“Fashion for self-esteem,” is what 19-year-old Northeastern University student Cristina Ransom called today’s generation’s motivation to shop.
Like any other college student, Ransom lives on a budget that doesn’t always allow her to shop at one of today’s most trendy stores, Urban Outfitters. On the days she is willing to make an “overpriced” purchase, Ransom scans the store for clothes that lack symbols, emblems, and any other designs that may potentially offend those around her. She believes that amidst all the cultural and religious insensitivities, the store contains “some good clothes”.
Urban Outfitters is no stranger to controversial clothing.
From their “Eat Less” shirts to their “depression” crop-tops, they have done it all. However, nothing struck customers as sharply as the one-of-a-kind Kent State University sweatshirt that appeared as if it were splattered with blood.
At first glance, customers see the comfortable “slouchy fit” that the designers said they intended. But it doesn’t take long for shoppers to connect the logo, red splotches, and scruffiness to the 1970 massacre in which four were killed and nine others were wounded.
“They think the public is going to buy it and that reflects poorly on our society,” said Ransom. “If they think we are going to buy it, what are we portraying?”
The company apologized for offending anyone by the natural discoloration and condition of the sweatshirt and said that it was not meant to resemble the historical tragedy. However, many young adults are having a tough time believing it was an accident.
Urban Outfitter’s history of debated apparel is not helping their case, particularly items such as the Star of David T-shirt and the Navajo inspired clothing. The store has upset several communities across the nation over time.
“It is about our culture’s lack of respect for others,” said 19-year-old Leah Gold. “With this growth of acceptance, I think we have lost the knowledge of common morality.”
Customers have remained loyal to their store for the most part, but they certainly question the designers’ thought process.
“They can put what they want on a shirt, but just because they can doesn’t mean that they should,” said Northeastern student Alyssa Schoppee. “Freedom of speech is about saying something that you believe in and not being persecuted for it. But they aren’t saying anything that they believe in by selling this sweatshirt.”
The Ohio University was deeply hurt that the company chose to use the community’s “pain for their publicity and profit”, according to the statement on the university website.
The clothing website took down what they called a piece of their “sun-faded vintage collection”, early on Monday, Sept. 15, after their product went viral and caused quite the uproar.
When asked about the repercussions of the issue, the manager of Boston’s Newbury Street store location declined to comment.
As negatively as one may view Urban Outfitters at the moment, “any publicity is good publicity,” according to Schoppee.