Urban Trips Over Edge

The saying, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity,” was proven wrong recently by Urban Outfitters. Although the company has been known for its “edgy” clothing, the release of a “vintage sweatshirt” has generated noteworthy amounts of scrutiny.

opening photo kent state

The $129 Kent State University sweatshirt sported a blood-splatter appearance, which could only symbolize one thing: The 1970 Kent State University shooting. On May 4, 1970, the Ohio National Guard killed four anti-Vietnam protestors and injured nine others. Many people are bewildered that a company would design a shirt evoking such a tragedy, especially the Kent State family.

Kent State University statement regarding Urban Outfitters’ sweatshirt:

kent state statement

After significant negative attention, the sweatshirt was removed from the website and Urban Outfitters issued an apology:


Urban Outfitters’ apology was hardly sincere. The company could have offered a genuine apology immediately and owned up to its misstep instead of trying to cover it up. After a inadequate explanation, it’s fair to say many people may opt for other stores instead of Urban.

This is not the first time Urban has displayed distasteful messages on its clothing. Discrimination against color, religion and people with mental illnesses have all been incorporated in the company’s clothing before but it seems that this stunt was the last straw for most shoppers.


There is such a concept as taking it “too far” and the shock value for this was not worth how many customers Urban may lose. To disrespect the deceased is out of line and to promote any harm on school grounds is a terrible marketing strategy. Numerous articles, blog posts and tweets have shared their disgust with the company and this negative attention will likely lessen their upcoming sales. Urban Outfitters really shot itself in the foot by selling tragedy.

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2 Responses to Urban Trips Over Edge

  1. Gian-Franco Demano says:

    Ashley, you bring up a good point that “edgy” and “hip” reputation Urban tries to give off can work against its favor. When attempting to be so fashion-forward, the company must take risks on what will be a hit and what will be a miss. I’m sure there was a discussion and talk with a few designers and sellers when the first shirt was in pre-production. The thing is, there probably were not enough opinions to keep them from launching it. It’s not hard to believe that these designers that approved it were considering how desensitized society has become and how this could be acceptable. Not that I would wear or buy this product, because I certainly wouldn’t, I’m sure there are a good amount of people who might find it acceptable. As fashion-forward as I believe I am, this was a step backward for UO.

  2. Nicole Barrett says:

    I think this is a bad decision on Urban Outfitters’ part to sell this shirt in the first place. It would be so much better if they had passed judgment before the shirt was produced and noticed that it would be perceived poorly to prevent all of the apologies they need to make. This is a similar pattern for many clothing chains, such as the recent Urban Outfitters shirt that said “Eat Less,” which is potentially promoting eating disorders. I like how you focus this post about the emotional impact on the families, I think many companies may become distracted by corporate concerns and profit, but lose sight of the consumers’ personal interests and sensitive issues.

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