Urban Outfitters has pulled a sweatshirt from its range following an unprecedented level of complaints on social media.The sweatshirt was a vintage ‘Kent State’ sweater and was covered with red stains which looked very similar to blood stains. In addition to the blood stains, the sweatshirt featured holes in the left hand shoulder, resembling gunshot marks. The brand claim that “it was never our intention to allude to the tragic events that took place at Kent State in 1970.” Kent State University disagree and have issued a statement denouncing Urban Outfitters for using their pain for the brand’s publicity and profit. “This item is beyond poor taste and trivializes a loss of life that still hurts the Kent State community today.” reads the statement.
On May 4, 1970, four students were killed and nine severely wounded when the Ohio National Guard opened fire at a protest against the Vietnam war. The guardsmen fired 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds.
Are Urban Outfitters in a competition with American Apparel to see which brand can use the most tasteless and offensive methods of advertising clothing? Just last week American Apparel got a slap on the wrist from the ASA for using inappropriate sexualised images of schoolgirls to sell its ‘back to school’ line of clothes. Not unlike Benetton in the 1980s and 1990s, both Urban Outfitters and American Apparel believe in the power of shock and the resulting media furore to sell product.
Have Urban Outfitters gone too far? Or did the company know exactly what it was doing and the media coverage it would receive?