Urban Outfitters' Kent State University Sweatshirt Controversy

On May 4, 1970, four students were shot and killed at Kent State University during an anti-Vietnam War protest; nine others were wounded after the Ohio National Guard fired into the crowd of students. There are multiple versions of the story from both sides, but the event still remains as a scar on the memory of the US, apparent even after 40 years, which is why Urban Outfitters latest article of clothing is sparking quite the controversy.

Last week, Urban Outfitters released a new sweatshirt, modeled as a “vintage” Kent State sweatshirt. The pink colored garment has dark red splotches flung across the left side—looking all too much like blood spatter. Many people are outraged that the company would release something like this, but Urban Outfitters seems to love risky and controversial clothing.

On the list of their previous inappropriate garments is a sweatshirt with the word “depression” over and over again, and a shirt saying “eat less.” Obviously, offensive clothing seems to be part of Urban Outfitters line, perhaps in a wrong, but effective method to gain popularity and attention.

So why are people more upset about this sweatshirt? Kent State represents something the entire nation felt, a sort of collective dark memory. The world seemed to be falling apart during the 1970’s—the government look as if to be ignoring its people, getting out of control; the country was fighting a terrible war, drafting soldiers who had no choice but to fight; and then the citizens’ own government appeared to turn on them and kill college children. That terrifying feeling is what Urban Outfitters drudges up with this t-shirt, and it crosses the line.

The “distressed” look has been taken to a whole new, incredibly belligerent level. The garment feels as if it’s mocking the four lives lost that day, turning the events into some new-age marketable profit. It may be a flaw in the design department, a grievous overlook by the marketing department, or it may have been planned in an effort to get people talking about the company. No matter what the truth is, one thing remains: Urban Outfitters has overstepped with this sweatshirt.