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Urban Outfitters’ Tasteless Marketing

We have all heard the phrase “any press is good press”, but has Urban Outfitters taken it too far? Urban Outfitters has grown quite comfortable with controversy over the years. Which brings up the question, are they genuinely making errors in judgment or are they intentionally offending people for more press? Here are some of Urban Outfitters biggest controversies.

2015: Nazi Tapestry

Urban Outfitters was selling a tapestry this year that resembled the uniform that was forced on gay prisoners in Nazi concentration camps. The Anti-Defamation league asked UO to remove the product from their shelves because of the resemblance it carries to what gay men were forced to wear during the Holocaust. Prisoners in Nazi camps were identified by color-coded triangles on their uniforms. Gay men were required to wear pink triangles, which is eerily similar to this tapestry.

Even after the Anti-Defamation league asked Urban Outfitters to stop selling the tapestry they continued to sell it in stores, although they took it off of their website.

2014: Kent State University Sweat Shirt

UO has always sold vintage items, and this vintage Kent State sweatshirt is no exception. The sweatshirt seems to reference the Kent State shooting which occurred in 1970. During a Vietnam War protest the Ohio National Guard killed four students. The sweatshirt has holes and what appear to be blood stains over it, which UO later stated that the “blood” was from natural wear and tear.

Kent State University was disgusted by what Urban Outfitters had done. In an email statement they stated, “We take great offense to a company using our pain for their publicity and profit.” UO’s blatant lack of respect and insensitivity for the four fallen students is made very apparent by their selling this item. This was one of the few times where they publicly apologized for their wrong doing.

Depression Crop Top

This “depression” crop top upset many. Capitalizing on mental illnesses is extremely distasteful and ignorant. Turning this T-shirt into a fashion statement was inappropriate and the company realized that when they stopped selling the product.

2013: Prescription Pill Bottle Shot Glasses

Their selling of prescription pill bottle shot glasses and flasks had people outraged. By producing these products they were glamorizing prescription drug abuse and ignoring how serious addiction is. They were completely disregarding that their target market is teenagers. Many legislators and anti-drug groups criticized the brand for promoting drug abuse.

2012: Jewish Star T-shirt

The “Jewish Star” T-shirt represents that of the Holocaust. The shirts association with the yellow Star of David symbol Jewish people were forced to wear during the Nazi regime. The Anti-Defamation league requested that the company immediately stopped selling the shirt. Urban Outfitters issued an apology and removed the shirt from their website.

2010; Eat Less T-shirt

The grey v-neck T-shirt with the white cursive words “Eat Less” is definitely a statement shirt. With a target audience of impressionable teenagers having a shirt that encourages them to eat less is down right distasteful. In a society where eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder, how would this shirt be a good idea?

UO did end up pulling the shirt from their website but was still selling it in their stores. This received a worldwide boycott from the store. Chicago PD actress Sophia Bush posted to her blog and decided to boycott the brand due to this shirt.

2003: Ghettopoly

The board game Monopoly received an interesting make over into “Ghettopoly” which was sold by UO. The cultural messages are very derogatory and distasteful. The board spells Martin Luther King and Malcolm X incorrectly, making a mockery of two men that deserve respect. Black leaders requested that the store stop selling the board game. Only select UO’s complied with the request and stopped selling the product.

While Urban Outfitters may think they are being clever with their controversial products, they are doing more harm than good. These offensive products have encouraged boycotts of their company rather than make people more interested to buy their products.


Photo Credits: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

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