UO Selling Pain for Profit

Urban Outfitters has always sparked controversy with its unconventional and provocative clothing style, but their most recent action has many questioning whether the retailer has gone too far.

The company is facing a backlash for a “Vintage Kent State University Sweatshirt” that sports red blotches resembling blood splatter stains. The online exclusive sweatshirt appears to be referencing the 1970 university shooting in which the Ohio National Guard killed four unarmed college students and wounded nine others.uo

The description of the faux-vintage sweatshirt reads, “Washed soft and perfectly broken in, this vintage Kent State sweatshirt is cut in a loose, slouchy fit. Excellent vintage condition. We only have one, so get it or regret it!” As soon as the sweatshirt controversy went viral, the sweatshirt sold out.

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Kent Sate University released a statement saying, “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.”

Urban Outfitters took to social media to respond with an apology, tweeting, “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 retailer stated that the red stains are from natural discoloration and are definitely not supposed to represent bloodstains.

This is not the first time that the controversial retailer has received a negative response to their clothing items. They were scrutinized for selling a “drunk Jesus” t-shirt and a “depression” t-shirt.

Both media and customers question if the retailer releases these controversial styles intentionally due to the frequency of the deliberate messages. Urban Outfitters has pulled other products in the past after criticism for distasteful messaging.

Do you think the retailer knowingly releases these items to capitalize on all of the publicity they bring? Is this a case of no publicity is bad publicity or are you more hesitant to shop at their stores after the controversies that also include being accused of stealing work from smaller artists?

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1 Response to UO Selling Pain for Profit

  1. Sepeedeh Hashemian says:


    As you have mentioned, Urban Outfitters is no stranger to controversy. I remember a few years back when they had the “Eat Less” shirt and Sophia Bush was so outraged as to write a letter to the CEO of the company reprimanding him and stating that she had boycotted the brand.

    While I would also agree that all of these controversial clothing items are appalling, they do put Urban Outfitters in the front of people’s minds. Obviously, there are individuals who will boycott the brand but I think that the controversy helps them sell more clothes in the end. It is easier for people to isolate and cast out an individual but harder to do that with a large brand.

    Great post!


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