Urban Outfitters has hit yet another controversial rut for its distasteful clothing design, with the recent release of a single $129 vintage sweatshirt as the most recent addition to the repulsive rack.
Branded with the Kent State University name and a mock-up logo based on the seal of Ohio, the crewneck is a faded red color and has a few holes near the left shoulder surrounded by a darker, blood-like hue. In fact, the blotches of red have been interpreted as blood and the holes as bullet holes. Understandably, the public has interpreted this sweatshirt as an insensitive reference to the university’s infamous shooting on May 4, 1970.
On that day, four Kent State students were killed and nine injured by the Ohio National Guard while protesting the Vietnam War.
The shooting has been a major part of Kent’s culture, history and future ever since, and as someone who grew up in Kent, I can truly say it is one of the essential — and touchiest — points of identification for everyone who calls Kent home.
Kent State released a public statement criticizing Urban Outfitters’ lack of taste and culture, saying, “We take great offense to a company using our pain for their publicity and profit. This item is beyond poor taste and trivializes a loss of life that still hurts the Kent State community today.”
And it couldn’t be more right. When I started seeing the pictures of the sweatshirt on Urban Outfitters’ website — they “only have one, so get it or regret it!” — I felt a pang in my heart. Capitalizing off of such meaningful parts of a culture — something I and everyone else from Kent grew up with and continue to live with — is simply disgusting.
Of course, this sort of PR is nothing new for the attention-craving company (just recently, they came out with a T-shirt that said “Eat Less”). The store’s apology, which was relayed via Twitter, read as follows:
“Urban Outfitters sincerely apologizes for any offense our Vintage Kent State Sweatshirt may have caused. 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. The one-of-a-kind item was purchased as part of our sun-faded vintage collection. There is no blood on this shirt nor has this item been altered in any way. The red stains are discoloration from the original shade of the shirt and the holes are from natural wear and fray. Again, we deeply regret that this item was perceived negatively and we have removed it immediately from our website to avoid further upset.”
Although the store claimed they removed it, one eBay user claims to have bought it, posted a screenshot of their online receipt and has it listed with a starting bid of $550. Urban Outfitters later denied the sweatshirt was sold, and a spokesperson for the company told several outlets that the sweatshirt had been removed and would be destroyed.
Either way, it’s clear that Urban Outfitters has no limit when it comes to profiting from peoples’ pain and tragedy.