The Latest in Scandalous Fashion

Urban Outfitters raises controversy with the production of its recent, tactless sweater.

Emily Wong, A&E Editor

Urban Outfitters is renowned for its hipster, overpriced clothing catered to teenagers and young adults. However, it is also equally known for its multiple controversies that have erupted through the years. Whether marketing anti-Semitic garments or “Eat Less” t-shirts, the corporation is no stranger to instigating a whirlwind of bad publicity. The company’s most recent offense, a Kent State University sweater stained with what looks like blood, reaches a new level of insensitivity—even for the obtuse clothing chain.

The article of clothing is an obvious allusion to the 1970 shooting at the university, when the Ohio National Guard shot and killed four anti-Vietnam war protesters on the campus. The incident, which caused many schools in surrounding areas to shut down, sparked a violent flurry of national rebellion and chaos.

The sweater, retailing for $129 as a one-of-a-kind garment in the store’s vintage collection, has drawn so much criticism that the company wrote a statement on Twitter regretting that the sweater was “perceived negatively” and removed the garment from its website to “avoid further upset.”

That’s right. Urban Outfitters did not even apologize for its own misjudgment. Instead, the corporation expressed regret that the public believes a clothing item commercializing one of the most shameful historical events in modern American history is offensive. Indeed, I regret Urban Outfitters’s inability to see that a materialistic item glamorizing a tragedy is a crass insult to those affected by the Kent State shootings. Even the university itself condemned the company’s questionable moral compass for attempting to profit from such a sensitive topic.

In addition, the company’s excuses that the blood stains stemmed from the discoloration of the original sweater color and that the holes derived from natural frays are ludicrous at best. One would have to be blind to not see the offensive implications of the clothing item. This oversight showcases Urban Outfitter’s willingness to disregard proper respect for those affected by the Kent State tragedy in order to stir up some discussion and maximize publicity—good or bad.

The company’s consistent offenses scream nothing but an attention-seeking motive. There are limits to how far Urban Outfitters can go to make itself appear “hip” and different. Though several of its products are significantly vulgar, the Kent State sweater was an unfortunate step too far, and a half-hearted “apology” on Twitter will not ameliorate its mistakes. Having already been in the limelight for several other controversial garments, Urban Outfitters clearly does not learn from its mistakes. Perhaps people should think twice before buying that $40 plain t-shirt.