Home Fashion ASOS accused of profiting off black working class culture with roadman socks

ASOS accused of profiting off black working class culture with roadman socks

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(Picture: Asos)

ASOS has been criticised for selling socks with what they called a roadman design, with words popularised by black working class people.

The black and white socks feature words taken from the vernacular of slang such as dont look so shook, jokes, and mandem.

The mishap was pointed out by fitness studio founder Kelechi Okafor, who has previously written for Metro.co.uk about race and profiting off it.

Kelechi, who founded Kelechnekoff Fitness Studio in Peckham, south east London said that the designs were disgusting and fetishising black communities without any engagement with them.

What is a roadman?

We know we sound like your mum trying to explain slang, but for those of you who dont know, a roadman is someone, regardless of sex, is a part of youth culture, knows all the slang words, listens to a certain type of music, or wears distinct clothing i.e a puffer jacket with a fluffy hood.

While the word originated to stereotypically describe young men hanging around street corners, wearing tracksuits, or smoking weed, it has taken more of a positive, mainstream meaning, referring to cool young people.

So @ASOS youve clearly gone mad. What the fuck is a “roadman design”??

Why do you have people working for you who clearly dont know what theyre talking about??! Do you even know what a roadman is?? pic.twitter.com/zKk2NkrSXT

— Kelechi Okafor (@kelechnekoff) December 11, 2018

The glamourisation of the black working class aesthetic has proven lucrative to many brands, Kelechi tells Metro.co.uk.

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Its a clear form of fetishisation in that it strips black communities of humanity because all theyre allowed is the confines of stereotypes. Those who don the attire advertised to them as being part of a “roadman” look do so because theyll never experience that life so it is humorous to them.

The socio-economic disadvantages faced by those deemed as “roadmen” still continue while companies monetise that struggle and those terms because its whats considered trendy. Its dehumanising and its racial because it isnt inflicted on other cultures in the way that it is on the black working class community.

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Kelechis thoughts were echoed by many others on social media who said that ASOS didnt have enough of a diverse boardroom and marketing team to be told that it wasnt a good idea to create the design as it turns a group of people into a cute gimmick.

You dont want to hire more black people but you want all of their things, continued Kelechi on Twitter.

Youll use the vernacular in the most horrendous inappropriate way and think youre cute for it, ASOS. The co-opting of terminology that is then weaponised against us is a trend.

She highlighted how young black men in tracksuits are labelled roadmen and judged unfairly, subject to more random stops and searches, and looked at unfavourably in court rooms.

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ASOS turning their language, aesthetic, and lives into a piece of clothing was a step too far, people felt.

Since the backlash, ASOS has taken down the product.

A spokesperson for ASOS told Metro.co.uk: We are very sorry this product caused offence. We removed it from our site as soon as it was brought to our attention and will work with our team to address the naming issue.

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