The tank-style T-shirts are called "wife beaters" because of a stereotype that physically abusive men wear them.
The ad, which appeared in a Feb. 19 flier, outraged women's groups and led to a quick apology from Building 19 co-founder Jerry Ellis, who took responsibility for the ad, the MetroWest Daily News of Framingham reported.
"The mistake was mine," Ellis told the paper. "I was either too dumb or too lazy or too distracted, and I let it go by. It certainly was insensitive ... and I'm sorry it happened."
Ellis said the initial ad copy described the shirts as "A-shirts," but a man in advertising said, "Oh, no, you mean a 'wife beater' shirt."
"I saw it and ... I questioned it, and (the male employee) said that's what everybody calls it," Ellis said.
Building 19 officials said the company's Hingham headquarters was deluged with critical calls and e-mails. Ellis said he hopes the apology will reduce some of the damage.
Toni K. Troop, spokeswoman for Jane Doe Inc., a Boston-based coalition against sexual assault and domestic violence, said the group's initial response to the ad was "shock and disbelief."
Troop said the chain's quick response has helped.
"Taking responsibility is the best thing that they can do," she said.