The Latest Urban Outfitters Controversy? A Blood-Stained “Vintage” Kent State Sweatshirt

All yours for $129.

The Latest Urban Outfitters Controversy? A Blood-Stained “Vintage” Kent State Sweatshirt
[Photo: Flickr user ElizabethHudy]

No stranger to controversy, Urban Outfitters was caught selling a blood-stained “vintage” Kent State sweatshirt for $129 as an online exclusive this weekend. (Hat tip to BuzzFeed.) But if you were looking for a fall sweatshirt plainly referencing the May 1970 massacre of unarmed college students at the hands of the Ohio National Guard, well, you will have to look elsewhere: says the sweatshirt is now “sold out.”


The item was a part of Urban Outfitter’s “Urban Renewal Vintage” line, which the company’s U.K. site describes as :

…our lovingly hand-picked vintage collection encompassing a careful edit of true and re-worked vintage cut off shorts, military jackets and dresses. Whether scouring warehouses in LA, or hunting through the world’s most obscure flea markets–our buyers have a knack for scoring the best limited edition deadstock and unique vintage treasures out there.

Urban Outfitters in recent years has developed something of a tone-deaf reputation, overstepping the edgy frays of the fast-fashion world and repeatedly landing itself in hot water. The Philadelphia-based clothing company–which was founded by newly reinstated CEO Richard Hayne, the 381st richest person in the United States according to Forbes, with a political reputation for donating to anti-gay and anti-abortion candidates like Rick Santorum–has, in no particular order, drawn the ire of: Native Americans, African-Americans, Irish Americans, Jewish people, Mexican people, small jewelry designers, NPR, eating disorder activists, mental health advocates, the transgendered community, artists it has worked with, and more.

It is unclear how the Kent State sweatshirt made it online in the first place. Perhaps Urban Outfitters grants its sellers some level of autonomy? (If so, so much for “a careful edit of true and re-worked vintage.”) Perhaps a 21-year-old intern who had no idea what the blood splatters were referencing was in charge of the vetting process? We’ve reached out to Urban Outfitters to hear the company’s side, and will update this post if we hear back.

Update 10/17 a.m. ET: An Urban Outfitters spokesperson says that the blood-colored, bullet-shaped stains aren’t blood. It’s just a coincidence! Bold is ours:

Urban Outfitters sincerely apologizes for any offence our Vintage Kent State Sweatshirt may have caused. It was never our intention to allude to the tragic events that took place at Kent State in 1970 and we are extremely saddened that this item was perceived as such. The one-of-a-kind item was purchased as part of our sun-faded vintage collection. There is no blood on this shirt nor has this item been altered in any way. The red stains are discoloration from the original shade of the shirt and the holes are from natural wear and fray. Again, we deeply regret that this item was perceived negatively and we have removed it immediately from our website to avoid further upset.

About the author

Chris is a staff writer at Fast Company, where he covers business and tech. He has also written for The Week, TIME, Men's Journal, The Atlantic, and more.