Let’s cut the sh*t. Being “ironic” has gone far enough.
Mocking the events of May 4, 1970, where four students were killed during Vietnam War protests by the Ohio National Guard is neither funny, artistic, or a form of activism. It exploits the tragedy and pain and in short, is just plain offensive. Way to celebrate para-military brutality.
In fact, appropriating cultures, making fun of mental illness, and providing hipster festival-goers with enough Native American headdresses for a lifetime of Coachellas isn’t cool. It just isn’t.
Sadly, Urban Outfitters’ latest violation is far from their first. But since we’re here, let’s start with the $129 sweatshirt that some bearded Brooklyn man is probably wearing right now as he brews his own beer in a Williamsburg basement apartment.
Kent State Sweatshirt:
The sweatshirt that offended a nation is currently “sold out” on the store’s website, but it managed to do some major damage on Monday morning. In response to public outrage, Urban Outfitters released this statement:
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.
Kent State University also released a statement to address the obvious nod to the 1970 tragedy:
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.
Navajo Clothing & Accessories:
At this point in our understanding of appropriating cultures, we should all know that donning a traditional Native American headdress or anything that Katy Perry does is wrong. That doesn’t stop Urban Outfitters and other popular clothing stores from pushing feathery colorful fare that cheapens the culture and offends a group of people who have, if we’re to be real, endured enough already.
So using a Navajo pattern, slapping it on a pair of boy shorts and attributing the word Navajo to the fashion and not the people, is just one more page in Urban Outfitters’ offensive novel. In 2011, the Navajo Nation filed a lawsuit against the company for selling the offensive products and threatening the Navajo brand (which, btw, aren’t feather earrings and a sling bag).
From NBC: The tribe has about 10 registered trademarks on the Navajo name that cover clothing, footwear, online retail sales, household products and textiles. Tribal justice officials said they’re intent on protecting what they believe are among the tribe’s most valuable assets. “The fame or reputation of the Navajo name and marks is such that, when defendant uses the ‘Navajo’ and ‘Navaho’ marks with its goods and services, a connection with the Navajo Nation is falsely presumed,” the lawsuit states.
A quick search may fail to produce the word “Navajo” on the store’s website, but Urban Outfitters and similar stores still roll out what many believe to be “festival gear” when summer hits.
Because depression is like, the thing to do, amirite? Actually, it isn’t. Depression isn’t a joke. It’s not a trend. And it sure as hell isn’t a fashion statement. But leave it up to Urban Outfitters to make it a part of their ironic t-shirt collection earlier this year.
They eventually pulled the shirts from shelves, but not before issuing this semi-accountable apology:
“We’re sorry to those offended by the tee we bought from the @DEPRESSIONcomsg brand. We were trying to support a small brand, not glamorize mental illness in any way.”
We believe you. Because wearing a shirt emblazoned with the word “DEPRESSION” all over it definitely doesn’t glamorize.
Eat Less Shirts:
More t-shirts, more glamorization of mental illnesses.
And yep, this really happened.
Heroin Needle Pens:
In June, the retailer came under fire yet again when a New York City store gave away these promotional pens shaped like hypodermic heroin needles. Printed on the side of the pens is “I Love Harroin,” a promotional campaign by the “Harroin” hair salon in New York City.
Because that’s a way to keep kids off drugs. But that regional violation was just a reminder that Urban Outfitters once did this…
Prescription Pill & Alcohol Paraphernalia:
Listen. According to the CDC, 100 people die from prescription drug overdoses every day in the U.S. So selling paraphernalia like shot glasses, flasks, and coffee mugs inspired by prescription pill bottles is a pretty asshole, insensitive, and irresponsible thing to do.
Who signs off on this stuff?
Yep. This was sold in stores in 2003. It’s OK, our jaws are still on the floor as well.
In 2012, this questionable shirt embroidered with a six-point star over the breast pocket was sold on the website — a shirt that was eerily familiar to the uniform worn by Jewish people under the Nazi regime. Did we mention the shirt popped up on the site in the same week as Yom HaShoah, the Holocaust Remembrance Day?
The t-shirt’s designer Wood Wood came forward, releasing a statement to absolve any wrongdoing in releasing the garment:
First of all the graphic is not the Star of David, and I can assure you that this is in no way a reference to Judaism, Nazism or the Holocaust. The graphic came from working with patchwork and geometric patterns for our spring/summer collection ‘State of Mind’. However when we received the prototype of this particular style we did recognize the resemblance, which is why we decided not to include the star patch on the final production T-shirt. I assume the image people have reacted to comes from Urban Outfitters´ web site. This must be a photograph of an early prototype. I am sorry if anyone was offended seeing the shirt, it was of course never our intention to hurt any feelings with this.
These apologies are starting to sound a lot alike.
And, somewhat unrelated but still offensive, any time UO tries to convince you to buy $650 vintage overalls:
With a vintage $159 shred of a t-shirt to go with it:
It’s time for a real intervention.
PHOTO SOURCE: Getty, Urban Outfitters, Screengrab