An Urban Outfitters model wears the most controversial of the shirts, leading to widespread boycotting of UO.
By Melissa Joiner, Staff Writer
Ever heard of the popular store Urban Outfitters?
If you’re currently a teenager, you most likely are familiar with the store known for its high prices, cool clothes, and unusual home décor.
However, there is a dark side to this seemingly harmless store: Urban Outfitters (UO) is notorious for selling distasteful and upsetting products marketed to teens and young adults.
2004—Teens in 2014 probably can hardly remember 10 years ago. But it was at this time that Urban Outfitters first began its legacy of selling offensive items. Stores began carrying shirts that read: “Everyone loves a Jewish girl,” with moneybags and dollar signs surrounding the text. Backlash arose throughout the internet, and bloggers began to voice their opinions.
“Depicting shopping as emblematic of Jewishness in the way that shamrocks are emblematic of Irishness, or even beer (which the usual stereotype depicts Germans as drinking for fun, rather than to get drunk) as emblematic of Germanness, strikes me as pretty bad,” one blogger writes. “Urban Outfitters must have the legal right to this, but I think it’s in pretty bad taste for them to exercise this legal right.”
“If you have been in our stores, you’ll notice fun, humor, irony, and irrelevance are not topics foreign to us,” UO president Ted Marlow said in response to the criticism. “That being said, bias, sacrilege, and ridicule were not our intention.”
The tops were yanked from UO stores and online. However, after the removal of the shirts, the company quietly brought them back, though without the monetary graphics the second time around.
Urban Outfitters faded out from large public attention for a few years after that clothing incident, but once again resurfaced in the spotlight six years later. This time, in June 2010, the company was being attacked for featuring a t-shirt online and in stores that simply says: “Eat less.”
In a Huffington Post poll, 64.1 percent of voters determined that the shirt was “tasteless,” while 35.9 percent of people viewed the shirt as “just a t-shirt.”
There was yet again much public outrage to this clothing article: Blogs blew up with loud opinions on whether or not the shirt was decent or not, and many began to boycott UO, refusing to shop at the chain or any of its sister stores (including Free People and Anthropologie), and working to get the top removed.
“I am sickened that anyone, on any board, in your gigantic company would have voted ‘yes’ on such a thing, let alone enough of you to manufacture an item with such a hurtful message,” activist and actress Sophia Bush said in a public letter announcing her boycott against UO.
After such mass repercussion, the shirt was supposedly removed from the store’s website. However, if someone wants the item, the shirt appears as sold out, yet the item’s description and sizing information can still be viewed.
As well as carrying offensive clothing articles, Urban Outfitters is widely known for constantly ripping off independent artists and jewelry-makers on the popular website, Etsy. UO copies many artists’ ideas, claiming them as their own and giving the original artists no credit whatsoever.
In 2009, Urban Outfitters began selling necklaces with small pendants that resemble ribcages. The problem with this? Independent designer Lillian Crowe sells her unique jewelry on Etsy—including a necklace with a small ribcage pendant, one of her own original designs. Crowe began selling her jewelry in 2008, and the Urban Outfitters copy appeared online a year later for a fraction of the price. While it is unknown whether or not UO directly copied Crowe, the company took no action in result to her accusations.
Central students, upon hearing about these events, seem surprised and taken aback. But, many still say that they will continue to shop there.
“It was a bad move on their [UO’s] part, but they do still have good stuff,” sophomore Hayli Gourley said.
In the end, Urban Outfitters comes out as the winner, despite the negative attention. The store has gained popularity through the years, due to being well known for carrying many controversial items. It’s up to you to determine whether or not you want to continue to support a company that continuously copies and insults many groups of people.