Urban Outfiters' Kent State sweatshirt (courtesy washingtonpost.com)

“’Get it or regret it!’ read the description for a “vintage,” one-of-a-kind Kent State sweatshirt that Urban Outfitters briefly offered for just $129,” washingtonpost.com reports. “However, the fact that there was just one available for purchase is far from the most regrettable part of the item: the shirt was decorated with a blood spatter-like pattern, reminiscent of the 1970 ‘Kent State Massacre.'” Not to mention bullet holes. Anyway, UO’s fashion statement didn’t go down well. Kent State, amongst others, vilified the sweatshirt as crass exploitation. Urban Outfitters, recently dinged for a yellow shirt with a star reminiscent of the those worn by Jews in concentration and slave labor camps, backpedalled on the Kent State sweatshirt so fast they almost fell over . . .

Urban Outfitters issued an apology for the product on Monday morning, claiming that the product was “was purchased as part of our sun-faded vintage collection.” The company added that the bright red stains and holes, which certainly seemed to suggest blood, were simply “discoloration from the original shade of the shirt and the holes are from natural wear and fray.” The statement added: “We deeply regret that this item was perceived negatively.”

God I hate that. Both of my ex-wives used the same kind of non-apology apology. Not “I’m sorry.” “I’m sorry if you feel that way.” Added to the weasel words, well, no. That said, I don’t think Urban Outfitters should have pulled the shirt.

For one thing, they have a First Amendment right to make whatever kind of sweatshirt statement they want. If we bay for their metaphorical blood over this, we can’t criticize schools for expelling students with NRA-adorned or gun-themed apparel. For another, they should have donated all the proceeds to an organization shining a light on police militarization. Or some such thing. Right?

49 Responses to Incendiary Image of the Day: Waving the Bloody Kent State Sweatshirt Edition

      • They knew full-well what they were doing. UO caters to the hipster crowd, and “edginess” like this appeals to them. They’re basically the Hot Topic of hipsters.

        • I understand “why” they would sell it, but I find it hard to believe their customer base understands it. Unfortunately, I share the same age demographic as these cool hipster kids and I have yet to meet a one who had any concept of history or anything that happened before their birth. This was over 40 years ago, after all, but maybe I’m generalizing too much.

        • I am as well, and I find that it’s harder to generalize how “dumb” someone is based solely off their fashion style.

  1. As much as it was a really bad decision to sell this shirt, they have a right to sell anything they want. I don’t have to buy it. I see LOTS and LOTS of stuff that offends me, but I’m not marching with a sign to protest. I marched with a sign many years ago protesting stuff much more important, like lowering the voting age to match the draft age. Besides I probably wear stuff, say stuff, read stuff that offends people as much as I am offended in any given day, it all evens out.

    • You are right about way too many people being offended by the smallest things. While I’m not offended by the shirt, I do say it is in poor taste.
      But I don’t believe they have the right to sell whatever they want like you say. I’m sure using the Kent State logo must be approved as it surely is a licensed trademark.

      • If it actually was an old sweatshirt that they’re reselling, then original manufacturer needed Kent State’s approval, not UO.

      • While I’m not offended by the shirt, I do say it is in poor taste.

        Unless one is protesting, politically, then “poor taste” becomes eye catching, memorable, and preferable.

  2. They can produce the sweatshirt and deal with any backlash they receive it’s on them. I do not buy into the their little fading and wear excuse, that’s complete bull. You can piss on me but don’t tell me it’s rain.

  3. “For one thing, they have a First Amendment right to make whatever kind of sweatshirt statement they want. If we bay for their metaphorical blood over this, we can’t criticize schools for expelling students with NRA-adorned or gun-themed apparel. For another, they should have donated all the proceeds to an organization shining a light on police militarization. Or some such thing. Right?”

    Sir, you do realize there is a difference between a private business and a public school, right?

