gregorg/Twitter)

UPDATED, 4:22 pm ET: Old Navy has pulled the product from its website, and spokesperson Debbie Felix issued the following statement:

At Old Navy we take our responsibility to our customers seriously. We would never intentionally offend anyone, and we are sorry if that has been the case. Our toddler tees come in a variety of designs including tees that feature ballerinas, unicorns, trucks and dinosaurs and include phrases like, “Free Spirit.” They are meant to appeal to a wide range of aspirations. With this particular tee, as a result of customer feedback, we have decided to discontinue the design and will work to remove the item from our stores.

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Claire Voon

Claire Voon is a former staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from Singapore, she grew up near Washington, D.C. and is now based in Chicago. Her work has also appeared in New York Magazine, VICE,...

31 replies on “Old Navy Says Don’t Aspire to Be an Artist [UPDATED]”

        1. Equating being an artist with no real world skills to being a slave. Your choice, suck it up and
          stop whining.

          1. “no real world skills”
            Hi, Donald. I’m an artist. I went to art school. My skills include basic carpentry, matting and framing, web design, illustration, screen printing, digital layout, digital photography, along with many others.

            If those aren’t real world skills, please do tell me what the bloody hell you think that term means.

            Also, I’m pretty sure the point was that the work done by artists and designers is being devalued and demeaned by both Old Navy and folks like yourselves because YOU feel entitled to all the various aspects of the world you live in that artists and designers are responsible for while whining that they have no skills, that they are entitled, etc…

            You are an ignorant fool, Donald, and perhaps you should bother to learn a bit more about what artists and designers actually do, what art schools actually teach, and look around you to see our hard work surrounding you every single day of your life.

            You, sir, are the one who needs to suck it up and stop whining.

          2. And yeah PS all of the above = general problem solving skills above and beyond what is taught in other professions. Interestingly enough, myself and several colleagues have recently written, theses and dissertations arguing the need for art training (or creativity training that is currently offered only in art programs) to further goals across disciplines including science and engineering. This is all thought that is in the process of moving from academia to general consumption see Daniel Pink (currently published author) as one of the newest popularly published voices in this argument, which in my mind and the mind of many others is 100% true. Innovation requires idiosyncratic thinking (period). So people trained in the arts are currently at a high advantage in skill level, although this does not translate to job worth at the moment. In time it will pay off.

  1. Interestingly enough, they also have a toddler shirt that reads “Boys will be boys.”…because that logic should be perpetuated.

  2. The thing is, they could have avoided this by just writing “Young Aspiring Astronaut” or “Young Aspiring President” without the strikethrough. Easier and cheaper to print, without the issue of offending people.

      1. That price tag keeps changing. One might suspect you don’t actually have a clue what you are talking about.

        Also, its not the presence of art degrees that keeps people from being engineers.

        1. It is the flood of unskilled and talented and work ethic professionals that keeps the wages of those who are so low. Supply and demand, and employers see the sea of supposed workers and refuse raises, until they hire them. To their own dismay and detriment.

          1. Not sure what your whining about how lazy everyone but you is these days has to do with what was said here.

            Also, I’m not even sure what you are trying to say. Professionals tend to, by definition not be unskilled.

      2. Art degrees have more worth than you think. Can we not judge people for their actions because they can’t get a job in their field immediately after school? K. Thanks.

  3. Good marketing ploy after Obamas statement, one he should not have retracted. I print word balloons that are sold at art festivals(not bourgesie faires) that say basically the same thing, and sell like hotcakes. Which are good, unlike contemporary art.
    It simply reflects the general publics disgust at the narcissistic orgy of entitled children.

    1. “Which are good, unlike contemporary art.”

      Whines about others being entitled.. thinks his own opinion of contemporary art should be taken as objectively accurate.

      “It simply reflects the general publics disgust at the narcissistic orgy of entitled children.”

      How is getting an art degree entitled or narcissistic? Also, YOU claim to support yourself through creative endeavor. Does that make YOU entitled or narcissistic?

      1. Well nobody commented on my comment! My concern is the term aspirstional! And these days an art course has become and often was for young aspirationals!! Truly horrible and negates the so called good artists! Was there ever a goody two shoes artist? Maybe one or two!! Artist is very hard to define so y anyone is offended with astronaut beats me!

  4. I went to art school for my undergraduate degree. I met my husband there. I work as a graphic designer and he works as a concept artist for video games. We make plenty of money, enough to live by the beach, drive decent cars, and travel internationally. We have 401Ks and other investments as well. I have a lot of friends who are also successful, happy professional artists. They work in video games, film, TV, graphic design, animation, teaching, and some are even successful fine artists. The whole notion that artists are “starving” or who somehow don’t have successful, respectable careers is ridiculous. I know this is just a stupid shirt, but I do agree that the sentiment is condescending. As for me, I’m happy with my life choices and enjoy going to work every day. Can one really ask for more?

  5. Without artists you have no cinema, no theatre, no dance,, no novels, no comics. The museums and galleries would have no paintings, sculpture, photography, installations to show. There would be no public art. Disneyland would not exist (now that’s a horror!). There would be no architecture, so shoe designers, no fashion designers, no graphic designers …. The creative industries are far reaching and all those who contribute creatively are artists – they come in many guises.

  6. Refreshing to see that slogan these days artist is something every “aspirational” truly wants to be how boring! Astronaut or president is far more outrageous!

  7. The shirt design is an attempt to address the serious shortfall of young people entering science, engineering and other disciplines. This is a well homed technique to shock people into thinking about these issues, a technique artist regularly use to draw attention, probably the work of an artist. Yet again we find the art world monopolising creative endeavours, shouting and screaming until they get their way.

    I write software for projects that include artwork and have lost count the number of times artist have said programming is not a creative process.

    Art world is loud and overbearing, get a life.

  8. Newsflash: the original design was already an art piece with a fairly simple concept that follows the exact same formula as talk radio and the “News”. Piss enough people off, make them angry and Voila! …suddenly you’ve got a hot marketing prospect

  9. Y’know, given the current state of the US manned spaceflight program, I’d say the astronaut may be the one without real world skills.

    (I’m kidding–I know astronauts have real world skills. What they don’t have is many chances to actually fly in space).

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