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A note about MMA clothing lines & Nazi images

By Zach Arnold | January 3, 2011

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Last week, Jonathan Snowden wrote this article about Silver Star, Clay Guida, and a Nazi image on a recent shirt that Clay wore during a video interview with Fight! Magazine. Suffice to say, the article drew a very strong reaction. If you haven’t read the article already, I would recommend that you do so and then I would also recommend reading this: Clothing companies are responsible for their products.

I wanted to get reaction from someone inside the MMA art/fashion industry on this story, so I contacted Jeff Finley (web | Twitter) of Go Media Inc. Jeff’s company does custom art work and also has a stock art boutique Arsenal (MMA-inspired set 19). He’s also produced an e-book called The Designer’s Guide to the Apparel Industry that covers a lot of the topics discussed in the previous articles linked in this post. Here is Jeff’s response to the points brought up in the articles talking about MMA clothing lines and Nazi imagery being used:

I’m a designer who does a lot of apparel industry work. In my objective opinion, I would assume that Silver Star had no clue the resemblance to Nazi imagery. I’m sure they’re not trying to subtly convey any white supremacist or Nazi beliefs and it’s pure coincidence that that skull ended up on their shirt. I’ve seen this kind of stuff before. They’re right, it’s a very clip-art driven industry. Skulls have seen a huge resurgence in mainstream culture and are used on everything from death metal records to teenie-bopper pajamas you find at Target. The same could be said for heraldry, wings, shields, etc. These are popular design elements that have been reappropriated to ride the trends and appeal to the youth market. I know because I’ve been creating these kinds of graphics for apparel companies since 2005. I’ve been asked to Make it Look like Affliction hundreds of times.

The simple fact is the imagery “looks cool” and “looks bad-ass” which I’m sure is all the company is trying to convey here. That’s what clients say to me when they hire me to do designs. So it’s not surprising that they ended up using a skull that resembled an old Nazi icon. Designers often use Google Images to hunt for reference when creating graphics and this is one of the pitfalls of doing so. If the designer illustrates a skull based off an image they found on Google Images, they need to be careful not to copy it too closely. They need to be original and create something new with it so they’re not called out like this. It’s doubtful the designer of this graphic purposely integrated a Nazi symbol into the design. Obviously, nobody caught it until it was publicly identified.

Designers need to take responsibility for this. And brands need to be more involved and research the imagery associated with their brands. And fans need to understand these things happen often in this industry and it’s not necessarily the brand’s message or motive. I think there needs to be more evidence than just t-shirt graphics to blame Silver Star for promoting a Nazi message though. I think they did a good job of responding to the criticisms and pulling the offensive designs. That’s about as good as they can do. If they were truly trying to push a racist or Nazi agenda, I don’t think they would react this way.

Topics: Media, MMA, Zach Arnold | 8 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

8 Responses to “A note about MMA clothing lines & Nazi images”

  1. Fluyid says:

    Chael Sonnen – BOOM!

    Oh yeah, details (on the site now).

    Ed. — I had to remove the article text from the comment due to copyright issues. Sorry.

    • Jonathan says:

      A form of censorship?

      Ed. — No, a form of me preventing my ass from getting sued. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, Google “Righthaven” and you’ll understand.

  2. Jonathan says:

    Holy shisniz…..

    Somehow I think this not be the same for as as it was when he went before the CSAC.

    First time I saw it I saw it @ Fluyid’s post.

    Good job sir.

  3. Kid Nate says:

    I understand what the designer in the piece is saying and agree that he’s right in most cases. It was very different with Hoelzer Reich as they were obsessed with German history and knew exactly what they were doing.
    Silver Star has a long history of being sloppy in regards to allowing borderline Nazi imagery to pass which is why Bloody Elbow came down so hard on them this time. Had it been the first time we would have bought the “oops, clip art” excuse but it was time to bring this to people’s attention so MMA can disassociate itself from nazi images and subtle wink and nod acceptance of racism.

  4. Steve4192 says:

    I don’t buy it.

    This kind of thing has happened WAY too often with MMA clothing to be a coincidence, and I’m not even talking about the obvious example of Hoelzer Reich. MMA clothing companies love to push the envelope with questionable imagery and always fall back on “whoops! we didn’t know” when they step over the line.

    Besides, this is not the first time Silver Star has been busted for using Nazi imagery. Their old company logo used SS runes to spell the company name. That logo got noticed and got them banned at some schools, and sure enough, they played the “whoops! we didn’t know” card.

    Also, let’s not forget Silver Star’s unofficial first reaction to their use of the totenkopf (death’s head skull). They broke out the tried and true Hoelzer Reich “it’s a Prussian symbol” defense. They even went on the attack and chastised their critics for not doing their research. How can they play the “we didn’t know” card and the “it’s Prussian” card at the same time? If they knew it was Prussian, then surely they knew about it’s Nazi ties. That is why they dropped the ‘Prussian defense’ when they came out with their official statement.

    Finally, let’s not act like the totenkopf is some obscure symbol that people in the clothing industry are unaware of. Wal-Mart went through a major PR fiasco and recall a few years back when it was discovered that one of their knock-off skull shirts used the totenkopf. Are you telling me that folks ABG don’t keep up with industry news, especially when that news pertains the largest retailer in North America getting busted for selling shirts in their product category (skull based t-shirts)? I’m not buying it. They knew.

    Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me.

  5. Mark says:

    They knew what they were doing. It’s an exact replica of the skull & bones Nazis used. There are a million ways to draw a skull & bones design, so there is no excuse. And it’s not like that’s an obscure logo. Anybody who has watched a WWII show on The History Channel has seen that. I might buy Guida not knowing what it was, since he doesn’t strike me as extraordinarily intelligent. But the designers knew, no question.

    These companies are doing it for publicity and to do a “OOOOOH, look how edgy we are! F.U. PC police!” deal to appeal to those idiots so fed up with society being politically correct they’re going to rebel by wearing designs worn by the most evil regime in human history. Take that, you liberal d-bags~!

  6. Bix says:

    Total BS. They know what they’re doing. All of the “MMA styled” shirts ape Nazi aesthetic even if they don’t go all the way and use Nazi symbols.


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