There was a widespread outrage over a garment that the company recently offered for sale — a one-of a kind, vintage Kent State crewneck sweatshirt as part of their vintage collection. Seems innocent, right? Wrong.
The sweatshirt appeared tattered and bloodstained. This became a hard-hitting issue in the eyes of the public because in 1970, four students were shot dead and 10 were left wounded in Vietnam War protests at the university.
Urban Outfitters released a statement saying that the crewneck was meant to appear distressed, and any red-splattered marks were not intended to resemble blood.
“…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.”
However, because of the school logo, the tatters and the “fading” that looked like bloodstains, it appeared to be a clear reference to the May 4, 1970 shootings.
From a company standpoint, how did they think they would get away with this? There is no way that not one person saw this product and thought it was not going to go over well. It is offensive and distasteful and someone had to have taken notice. Maybe a scandal like this was just what the struggling company was looking for because hey, any press is good press, right? This is only true to a certain extent, and in this case, Urban Outfitters was hurting more people than they were simply reaching. When a company does things like this consistently, it’s going to earn them a bad rep and drive business elsewhere.
Kent State university officials released a statement Monday regarding the sweatshirt; that it is “beyond poor taste and trivializes a loss of life.”
Although the company removed the product from their website within a few hours, someone claims they were able to purchase the item and put it up for sale on eBay, with a starting bid of $550. The item has since been removed from eBay.
This is not the first time the company has done something distasteful.
There was the “Eat Less” shirt that, in 2010, inspired a war on the company from One Tree Hill actress Sophia Bush. (0 is not a size, anyone?). They have also been under fire in recent years for their clothing promoting alcohol, a shirt that simply had the word “depression” written all over it, and for infringing on Native American, particularly Navajo, patterns and colors.
Although the item did not appear to be mass-produced, since it is part of the “vintage collection,” this does not make it OK. Does no one at the company think these decisions through? Who decided that it was a good idea to make this sweatshirt red, when they simply could have made it say, grey? If it is something that they “thrifted,” someone should have realized the negative connotations that would come with selling this item. Even though it may not have as strong an effect on the target audience of Urban Outfitters, as they were not alive during this time, it touches a community of people in a negative away. There are people who still remember this day like it was yesterday, as the tragedy came at a time of high tension throughout the nation. There are people who still hurt for those lost.
This company is known for controversy, and while controversy may draw attention to their business, how far is too far?