  4. What is with this new era of apologies. for some reason now if u offend even one person (or place or thing so noun?) u need to issue a fake apology because u have now committed the greatest sin since slavery and the holocaust. this goes beyond the gun culture, in this Phony outrage we see the beginnings of an attack on the idea of freedom of expression

    • You haven’t heard? We are in a era of “being offended” is in nothing however absurd is off limits. Feelings trump logic. I guess you missed the story about the college where they wanted professors to announce before the made a statement that might “trigger” someone being offended or hurting their feelings or bring them back to some nightmare although it has no relation to context in which it was being said.

  5. It’s definitely in poor taste, as is the Holocaust star of David shirt, but within their rights to sell.
    The truly offensive part is the claim that it’s merely a coincidence, based on their manufacturing techniques. Do they sell any other products that have red splatter and holes? If not, that excuse is a load of crap, and an insult to potential customers.

    • Personally I don’t see a problem with the “star” shirt – It’s a simple 3D shape shot at an angle, not a Star of David. Were it not mentioned I never would have noticed the similarity.

      • I think there’s a difference between being offended by something and being able to see how it might be offensive to others. Nothing is really offensive to everyone but, being Jewish and having been to a couple Holocaust museums, it’s hard not to see the similarity between those two. I find Urban Outfitters’ Kent State sweatshirt, Zara’s “sheriff” [Holocaust] shirt, and Zara’s swastika bag all to be in extremely offensive but well within their right to manufacture and sell it. It just means they’ll never get my business.

  6. ….. or some dingbat designer laid it out as a joke, thinking “everyone upstairs will get it” , and SURPRISE, it got approved, made in China, and showed up online. No one at Urban Outfitters is old enough to know anything about something that happened more than five years ago. And don’t have the common sense to own up to a TASTELESS piece of “chic”.

  7. The university and its May 4th Task Force make coffins-full of money off of the incident, year after year. They do it in ways that are a little more tasteful, in my opinion, but profit they do.

  8. UO always does “controversial” things like this as a form of guerilla marketing. You’re just giving them the attention they crave by propagating their advertising.

    Nothing to do with guns anyway.

      • Nothing to do with guns because this is about UO getting free publicity by being “edgy”.

        Google “urban outfitters controversy” and you’ll see this is pretty much a monthly thing for them.

  9. Not that there isn’t enough just on the Second Amendment front.

    -IRS scandal
    -The catastrophe that is Obamacare
    -That little war in the middle east
    -Obama taking no definitive action against ISIS
    -Benghazi
    -VA debacle with the terrible treatment of veterans
    -NSA trampling American’s rights
    -Border being flooded by illegals
    -Sending those same illegals to schools instead of back to their country of origin
    -SCOTUS decision declaring many executive orders unconstitutional

    They can sell their little shirt.

  10. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences. Nobody physically forced them to take a product down, they took it down because it would cause damage to the brand and create a PR expense that was not worth keeping it.

    The whole situation with kids in schools is different, as that’s a government organization physically prohibiting something, as opposed to just badgering them with an opinion.

  11. Stupid? Check
    Crass? Check
    Trolling for response? Check
    Deserving of being banned? Nope. You have freedom of speech, just do not confuse that with freedom from consequence.

  12. Someone once said (I think it was Attila the Hun): Any publicity, good or bad is good for the Hun (or company).

    Just sayin’

  13. “was purchased as part of our sun-faded vintage collection”

    Looks like it is from their “homeless man” collection. I think next week they should put it back up for sale. They would get a ridiculous sum of orders.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kent_State_shootings
    The national guard – your local militia’s at work? You do not have the right to assemble! Disperse!

      • Big B,

        It isn’t that simple.

        Students at Kent state (approximately 500) were peaceably assembling Friday May 1st on campus, with no disorderly conduct. The meeting closed with another rally planned at Noon on Monday May 4th. The students were protesting the military invasion of Cambodia, without a declaration of war or consultation with congress. They even buried a copy of the united states constitution signifying it was dead.

        Over the weekend there were riots, property damage, and disorder for which the national guard was called. The rioters in question were described as bikers, transients, and students. However not all students took place in the riot. The following day many students walked to the city to help business owners with cleanup efforts.

