top of page
  • Writer's pictureAli


Statement t-shirts have been all the rage for some time now. Oh, all right, decades. So it’s interesting that one should appear that causes a lot of hype.

And isn’t it great when it fuels debate about coeliac disease?

It all began when fashion store Zara brought out a t-shirt that read, ‘Are you gluten free?’ (see pic).

The t-shirt seems to divide people into 3 mind-frames:

Couldn’t see the problem. Were a bit confused. What message were they trying to get across? Thought people were mocking those on a gluten-free diet. It’s the latter point that caused Zara to withdraw the shirt.

The following opinions appeared on Twitter to indicate the shock and indignation:

Thanks to @Zara for further perpetuating the “gluten-free is just a trendy thing” message. @jakepjohnson Finally! @Zara pulled their stupid t-shirt. Next shirt planned: “Are you chemo or dialysis? @amylevypr Zara have caused outrage with this gluten-free t-shirt. @CosmopolitanUK It harks back to the days when texting first became available on mobile phones. (Bear with me.) Like tweets, we were limited to a certain number of characters, so messages had to be short. Lo and behold, it led to some furrowed brows. What did Boyfriend mean by his text? Did Best Friend intend to be so abrupt? Why was Little Sister confused?

And then we all realised: getting the right tone across in a short message can be difficult. Exclamation marks could mean excitement but then again they could be mocking. Brevity often failed to establish context and since each text had to be paid for, it was unlikely the sender would text another.

It’s probably why the emoticon became so popular. Suddenly we were able to indicate how we felt & it cleared everything up immediately. Let’s see if it’d work with the Zara slogan…

Are you gluten-free? 😇 (Read: it’s saintly & virtuous to be gluten-free.) Are you gluten-free? 😍 (Read: loving the gluten-free surge.) Are you gluten-free? 👎 (Read: get a life & stop this fad diet.) But the emoticon’s probably not enough. How about a t-shirt with a sub-heading?

Are you gluten-free? Coeliacs have to be. (Hmm, perhaps a bit of a lecture.) Are you gluten-free? Coeliac & proud. (Debatable. Makes it sound like a lifestyle choice.) Are you gluten-free? Thank you to all who support coeliacs! (Gratitude goes a long way.) The main cause for confusion probably stems from the fact that Zara isn’t a gluten-free business and therefore a positive association isn’t automatic. Sadly, since the fashion world often celebrates a size 0 and errs towards the unhealthy in general, it’s no wonder people have assumed they’re promoting gluten-free as a way to stay skinny.

But before Zara’s fat lady sings, let’s just take a moment to see the other side of the Twittathon: those who were really excited to see the t-shirt:

I would rock that t-shirt! @kfranco877 I want one! Is there any way to get one even though they’ve been pulled? @ScatteredMollie Delighted to see Zara are designing things specially for me now! @DivineEnergy It’s not hard to see the excitement. After all, if you’re coeliac and it brings awareness about gluten-free food then why not wear it? The more educated people are, the more likely things are to change (and change within the food industry keeps making things better and easier for us all).

To be honest, the most offensive thing about that t-shirt is the lack of punctuation (where did its hyphen go?!). Apart from that, without any context, it’s not really that bad (it’s just odd).

3 views0 comments
bottom of page