Company markets “urban” apparel

Urban Outfitters’ shocking new item of clothing

By Tayler Reviere Verninas

On Sunday, Sept. 14, the famous retail store Urban Outfitters, featured a Kent State University sweatshirt for their online sun-faded vintage collection for women. The description of the one-of-a kind sweatshirt read: “Washed soft and perfectly broken in, this vintage Kent State sweatshirt is cut in a loose, slouchy fit. We only have one, so get it or regret it!”

For those who are unfamiliar as to why this sweatshirt would cause such viral mayhem, here is a quick history lesson. On May 4, 1970, students at the Kent State University in Ohio were protesting against the Nixon administration during the Vietnam War. Members of the National Guard opened fire, killing four students and wounding 10.

So the only regret anyone felt that day was Urban Outfitters themselves, who immediately apologized for their product after sparking controversy in the media by making a statement.

“Urban Outfitters would like to extend our sincerest apologies to Kent State University and the Kent State community,” the company said. “We are deeply saddened by the recent uproar our Vintage Kent State sweatshirt has caused. Though it was never our intention to offend anyone, we understand how the item could have been perceived negatively…”
Unfortunately, this tragic event in history was turned into a product by Urban Outfitter’s “business move” of allowing such controversial apparel to hit the market.

This is not the first time the company has sold controversial retail. Urban is notorious for selling products with demeaning messages that mock certain cultures, as well as advocate negative behavior. For instance, shirts that displayed words such as “depression” and “eat less” were also quickly taken off the market once news hit about the products being sold.

So why does today’s culture continue to invest attention and money in companies who are constantly ‘pushing the envelope’ toward selling products with ethically debatable messages?

“People have been shopping at Urban Outfitters for a long time, even prior to being labeled this ‘cutting-edge’ company,” freshman Amy Maltz said. “I think Urban has developed such a loyal customer base that their consumers continue to purchase from the retailer despite the type of merchandise they are marketing.”

“I think that our generation in particular likes to test the boundaries of social norms and Urban Outfitters represents a very ‘free spirited’ image,” freshman Elena Goodenberger said.

In terms of language and image, how is the Torero community responding to companies that advocate negative images within their merchandise? Fortunately, USD is on the right path toward promoting a positive change in the language and image of ourselves that is so heavily influenced by the media and fashion retail industries, such as Urban Outfitters.
As stated in T.H.I.N.K. Week’s mission statement, USD students have “raised awareness on bias, intolerance, and a hate that we could be contributing through deliberate or unintentional actions and words.”

Although students may unintentionally contribute to the negative images and merchandise these companies produce, simply because they enjoy the style of certain fashion collections rather than the negative symbolism displayed, they have become more aware as to where they invest their money.

By being socially aware of what certain companies and corporations are promoting, we can utilize the foundation of values and ethics we learn within our community to question whether or not these companies are ethically promoting their products.

If they are not, we can inquire as to why companies feel the obligation to push the limits and how we can take action towards advocating “pushing limits” for a more positive purpose.