Looking Cool for the First Day of School

School is back in session, which means for many parents it’s time to open their wallets so that their kids can dress to impress. While recently watching television and sitting through several minutes of back to school commercials, it was brought to my attention by a friend from France that Americans make a really big deal about shopping for the beginning of school. I have been so careless about how I dress since college started that I almost forgot how exciting it was in elementary, middle and high school to buy an outfit for the first day of school.

The excitement about looking fresh on the first day has made the back to school shopping bonanza the second largest consumer-spending event behind the winter holiday season. With this time of year being such a money-maker, stores are pressured to produce ads that they believe will bring them the most revenue. Unfortunately for retailers, several of these ads have been a source of great controversy and concern for many parents.

JCPenney recently received backlash for a TV commercial that many parents perceived to promote bullying. In the ad, a boy sits alone in the lunchroom while his mother explains that what her son wears could ‘make or break’ him. Soon after the commercial aired, JCPenney’s Facebook page was flooded with angry comments from parents. They claimed that the shot of a lonely student suggested that his clothes weren’t cool enough to attract friends, which was then promoting bullying based on fashion.

Soon after the Facebook comments began, JCPenney personally apologized to each post and even pulled the ad from airing on television. The company announced that it was not their intent to promote bullying and even stated that they support several anti-bullying campaigns. Bad press is the last thing JCP needs, with their sales dropping over the past year. Even after pulling the ad and publicly apologizing, outraged parents still vowed to shop elsewhere this back to school season. Could be too much trouble for a six-second frame, no?

For fashion-forward kids, going back to school is the best time of the year. With many parents sensitive to the messages that their children receive, I wonder if the need to be “hip” is worth the backlash that comes with many of these seemingly harmless advertisements.

Dylan Fowler