The majority of contemporary teenage fashion could be viewed as controversial by society. However, the well-known clothing company Urban Outfitters recently released an article of clothing that has received an overwhelming amount of criticism. The sweatshirt depicts Kent State University’s name and logo, but it is dyed red in a way that resembles blood splatters. Many people are enraged because they feel that this alludes to the shooting at the university in 1970 in which the Ohio National Guard opened fire on protesting students, killing four and injuring nine. The event is no laughing matter and caused much unrest at the time.
After becoming aware of the situation, Kent State issued a public statement, stating, “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.” Kent State does not appreciate the lack of concern for the tragic events that occurred at their university and continue to affect their students and those involved in the shooting. Students at the Elms tend to agree with Kent State’s views on the scandal. “I believe that what they are putting on the shelves reflects upon the values and morals of the company itself, obviously morals that are not in tune with those of society. It’s a shame that the idea of such clothing was brought to life,” Abagail Collins ‘16 said.
Urban Outfitters swiftly removed the $129 sweatshirt from their website and listened to the criticism, eventually tweeting an apology and explanation to the college. “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...There is no blood on this shirt nor has this item been altered in any way. The red stains are from the effects of discoloration from the original shade of the shirt and the holes are from natural wear and fray,” Urban Outfitters said. Although most are skeptical of the sincerity and validity of the store’s claims, a small number of students trust Urban Outfitters. “It seems like people are taking it way out of context and making a big deal out of something that probably wasn’t meant to offend anyone,” said Annie Bailey ‘16. Perhaps Urban Outfitters truly did have innocent intentions in distressing the sweatshirt.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time Urban Outfitters has encountered such controversy. Several years ago, the company produced shirts that condoned excessive consumption of alcohol. A shirt was also made for both adults and children featured the Star of David, enraging many customers for its similarity to the clothing of Jews during the Holocaust. The company has also been known to steal artists’ designs. For example, Urban Outfitters has a line of necklaces almost exactly resembling those of an independent Etsy jeweler. In addition, a simple white t-shirt featuring a young girl in a compromising position was produced without her consent. More recently, Urban outfitters listed the color of one of their products as “Obama Black,” igniting accusations of racism. A crop top covered in the word “depression” also caused controversy for its glamorization of mental illness. An oversized shirt modeled on a thin, young woman had the words “eat less” printed across the chest, infuriating many because of its negative portrayal of beauty standards and propagation of eating disorders.
Throughout the company’s history, it is apparent that it has not learned its lesson from repeatedly manufacturing controversial content. Their defense, oblivion and ignorance, could be authentic; their products truly could lack any deeper meaning than what is on the immediate surface.