Urban Outfitters’ Kent State sweatshirt and 7 other controversial clothes

September 15, 2014, 9:39 PM UTC
Shoppers are pictured outside a Urban Outfitters store in Pasadena
Shoppers are pictured outside a Urban Outfitters store in Pasadena, California August 19, 2013. Urban Outfitters Inc's quarterly profit beat market estimates as its on-fashion teen apparel drew shoppers to its stores despite fewer discounts. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS LOGO) - RTX12R8V
Photograph by Mario Anzuoni — Reuters

Urban Outfitters added to its wardrobe of controversial clothes on Monday by introducing a seemingly blood-stained Kent State University sweatshirt that the retailer soon removed from its Web site.

Of course, in 1970, the Ohio National Guard killed four anti-Vietnam war protesters at Kent State University.

The public reacted fiercely to the salmon-colored $129 sweatshirt, which was splattered with faux blood spots, by accusing Urban Outfitters of stupidity and poor taste. Kent State, where the pain over the shootings runs particularly deep, said: “May 4, 1970, was a watershed moment for the country and especially the Kent State family. We lost four students that day while nine others were wounded and countless others were changed forever. We take great offense to a company using our pain for the publicity and profit.”

Urban Outfitters quickly withdrew the item from sale – only one had been sold, the company said – and apologized.

“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,” Urban Outfitters said in a statement.

Fortune looked at Urban Outfitters and other retailers that have been accused of poor taste in the past for their clothing. Racism, anti-Semitism and mocking the mentally ill are just some of the fashion faux pas on our list.

1. Concentration camp pajamas

Brand: Zara

Date: August 2014 

Zara wins the prize for the most anti-Semitic clothing with a pair of concentration camp-inspired pajamas featuring blue and white stripes and a yellow stars on the breast. The retailer removed the pajamas from its Albanian, French, Israeli and Swedish online stores only a few hours after posting them. Zara took to Twitter to apologize, saying "We honestly apologize, it was inspired by the sheriff's stars from the Classic Western films and is no longer in our stores." 


2. "Eat Less" t-shirt

Brand: Urban Outfitters

Date: 2010

Urban Outfitters once sold an "Eat Less" v-neck t-shirt, which earned a great deal of negative attention before being pulled from the shelves. The item's description didn't help matters: "Eat less or more or however much you'd like in this seriously soft knit tee cut long and topped with a v-neck." Making fun of an eating disorder is never a tasteful way to make a quick sale, that's for sure.

3. Blurred lines "My Little Pony" t-shirt

Brand: Target

Date: 2014

In a riff off Robin Thicke's controversial song "Blurred Lines," Target (TGT) sold a t-shirt to five-year-olds featuring a "My Little Pony" star (Rainbow Dash in case you were dying to know) with the song's title. The shirt even inspired a Change.org petition that earned nearly 100 signatures. Made for with young girls in mind, it's no wonder that concerned parents didn't want their little ones wearing a shirt proclaiming the lyrics of a song deemed celebratory of rape culture.

4. "Depression" t-shirt

Brand: Urban Outfitters

Date: January 2014

Urban Outfitters did it again. Just after the new year, the retailer released a white shirt emblazoned with the word "depression" in a repeating pattern. After receiving flack from the masses about the shirt, the company apologized, saying, "Hey everyone, we hear you and we are taking the shirt down from the site." The retailer also tried to explain the reason behind the shirt, by stating on Twitter that it was designed by a brand called Depression. But brand name or not, it's still no surprise that it had consumers across the U.S. up in arms.


5. "Teenagers Do It Better" t-shirt

Brand: American Apparel

Date: 2011

American Apparel's Dov Charney, the now former CEO, has found himself mired in controversy over the years for alleged sexual misconduct, among other misdeeds. Then there was this shirt, "Teenagers Do It Better." It was a limited edition item created in collaboration with Electric Youth Magateen, which apparently celebrates the "magnificent vitality, vinery and power of young male adulthood." Whatever that means.

6. Shackle shoes

Brand: Adidas

Date: 2012

Adidas (ADS) withdrew its plans to sell the now infamous shackle shoes following criticism on its Facebook page. The high-top sneakers, which were called JS Roundhouse Mids, were slated for release later that summer. However, many people including civil rights activist Rev. Jesse Jackson condemned the design as being uncomfortably similar to the chains used to restrain slaves. Designed by Jeremy Scott, the shoes featured a bright orange shackle affixed to the top. In a statement, he said, "The attempt to commercialize and make popular more than 200 years of human degradation, where blacks were considered three-fifths human by our Constitution is offensive, appalling and insensitive."

7. Asian stereotypes t-shirts

Brand: Abercrombie & Fitch

Date: 2002

By far the oldest product on this list, Abercrombie & Fitch released a line of t-shirts with Asian caricatures featured front and center. One featured the words "Wok-N-Bowl" with a man bent over bowling, another was called "Buddha Bash," a third said "Wong & Brothers" advertising a fake laundry service and the last, called "Pizza Dojo," had the phrase "eat in or wok out" beneath a man holding out a steaming pizza pie. The shirts, unsurprisingly, received hundreds of complaints and prompted Abercrombie spokesman Thomas Lennox to say, "It's not, and never has been, or intention to offend anyone. These graphic t-shirts were designed with the sole purpose of adding humor and levity to our fashion line." Nothing funny about those shirts, however.