On Monday, May 4, 1970, the Ohio National Guard fired 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds at a group of students at Kent State University, some of whom were protesting Nixon’s Cambodian Campaign during the Vietnam War. Four students were killed and nine were wounded, including one who suffered permanent paralysis.
The President’s Commission on Campus Unrest avoided probing the question of why the shootings happened. Instead, it harshly criticized both the protesters and the Guardsmen, but it concluded that “the indiscriminate firing of rifles into a crowd of students and the deaths that followed were unnecessary, unwarranted, and inexcusable.”
And those three adjectives — “unnecessary, unwarranted, and inexcusable” — are also a pretty fitting choice of words to describe how “edgy” clothing store Urban Outfitters decided to honor the victims of that tragedy:
For $129, before the site was thrown onto the hot seat by anyone with any bit of common sense or decency, you could pick up a “vintage” Kent State crew sweatshirt that just so happened to have fake blood splatters across it and holes the size of bullets perforating it (or you could buy a nice, hole-free Champion brand crewneck from the Kent State school store for $32 plus tax).
However, once the outrage had begun to spread across the outraged halls of the interweb, Urban Outfitters eventually took down the item and issued an apology (via Twitter…) as washed out as its denim line, claiming, “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.”In fact, it turns out the sweatshirt was “purchased as part of [their] sun-faded vintage collection,” and that those things that looked a lot like blood splatters and bullet holes were simply “discoloration from the original shade of the shirt and the holes are from natural wear and fray.”
The statement ended with them “deeply [regretting] that this item was perceived negatively,” because apparently it’s not the post-ironic hipster fashion outlet’s fault that people don’t understand overly-priced sweatshirts that just so happen to look like grotesque homages to national tragedies. Apparently, if you’re Urban Outfitters, you can’t comprehend why Kent State would publicly decry the garment by saying:
“We take great offense to a company using our pain for their publicity and profit. This item is beyond poor taste and trivializes a loss of life that still hurts the Kent State community today.
We invite the leaders of this company as well as anyone who invested in this item to tour our May 4 Visitors Center, which opened two years ago, to gain perspective on what happened 44 years ago and apply its meaning to the future.”
Or why Dean Kahler, who was paralyzed in the shooting, told Fox News that the sweatshirt “shows the continued lowbrow of Wall Street, and Urban Outfitters continues to perpetuate a low standard of ethics.”
If you’re Urban Outfitters, you’re left having to half-ass an apology in the hopes that people will forget about this so that you can go back to listening to some nostalgic rock band on vinyl that you “know” but don’t really understand, like Crosby Stills Nash and Young or something. You’re finally on your own.