Urban Outfitters-Shock Tactics, or Unfortunate Mishap?

kent state

According to PR Newswire, last week this controversial piece of clothing hit Urban Outfitters online retail outlet.You can see in the picture above their Kent State University hoodless sweater, looking tattered and unmistakably blood spattered. The description of the item read “Get it or regret it!” It retailed at $129. Keep in mind Urban does sell lots of “vintage distressed” and worn looking materials. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, this could be a very unfortunate mishap.

On the flip side, this item for sale could also be viewed as making reference to the 1970 massacre at Kent State. In this tragic event, the national guard opened fire on a crowd of protesting students, killing four and wounding nine. There have been several public shooting incidents since then, bringing light to the issue- increasing sensitivity and awareness of the general public.

Do Shock Tactics Work? 

There is an age old saying, “No press is bad press.” While this sure got people talking, the comments made were not entirely positive ones. Here are some tweets from individuals commenting on the subject:

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As you can see, many individuals were displeased with the company. Urban outfitters immediately went into crisis-mode, and released several statements to the media.

Responding to the Crisis

They removed the item from their online store and labeled it as “Sold Out”. As follows is Urban’s response from Sept 15 at 7:01am:

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.

Responding to the outcry of displeased customers, this statement seemed to at the very least quiet the situation. Some individuals were upset by the fact that if it was truly a mistake, no one in the company paused for even a second to think about the consequences of selling this item.  Many believe their apology was a poor attempt to reconcile the upset they caused.

Stakeholders Respond

No executive board members or individuals of the like have reached out to the media in regards to this situation. The only statement released was from their official twitter account, quoted above.

Kent State University did reach out, commenting that “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.”

One Urban Outfitters consumer, claims to have purchased the item while it was still available. He now wants to sell it for at least triple the original cost, pledging to donate half of his earnings to a non-profit called Southern Poverty Law Center- which is an organization that helps provide protection for individuals who are unable to do so for themselves.

Do you think the release of this product was intentional? Did Urban Outfitters handle it adequately? If not, what else could they have done to rectify the situation?

7 thoughts on “Urban Outfitters-Shock Tactics, or Unfortunate Mishap?

  1. I worked in retail for many years. There are numbers of people who look over each clothing item before it’s placed on the shelf. This was intentional- 100%. I am in shock that Urban Outfitter’s is not involved in a bunch of law suits due to the consistent racy clothing they’re put out recently. I think they did handle it any multi-million dollar company who hires a PR team would handle it- by apologizing. I don’t think this will stop the company from continuing to create stupid offensive clothing items in the future though.


  2. I’ve also worked in retail before and know that people don’t often see the implications of things when buying them at that moment. I think they handled it well by apologizing right away. I also believe that as bad as it seems, people will continue shopping at Urban Outfitters despite their slip ups recently with offensive clothing and if anything they will loose a handful of their million of loyal customers.


  3. They responded by saying it wasn’t blood. I think it is a very unfortunate coincidence. I didn’t know about the shooting at Kent state so if I had seen the sweatshirt I wouldn’t of known that it was controversial.


  4. When I first saw this sweatshirt being offered through Urban Outfitters, I was appalled. There is no excuse for promoting something offensive like this. Careless mistake on their part and it definitely made me think twice about the brand and shopping there.


  5. It’s no surprise the Urban Outfitters came out with an item of clothing like this with their past of offensive clothing. I agree with everyone else that this was intentional and very poor from their part. An apology is not enough, they simply need to stop making insensitive clothing. As a Twitter comment highlights about, “there’s nothing hip about murder.” I’m appalled by Urban Outfitters. I actually didn’t know about this sweatshirt until now.


  6. Urban Outfitters is gaining a reputation for shock tactics. From this horrific sweater shirt to t-shirts with “Eat Less” written on the front, Urban Outfitters is making a profit for being intentionally offensive.


  7. I think it’s really hard to believe that Urban Outfitters let this piece of clothing into stores “without being aware” of how it could be perceived. While playing dumb may have seemed like the easiest out, it’s not very feasible, and makes the company look even worse in my mind.


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