By Jessica Ganga
Social Media Editor
Where is the line drawn in fashion between making a statement and tastelessness? Once again, Urban Outfitters decides to push the limits with what they deem “hipster and stylish” clothing.
Last week, the clothing company began selling a Kent State sweatshirt for $129 as part of a new line of vintage college apparel.
“Get it or regret it!” read the description for the sweatshirt on the company’s website. If someone scrolling online through this section of Urban Outfitters saw the sweatshirt, they would think it was just some faded, dyed piece of clothing. Look closer. After seeing the sweatshirt, people began to notice that the red splotches and holes on the sweatshirt look a little like bloodstains and bullet holes. So what’s the problem? Think back to the ’70s.
On May 4, 1970, four students were killed and nine others were wounded at the Kent State University campus while protesting the Vietnam War. The students were shot by the Ohio National Guard unit that was sent to the university after protests broke out.
People took to Twitter and other forms of social media to express their outrage at what Urban Outfitters was selling. With comments like “bad taste” and people insisting the store should be boycotted, it was quite obvious that the sweatshirt was not getting the reception that the store thought it would.
Which brings up the question: Why? Why would Urban Outfitters decide to sell something that blatantly references a devastating massacre? There is nothing “fashionable” about this sweatshirt. It’s just insensitive. Period.
Urban Outfitters did issue an apology (well, what the company considered to be one). Part of the statement claimed that, “it was never (Urban Outfitters’) intention to allude to the tragic events that took place at Kent State” and that they “deeply regret that this item was perceived negatively.” Basically, they are sorry that people assumed they were referring to the Kent State shootings, but they are not sorry they created this product. They go on in the “apology” to explain that the holes are due to fraying over time and the red stains are simply due to discoloration.
Kent State’s school colors are not even red, though. The university has always represented itself with gold and navy blue, so where is the explanation for the sweatshirt being the wrong color?
Perhaps an even stronger piece of evidence that points to Urban Outfitters purposely producing a shirt in connection to the massacres is the location of the holes and “discolorations” on the sweatshirt.
Ironically, a student named William Knox Schroeder was attending Kent State on an ROTC scholarship when he was caught in the barrage of bullets on the day of the massacre. However, Schroeder wasn’t even in the protest — he was simply walking to class. Schroeder was murdered by the Ohio National Guard by a bullet entering his left shoulder and exiting his chest — the same location as the apparent blood spatter and bullet holes in the sweatshirt.
It is clear that the company is trying to save face by fabricating excuses and refusing to apologize to the many people that were offended by the shirt.
What’s even more upsetting is that this isn’t Urban Outfitters’s first time selling morally-questionable clothing. In 2010, the store pulled a controversial V-neck T-shirt off its website with the phrase “Eat Less” scrawled on the front, modeled by a rail-thin girl. People were outraged that the store would promote eating disorders, a serious disease from which many suffer. Another controversial piece of clothing was a crop-top with the word “depression” written along the top. Once again, people could not understand why the store would commercialize a mental health issue.
There have been many other controversies surrounding this store, which begs the question: When does it stop? There is pushing the limits and then there is going too far. Why continue, especially since the store does have many items of clothing that don’t offend anyone? There are many ways to market clothing, but commercializing tragic, historical events is definitely not one of them.