Why Did a GQ Article About Cartier's Controversial History in Detroit Suddenly Disappear?

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Cartier sunglasses have long been a fashion staple in Detroit. Urban Outfitters even sold knockoffs as “Vintage Detroit Oval Sunglasses” at one point. But the status symbol has also been a target for crime in a city with a well-worn reputation for violence. Writer Zach Goldbaum recently dissected that checkered history for GQ. By all accounts, he wrote an interesting story about the high-end brand’s place in Detroit culture. I’d love to read it, but I can’t.

The article has disappeared from GQ’s site and it’s unclear whether it will appear in a subsequent print issue. The cached link that had been circulating around Reddit and Twitter is likewise busted. Users on those sites are speculating that GQ removed the story after getting an earful from Cartier, and a source at the magazine adds that while the post’s removal is common knowledge, the reason why remains unknown.


GQ caving to an advertiser’s threat isn’t a crazy proposition, particularly given the story’s web headline: “How One Style of Glasses Became a Symbol of Status and Violence in Detroit.” BuzzFeed caved to advertiser complaints in a high-profile case a few years ago, and glossy magazines largely depend on high-end brands for ad revenue. Cartier hasn’t advertised in the past two print issues of GQ we were able to get our hands on, though the company did take out a two-page spread in the most recent edition of Vanity Fair, which is also owned by GQ publisher Condé Nast.

As Aaron Foley, the City of Detroit’s “chief storyteller,” said in his writeup of the GQ piece, Cartier made landfall in the city in 1969, just around when racial tensions and population decline were near their peaks. The luxury glasses were a quick success among well-paid factory workers. But they would also become fixtures among drug dealers and others in the underground economy.


Foley quotes from the now-disappeared GQ story:

Between 2012 and 2016, Cartier glasses figured in nine homicides, 17 non-fatal shootings, and 2,158 robberies. There was the time in 2014 when, in exchange for a watch and Cartier glasses, Timothy Jones helped a neighbor dispose of his wife. And there were the trio of carjackers who drove off with $1,600 in cash and a pair of vintage frames, or the two-man holdup crew that deprived a 29-year-old of his glasses and, for a time, the use of his right leg.

Foley, a longtime Detroit journalist (and onetime blogger for our sister site Jalopnik) who now writes about its neighborhoods for a city-owned site, called it a “must-read story on the local culture of buffs.” The piece was also starting to get passed around among Detroiters online.

So what gives? A GQ spokesperson assured me that the story’s erasure from the internet is not because of Cartier’s desire to be distanced from Detroit, but a simple misunderstanding in the GQ office.


“It was an oversight, the preview link wasn’t circulated through the proper channels and the story inadvertently went live for a short period of time,” Carly Holden, the magazine’s head of communications, said in a statement. “Once we realized the error, we took it down.”

No word yet from Holden on what exactly those “proper channels” were, let alone whether—and in what form—the story will be re-published. Its author, Goldbaum, did not respond to an email or direct message on Twitter with any further explanation. I’ll update this post with any additional responses they share.


If you know more about what happened to Goldbaum’s piece, please get in touch: david.uberti@splinternews.com