Yesterday word hit that Urban Outfitters, an over-priced clothing store, was selling what looked like blood-stained Kent State sweatshirts on their website for $129. Everyone was appalled at the company’s insensitivity. Meaning the public gave UO lots of attention… So was this shirt a one-time mistake or a ploy to get us talking about the store?
While most companies do their best to avoid negative publicity, Urban Outfitters brings it on themselves. Let’s look back. UO has sold horribly insensitive clothing in the past. So obviously inappropriate, it seems it couldn’t have just been a silly oversight; it had to be on purpose.
Urban started 2014 right selling an adorable crop top wrapped in the word “Depression.” In 2010, they sold a shirt with the motivational message “Eat Less.” And let’s not forget their vintage Holocaust shirt, released the same week as Holocaust Remembrance Day. So “Negligent idiots” – no, because, no matter what their excuses or half-hearted apologies say, all these offenses equal a pattern. They want to push the envelope and get in the news. They get what they want – lots of PR. The Kent state sweatshirt was a trending topic on Facebook, it was in the news yesterday and was even the top quote in skimm’s daily newsletter.
But what happens to UO, who are, indeed, idiots (with evil business sense), and also perverse PR mavens? Is there any retribution?
Well, there have been boycotts and angry tweets, but this is far from Urban’s first controversy, and they had great sales last year according to Time. Plus, the Kent sweatshirt was reported as “sold out” before it was even taken off the site. Buyers still wanted the inappropriate item – probably because they were unaware of the incident, didn’t realize or didn’t care – and also didn’t mind the ridiculously high price for a bloody shmata (I sound like my mom right now). So it seems that Urban’s wrong-doings can really do no wrong when it comes to their bottom line. The company’s products are strong enough to withstand negative PR, and probably even benefit from it. I’m sure they’ll have a huge increase in site visits this week.
So now that we know that UO is making mean-spirited products to make news, shouldn’t we just ignore them? Next time, let’s be more like Urban’s target hipster consumer and just roll our eyes rather than giving them free advertising. And if you see some oblivious teen wearing UO pro-Palestine high socks, a sparkly swastika tee or an ISIS promo silk-screened on a knit cap (just thinking of horrible, hypothetical products here), it’s up to the public to tell them why they’re getting attention.
While the hipsters at UO headquarters are planning their Christmas scandal, they should stock up on some sweatshirts, because they’re straight-up cold.