Clothing brand Fred Perry has withdrawn one of its polo shirt designs from sale in North America because it has become associated with a US neo-fascist organisation.
The company, founded and eponymously named by the British tennis and table-tennis champion in the early 1950s, announced the decision after the black and yellow tops were adopted by the group Proud Boys.
While the organisation’s members insist they are not white nationalists or “alt-right”, Proud Boys was classified as an extremist group by the FBI in 2018.
It is listed as a hate group by the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Centre, and last weekend organised a rally in support of President Donald Trump in violence-hit Portland, Oregon.
In a statement on its website, Fred Perry said it “does not support and is in no way affiliated with the Proud Boys”.
“It is incredibly frustrating that this group has appropriated our black/yellow/yellow twin tipped shirt and subverted our laurel wreath to their own ends,” the company said.
“The Fred Perry shirt is a piece of British subcultural uniform, adopted by various groups of people who recognise their own values in what it stands for.
“We are proud of its lineage and what the laurel wreath has represented for over 65 years: inclusivity, diversity and independence. The black/yellow/yellow twin tipped shirt has been an important part of that uniform since its introduction in the late 70s, and has been adopted generation after generation by various subcultures, without prejudice.
“Despite its lineage, we have seen that the black/yellow/yellow twin tipped shirt is taking on a new and very different meaning in North America as a result of its association with the Proud Boys. That association is something we must do our best to end.”
The company, which Perry began with Austrian footballer and business partner Tibby Wegner in 1952, said it would not sell the shirt in the US and Canada again “until we’re satisfied that its association with the Proud Boys has ended”.
“To be absolutely clear, if you see any Proud Boys materials or products featuring our laurel wreath or any black/yellow/yellow related items, they have absolutely nothing to do with us, and we are working with our lawyers to pursue any unlawful use of our brand,” the statement said.
The company said it could not put its disapproval any better than chairman John Flynn had when questioned on the matter in 2017.
He replied: “Fred was the son of a working class socialist MP who became a world tennis champion at a time when tennis was an elitist sport.
“He started a business with a Jewish businessman from Eastern Europe. It’s a shame we even have to answer questions like this. No, we don’t support the ideals or the group that you speak of. It is counter to our beliefs and the people we work with.”