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Urban Outfitters t-shirt stirs up controversy

By Diana Zawojksa
On May 7, 2012

Urban Outfitters, which is known to most as the bees knees of hipster clothing, does an equally good job at stirring up controversy and criticism with their merchandise.

This last month, the popular clothing chain found itself again in the limelight by selling a t-shirt featuring a six-pointed geometric print star-shaped patch at the breast pocket. For many, the star resembled just a little bit too closely the Star of David that Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust.

"My grandparents are Holocaust survivors," said sophomore David Pfeffer. "I think that the shirt is not only despicable because of its immediate implications of trying to re-create the largest genocide in human history, but also the fact that it is being marketed to people who don't realize this, or accept what happened and wear it for the irony (as is the hipster mentality)."

The $100 mustard yellow 'Kellog Tee' by Danish label Wood Wood has been recently altered and can now be found for sale without the star symbol.

"People should be educated in much harsher manners," said Pfeffer. "I don't think that most people have been to a Holocaust museum or memorial, and therefore don't understand how horrific the Holocaust truly was."

According to a statement from Wood Wood's co-founder Brian Jensen, the the graphic of the t-shirt was in no way meant to be a reference to Judaism, Nazism or the Holocaust.

"The graphic came from working with patchwork and geometric patterns for our spring/summer collection 'State of Mind,'" said Jensen's statement concerning the controversy.

"I cannot imagine the use of the star being a problem," said Urban Outfitters employee Jill Pignataro. "People are still prejudice towards Jews and Judaism, but a company putting a star on a shirt? Like that should be the least of our problems."

Controversial clothing is nothing new to today's world. Abercrombie and Fitch and Forever 21 are just a couple of other name brands that are no stranger to selling questionable merchandise. Abercrombie has been under the lense multiple times in the past decade for marketing to girls aged 7-14 things like thong underwear and push-up bathing suit tops. Forever 21 got raised eyebrows when maternity wear was added to their inventory - something that doesn't exactly mesh well with what is known as a teen clothing store.

Regardless, Urban Outfitters without a doubt takes the controversy cake. The store has managed to offend not only Jews, but also other groups ranging from Native Americans to people with eating disorders.

"I think that the Navajo print controversy has gotten a lot more coverage than it deserved," said Pignataro about the store using Navajo labels on designs for clothes and accessories; among others, things like the 'Navajo Hipster Panty.' "It is clear that Urban Outfitters has no intention of insulting any minority. What's more aggravating is when did America start caring about Native Americans? Honestly, to get upset about a clothing store's use of a print and not a football team's use of a mascot is just ludicrous."

Are we too sensitive, or is there a definite line that should not be crossed? Where should the line be drawn between something being harmless, and something being a problem?

"[Concerning the Star of David shirt] It is hard to believe that the planners of this line of clothing or this specific garment were well-versed in history and the implications and lasting affects of the Holocaust. It is also hard to believe that anyone of Jewish descent was in the room when this was being discussed, manufactured, shipped, displayed or advertised," said PR professor Jill Stuart. "Certainly companies have the right to make whatever they want. But the public can demonstrate its acceptance or disapproval by purchasing or not purchasing given items."


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