        Over the weekend the ROTC building was burned down. Some of the students protested the burning of the building.

        Class was not cancelled and university activities were still going forward. The students at Kent state were peaceably assembling on the commons area as of the morning of May 4th. In fact, everything was peaceful until the national guard showed up and told the students (many who had to go to class) to disperse. The angry students demeanor changed when the guard showed up on their campus (where they, students, are supposed to be) telling them to disperse as many of the students were not there to protest. It is the commons area – many of the students were there for the rally, some were there to protest the guard, some were curious, some were walking to class, some were eating lunch. The commons was a crossroads between several major university buildings. However, some of the students began throwing rocks and bottles at the guards apparently not accepting the fact that they should follow the guards order and authority without question. The guards ordered their men to form skirmish lines. The guards continued to make demands to the students. Meanwhile the more demands, the more rocks, the more curious students showed up. By 11:58am there were between 800 to 1000 students on the commons. The guards fixed bayonets on their M1 Garands and launched gas grenades into the crowd. However, many students were just trying to get from one class to the other??! More rocks flew. Guard opened fire into the crowd and 67 shots were fired.

        4 people were killed 9 wounded.

        Lets look at those who were killed:

        * Will Schroeder, 19, ROTC cadet. He was walking from one class to the next. Schroeder was 382 ft away. Fatal chest wound. 382 ft away. Please big B – re-read your statement and reconcile it with this. Yea?

        * Jeffrey Miller, 20, 265 ft away. Shot through the mouth killed instantly. Participant in the protest.

        * Sandra Scheuer, 20, walking from one class to the next – 390 ft away. Fatal neck wound – blood loss. 390 ft away? Please big B – re-read your statement above and reconcile it with this.

        * Allison Krause, 19, 343 ft away, fatal chest wound. Participated in the protest.

        All of the students who were shot that day were in good standing at Kent state University. All of them were students.

        Your simple, rudimentary assessment that they were destructive rioter’s is a misrepresentation of the events that transpired.

        Maybe you should start on page 238 here:
        http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED083899.pdf

  14. Wasn’t it the national guard that opened fire at Kent state? What does that have to do with police militarization? That’s a stretch.

  15. They are the Miley Cyrus of retailers. If you want to flip them out for change, ignore them. It’s their worst nightmare.

    When I attended Kent State in the late 80s/ early 90s, occasionally an enterprising kid would sell t-shirts with a target on the back that said “STUDENT” or some variant. But they were kids.

    I’m glad none of my friends or relatives work at this company. I certainly wouldn’t.

  16. This has nothing to do with the First Amendment, as there is no government entity using or threatening the use of force to impose silence or conformity on UO’s speech.

    The situation is completely different from a school’s banning of NRA t-shirts and such, because a school actually is a government entity. Now, there may be exceptions that allow such free speech infringement exceptions in schools, which I may or may not agree with, but those are at least genuine First Amendment issues.

    We howl at the schools because they’re censoring based on content, but claiming the pretext of preventing disruption of the learning environment, and students don’t really have much choice about that violation of their rights.

    We howl at this UO product because it’s as tacky and offensive as their backpedaling excuse-making is lame. Beyond that, they’re free to offer it or not, we’re free to buy it or not, and the government has nothing to do with it. (Kent State U. may object to commercial use if their name, but that’s a horse of yet another different color.)

  17. Yep saw this earlier. As someone who vividly remembers the Kent State massacre this crosses the line. Do the outfitters plan a MUHAMMED sweatshirt? BTW I was actually in Ohio 44 years ago today (Columbus) for the world weightlifting championships. Time flies…

  18. I agree its tasteless, and some older executive should have stopped it in its tracks.
    I am old enough to remember KS.

    The first lesson is dont back people with loaded guns into a corner where they cannot escape.
    The second lesson should have been. Fix Bayonets!

  19. Since this not the first time UO has doen somethung like this, I would have to say it’s a publicity stunt in the vein of as long as they spell your name right, there is no such thing as bad publicity.

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