From incredibly over-priced high-waisted shorts and kitschy toys to t-shirts embezzled with offensive designs, Urban Outfitters has everything for every hipster, knick knack enthusiast, and racist.
It is hard to believe that within only 34 years, Urban Outfitters has managed to offend such a wide range of people, including, but not limited to: Jewish people, African-Americans, Native Americans, the LGBTQ community, liberals (of course), and–ironically–conservatives. Ironic because the CEO, Richard Haynes, is as conservative as anyone could get.
In 2012, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in Philadelphia condemned Urban Outfitters for a shirt with a design that resembled the Star of David patch that Jewish people were forced to wear in Nazi Europe, sometimes in concentration camps.
In a press release posted on adl.org, Barry Morrison, ADL Regional Director, called it “extremely distasteful and offensive” and demanded an apology. He also stated that they have contacted Urban Outfitters several times over the years concerning the way they “tread on the feelings and reinforced stereotypes of various groups.”
The company that originally designed the shirt, Wood Wood, released a statement to huffingtonpost.com apologizing and saying “it was in no way a reference to Judaism, Nazism or the Holocaust.” Even after this, it was not taken down from the Urban Outfitters website. When searching for the shirt, it simply comes up as “sold out.”
Thankfully, they did remove another incredibly offensive shirt.
In 2010, one of the options for a color on one of their shirts was “Obama/black.” This dreadful company also had a board game called “Ghettopoly,” created by David Chang, who has similar games including “Redneckopoly.” These are not sold in Urban Outfitter stores anymore, but Chang still sells them on his website.
As if Native Americans have not suffered enough under the hands of rich white people, their culture is constantly being appropriated. Unfortunately, Urban Outfitters is not the only clothing company that describes some of their designs as “Navajo,” as Forever 21 does the same.
A writer for racialicious.com, a website that focuses on “the intersection of race and pop culture,” commented on Urban Outfitter’s appropriation of Native American culture by saying, “as a Native American woman, I am deeply distressed by your company’s mass marketed collection of distasteful and racially demeaning apparel and décor.”
On top of all of this, Hayne and his wife also actively supported the overtly homophobic politician Rick Santorum until 2006. They donated roughly $13,000 to his campaigns over the years.
As if Hayne couldn’t get any worse, he had a shirt that said “I Support Same Sex Marriage” removed from the stores and website. It was taken down less than a week after its arrival in 2008 when California’s Prop. 8 was still a hot topic issue.
So, they’ll take down a shirt that sends a positive message, but not a shirt with the Star of David patch that Jews were forced to wear during Nazi Europe?
This puts the cherry on top of the sundae of homophobia, racism, and general insensitivity to other cultures that is Urban Outfitters.
Since then, Urban Outfitters has teamed up with National Center for Lesbian Rights in the fight for marriage equality. However, Hayne has avoided releasing an official statement declaring his views on same-sex marriage, but his feelings towards it are very clear.
Despite all of the terrible things Hayne and Urban Outfitters have done, people continue to shop there, some of whom choose to be ignorant or remain silent about these issues. It is important to speak up and recognize harmful behavior.
Like the famous South African Bishop Desmond Tutu said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”