Opinion: Urban Outfitters: The most offensive company in America

Katie Smith is a senior public relations major and a columnist for The Kent Stater. Contact her at ksmit138@kent.edu.

Katie Smith is a senior public relations major and a columnist for The Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].

Katie Smith

Monday morning started off like any other day, until I checked Twitter and saw a BuzzFeed article about Urban Outfitters’ latest gaffe in the arena of offensive clothing. This time, however, the controversy hit home at our university. 

A “vintage Kent State” sweatshirt was for sale on its website. According to the description, there was only one “so get it or regret it.” Sounds cool, right? Until you look at the sweatshirt and realize it’s red and faded and looks like blood has been splattered on it. Side note, why is it red? It’s not even one of our school’s colors.

Those associated with Kent State drew a seemingly obvious comparison between the blood-splattered sweatshirt and the event of May 4, 1970, when four students were shot and killed by the Army National Guard—a fact that Urban Outfitters apparently neglected to research.

With the help of BuzzFeed, a social media firestorm erupted. The sentiment of displeasure with Urban Outfitters was apparent across social media channels and “Urban Outfitters” began trending nationwide.

Halle Lombardi, a sophomore pre-nursing major, tweeted from her Twitter account: “Never stepping into @UrbanOutfitters again. It makes me sick there are people out there making a profit off such a tragic event of US history.”

Jillian Gaietto, a senior mathematics major, posted a link to the news story on Facebook and said, “Urban Outfitters has been releasing a lot of questionable items lately, like a shirt reading ‘Eat Less.’ Besides promoting eating disorders, this is by far their lowest moment.”

As Gaietto noted, Urban Outfitters is no stranger to controversy. In 2010 the retailer sold a shirt that said, “Eat Less” and earlier this year the company released a shirt with “depression” sprawled across it. After harsh criticism for glamorizing mental illness, the shirt was pulled from the website and the company offered an apology via Twitter.

It seems that making shirts offensive as possible is just part of Urban Outfitters’ strategy for staying relevant.

Kent State released an official statement that completely burned Urban Outfitters for the poor decision and invited leaders of the company to tour the May 4 Visitors Center. In true Urban Outfitters’ fashion of asking for forgiveness instead of permission, they apologized.

This apology included the line, “It was never our intention to allude to the tragic events that took place at Kent State in 1970 and we are extremely saddened that this item was perceived as such.” 

Anyone with half a brain and some knowledge of American history would have probably perceived it as such. According to the apology, the blood-like stain and holes are from “discoloration” and “natural wear and fray.”

Students didn’t find the apology too sincere or credible. 

“I have a hard time grasping Urban Outfitters’ statement about the natural wear and coloring of the sweatshirt,” junior communication studies major Leslie Cancelliere said. “With the company’s background for controversy, I don’t believe a piece like this could go unnoticed by designers and the heads of the company.”

Morgan Jupina tweeted from her Twitter account, “#urbanoutfitters here’s a real apology: ‘We are deeply sorry to all the people we have offended.’ Don’t tell us we misperceived your mistake.”

I think it’s safe to say Urban Outfitters lost a few customers in northeast Ohio.