Urban Outfitters CEO: Kent State Sweatshirt 'Distressed,' Not Bloodstained


Clothing retailer Urban Outfitters courted controversy earlier this week when they listed what appeared to be a blood-spattered Kent State sweatshirt on their online store. While Urban is no stranger to t-shirt-inspired outrage, perhaps some saw their trading on a national tragedy (for $130, no less) as taking things a bridge too far.

Now, though, Gawker has published an email from CEO Dick Hayne, sent to UO staffers, in which he claims that the whole thing was a misunderstanding. Here it is in full:

Dear Folks,

In the last 24 hours we have received a lot of negative publicity and many of you have received communication from friends, family members or those outside the URBN community regarding a Kent State sweatshirt for sale on urbanoutfitters.com that was mistakenly identified as 'bloody'. We wanted to address this with our community and provide some 'facts'.

Despite what has been reported, the sweatshirt in question is a vintage item and there is only one. We purchased it from the Rose Bowl Flea Market in an assorted lot of 50 other sweatshirts from other colleges and universities across the country. All were well worn and many were 'distressed'. We photographed them as purchased, including the Kent State sweatshirt, and posted for sale on our website as part of our sun-faded vintage collection.

The condition of the Kent State sweatshirt pictured is as we bought it. There is no blood on it, and we certainly never promoted it as such. The discoloration that some mistook for blood is from natural fading and bleaching. Once the negative feedback was brought to our attention, we removed the item immediately from sale and sent an apology letter to Kent State University.

Vintage items are part of the heritage of the Urban brand and differentiate us from other retailers. We are proud of the Urban Renewal concept and believe that the vintage buyers have done an outstanding job in giving our customers what they want. Customer feedback on this type of product has been consistently positive. We will continue to offer these one-of-a-kind items and feel the recent confusion over the Kent State sweatshirt is an unfortunate occurrence.

I hope this adds some clarity to the 'stories' being promulgated by some in the news and on social media sites. Thank you for your understanding.

Warm regards,

Dick Hayne

Gawker's anonymous tipster, who identifies himself as a UO employee, added that while some of the younger staffers involved in the transaction may not have been aware of the Kent State massacre or grasped the sweatshirt's potentially offensive implications, managers at the corporate office understood them fully.

"They knew it was incendiary and let it be featured in an email blast to the vintage customers," he told Gawker. "But I also firmly believe that Mr. Hayne is completely out of touch with who he thinks his customer is and who he wants his customer to be."
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