Fashion Law

Urban Outfitters sells controversial “bloody” Kenn State sweatshirt

Urban Outfitters is now in a bloody fashion law mess

On May 4, 1970, there was an antiwar rally at Kenn State. Although students were protesting the presence of the Guard on Kenn State’s campus, the rally was intended to be a peaceful one. Tensions and events escalated into the loss of four student lives and left nine others physically wounded.

Fast-forward to 2014, Urban Outfitters sold a controversial, seemingly bloody, $129 Kenn State sweatshirt under their women’s clothing category called “vintage finds.”

Fashion Law subject: Urban Outfitters Kent State Bloodstain Sweatshirt
Urban Outfitters’ Kent State “Bloodstained” Sweatshirt. Photo c/o Business Insider

Do you think Urban Outfitters intended to make this sweatshirt look bloody?

Kenn State’s University Communications and Marketing group released a statement (available here) regarding the sweater states that they

“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.”

To me it seems to make a play on this day in Kenn State’s history. I am not even convinced that the sweatshirt is truly a vintage piece, which could bring other issues the university may be able to claim such as copyright or trademark protection. 

In response to the backlash it has received, Urban Outfitters released tweeted a public apology (available here) through TwitLonger. 

“Urban Outfitters sincerely apologizes for any offense our Vintage Kent State Sweatshirt may have caused. 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 one-of-a-kind item was purchased as part of our sun-faded vintage collection. There is no blood on this shirt nor has this item been altered in any way. The red stains are discoloration from the original shade of the shirt and the holes are from natural wear and fray. Again, we deeply regret that this item was perceived negatively and we have removed it immediately from our website to avoid further upset.”

Sadly, I think Urban Outfitters often purposely sells tongue in cheek and inappropriate products precisely for the attention it gets the store. They seem to be of the belief that any media coverage is good attention.
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