By: Emile Shen

You’ve probably heard mottos along the lines of “Fashion is pain,” or “beauty hurts.” Urban Outfitters took that meaning to a new level with their latest insensitive piece of supposedly fashionable wear – a red and white wash Kent State University sweater.

What’s the problem? Besides the lofty price of $129 for the faux-vintage crewneck, the sweater is splattered with red dye designed questionably to resemble gun shot wounds and bloodstains. This is extremely insensitive, given the history of Kent State University: in 1970, Ohio National Guardsmen killed four and wounded nine unarmed college students while they peacefully protested the Vietnam War.

In response to this controversial garment, Kent State released an official statement in which they said the crewneck was“beyond poor taste and trivializes a loss of life that still hurts the Kent State community today.” In response, Urban Outfitters issued a statement pleading innocence due to coincidence, since there was only one of these sweaters available. The coincidence of creating a bloodied sweater for a school with a historical massacre, because it totally makes sense to make a blood stained and punctured shirt of any university.

Even if this were an honest mistake, it adds to the growing list of “mistakes” by the multi-national retail chain. Here are four prominent examples of how the “hip” store upsets:

1. “Navarjo” cultural appropriation – October 2011

The Navajo Nation holds twelve trademarks on the word “Navajo,” but this did not stop Urban Outfitters from marketing a new line of products ranging from flasks to underwear. As Sasha Brown, a representative of the Santee Sioux Nation explained, “it is this kind of behavior that perpetuates the stereotype of the white man’s Indian and allows for ongoing commodification of an entire ethnic group.” Besides the moral issues involved, it is actually illegal to falsely imply that an item is Native American-made or related, as it is included in the Federal Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990.

2. Prescription shot glass – June 2013

The leading cause of accidental death in the United States is prescription drug overdose. Combined with the often-excessive drinking patterns of the target demographic of 18-29 year olds, UO treads on fine water with this alcohol paraphernalia.

3. “Eat Less” – June 2010

Many perceive the shirt with the words “Eat Less” printed on it as continuing the unhealthy attitude towards body imagine perpetrated in the media by fashion models and advertisements. Furthermore, it is blatantly insensitive to people who suffer from anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders.

4. “Depression” shirt – February 2014

Tacky font aside, what is the purpose of this crop top? It is pointless and offensive offensive; mental illness should not be glamorized in any way. Urban Outfitters apologized by explaining that the garment was actually from a Singapore-based label called Depression.


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