Sunday, September 21, 2014

Urban Outfitters Making Profit Off of Tragedy

       At first glance on the website, the sweatshirt seemed to fit the normal “look” of Urban Outfitters (distressed, worn-in clothing). Once I heard the story behind this clothing item, though, I was appalled. 

       In 1970, four students from Kent State University in Ohio were killed and nine were wounded in a shooting during a peaceful student protest over Vietnam. The National Guard fired on unarmed kids. It was a tragic event for the families and friends of these students, as well as the nation as a whole. Neil Young later wrote a song called “Ohio” about the tragedy.

       Four lives were lost that day, leaving so many individuals in emotional distress, and Urban Outfitters decides it’s okay to make a “loose slouchy sweatshirt” representing what happened that day in a tasteless manner. 

       This is apparently not Urban Outfitter’s first run-in with this kind of an issue. When I talked to my friends about the sweatshirt I learned there have been several other offensive clothes they have had to issue apologies for, one being a t-shirt that had a star on the pocket which resembled the badge Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust. It’s really unbelievable what this company thinks it can get away with. They are a tasteless, exploitative, and nihilistic company that would do anything to make a profit. Exploitation of such an event should result in a financial punishment, so this company can really learn its lesson.

       I cannot fathom how anyone would think this is acceptable to try and make a profit off of. Obviously they knew they would get publicity for being “controversial.” It could all be for attention. But does this really relate to what people always say that “no publicity is bad publicity”? Or is something else going on here? Why is Urban Outfitters so dead set on pushing the boundaries?

       Clothing often gets scrutinized when it’s seen as controversial by the general public. Vivienne Westwood’s 1970’s era was seen as outrageous to so many people. But there’s really a difference between Westwood, who was a great influence on the “punk” era of fashion, and Urban Outfitters, who is making a statement in a much different way. Fashion is an art form, and there are no rules in art. But we have to draw the line somewhere.


  1. Becca-
    I completely agree with you. Urban Outfitters have crossed the line by making this sweatshirt, it is offensive and disgusting. Also, the fact that they have done something like this before, and not changed their ways, makes me really question their morals. I think that if they are releasing this sweatshirt more than fourty years after the event happening, then they are counting on people's ingorance towards the shooting, so that they will just think the sweatshirt "looks cool" and is "fashionable".

  2. Heavens, yes, Becca :)

    Actually, I really like the fact that you researched the other instances of UO's "accidentally" controversial clothing mishaps. But I also think it's important to critically analyze the words of a quote somewhere in this post, perhaps a statement from UO's spokesperson. How do they defend their actions?

    And what exactly are you proposing regarding "draw[ing] the line"? Should the government step in when something like this happens? How would that be seen in light of the American free enterprise system?

    Lastly, not sure about the relevance of Westwood's clothing -- seems a bit of a distraction in this post, especially since it was from the 1970s.

    P.S. Please turn off the "word verification" for comments. Thanks!

  3. Mr. Bolos, I don't know that the government should intervene, more that maybe the people that buy clothes from this store will think about their decision to buy their clothes from this store versus another one, taking into account all of the distasteful messages Urban Outfitters has put out there. The "financial punishment" they should face should be a loss in costumers.