You heard it here first. The Gentle Pit, an apparel company, is here to say that you don’t need another T-Shirt. Check that bottom drawer in your dresser. You have plenty.
Do I have an entrepreneurial death wish in saying this? No. I have a vision. I didn’t start The Gentle Pit because I was passionate about shirts. I started it for a few reasons, one of which is that I believe that we need to change the way we talk about a breed we love: Pit Bulls.
How many shirts out there can you find with the following slogans: “Don’t Bully My Breed’, ‘Don’t Judge My Breed and I Won’t Judge Your Kid’, ‘Misunderstood’, 'I'm more likely to rip your throat out than my dog is'. Look at those bolded words. Do those have positive connotations to you? They don't to me.
I understand there is an audience for every style, but in my opinion, in continuing to take the defensive with our beloved Bullies all we are doing is reinforcing the stereotype. To further emphasize my point, try this: Google Pit Bull shirts and go to Images. What do you see? A sea of black. The first 20 images or so are all dark, masculine t-shirts with some sort of defensive slogan on them like “It’s a Pitbull, not a freakin Shark!”. Now Google Labrador Retriever shirts. Pink! Green! Blue! Happy faced cartoon characters with slogans like ‘Obey the Chocolate Lab!’ and ‘I work hard so my Lab can have a better life.’ Stark difference; and I think this perfectly illustrates what I am saying.
We need a movement. A cultural shift in the way we approach advocating for our fur babies. At the core, they are dogs. At the core they respond like any other dog to the environment that they are in. No Pit is born bad. They are cultivated to be a product of their environment or respond to their environment just like any other dog. So let’s start talking about and treating them like any other dog! You don’t see Labrador owners walking around with shirts that say ‘Don’t Bully My Black Lab’ right? So why should we segregate our Staffy’s in a way that only succeeds in keeping those negative slogans in our mind.
An example of a company that I think is doing this right is Barx + Blooms. They make beautiful hand crafted flower collars for dogs. They are Pittie owners, but these collars are great for ALL dogs. And they built their company out of a belief that their Pit bulls should be seen as beautiful, happy and approachable. When I see one of their pictures, my first thought is, ‘That collar is SO pretty!’…not, ‘Wow look at that Pit Bull in that flower collar’.
Look, I get it. As Bully owners we’ve been on the defensive for a long time. We’ve had to be aggressive in our love for our dogs. We’ve needed to promote shocking slogans and hard images to combat the sludge of prejudice and hate that accompanies our breed of choice. But I think we are at a point in society where we’ve begun to realize that categorizing a certain race, religious group or culture only leads to more hatred and fear. So why shouldn’t this open mindedness and exploration of ‘the other’ start applying to our Pibbles as well? I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of going on the defense. I’m tired of walking by people and having them yell at me from across the street, ‘Be careful with that dog!’ or ‘Wow has she ever attacked anyone?’ I’m angry at myself for answering ‘Oh, she’s a mixed breed’ or ‘We aren’t sure, she’s a rescue’, whenever anyone asks me about Olive's breed. I know that there are ‘bad’ Pit Bulls. Just like there are ‘bad’ Labs, and ‘bad’ Poodles and ‘bad’ Golden Retrievers. I’m not saying that some of the stereotype isn’t earned (due to human involvement), but I am saying that we as breed champions are also to blame for the image our Pit dogs have in society today.
So when I tell you that you don’t need another shirt, I’m not lying to you. You don’t need another shirt for another shirt's sake. But if you are a Pitbull lover what you do need to do is start positioning yourself in a way that sets up expectations for success. We need to rethink our framing. It’s only then that we can really start to move the needle on public perception, awareness and acceptance. That is the reason why I started The Gentle Pit. I literally could not find one t-shirt that I felt like accurately represented me as a Pittie owner. Yes, I love Pit Bulls. But I am also girly and love fashion and love simplistic, understated brands. Why do I have to wear a slogan or political statement to show my love for Olive? Why do I have to wear black? Or barbed wire? Or chain link? Why can’t I have a stylish shirt or even a shirt that doesn’t directly represent a Pit Bull, but in some way goes towards their rescue? I want to feel fashionable AND support a cause. And I also want to eat pepperoni pizza with jalapenos and drink red wine every day and not gain weight.
Now go hug your dog.