Urban Outfitters, the wannabe hipster fashion purveyor based in Philadelphia, has a penchant for offending minority groups. The most recent stir is over merchandise introduced in advance of this year’s St. Patrick’s Day, which plays off the stereotype of the Irish Drunk. Other groups antagonized by UO in the past include Native Americans, African Americans, Jews, and Mexicans. Of course, UO isn’t the only retailer to get in trouble for controversial wares.
Paddy's Day Wares
“Irish” items recently introduced by UO include T-shirts like these, as well as beer glasses, shot glasses, sunglasses shaped like shamrocks, and beer glasses.
The House of Representatives' Ad Hoc Committee for Irish Affairs has urged the retailer to discontinue the items, saying they promote “severe and negative stereotypes of Irish and Irish-American people ... [and] may promote binge drinking.”
Still for Sale
Urban Outfitters hasn’t pulled the “Irish” items.
In 2010, Urban Outfitters introduced a short-sleeved BDG Burnout Henley, describing its color as “Obama Black.” The nomenclature has been discontinued.
In 2005, officials with the Anti-Defamation League asked UO to stop selling a T-shirt that said, “New Mexico, Cleaner Than Regular Mexico.”
Following complaints in 2004, UO pulled a T-shirt printed with shopping bags, dollar signs, and the words, “Everyone Loves A Jewish Girl.”
Teenage model Haily Clauson is suing Urban Outfitters for printing photos of her on T-shirts that she and her parents say are “blatantly salacious.” Clauson was 15 at the time of the shoot.
Last month, the Navajo Nation sued UO for branding various merchandise as “Navajo,” including a flask, socks, and underwear. It’s illegal to sell arts and crafts that falsely suggest that they’re made by American Indians. UO no longer uses the term.
Urban Outfitters, A&F Clothes
Politically incorrect T-shirts are widespread. Urban Outfitters (URBN), Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF), and Forever 21 are among the most recent offenders. For instance, Urban Outfitters sold a shirt that reads “Irish I were Drunk” and faux “Navajo” merchandise. In 2002, an A&F shirt read, "Wong Brothers Laundry Service—Two Wongs Can Make It White" (click here to see other examples).
Columbus in the New World
Forever21 even featured “Navajo” and Native American-inspired clothing like this in a Columbus Day sale.
Of course there’s also the 2002 incident in which Abercrombie & Fitch started selling shirts featuring caricatures of Asians in rice paddy hats, printed with such phrases as, "Wong Brothers Laundry Service—Two Wongs Can Make It White." The retailer’s PR firm told the San Francisco Chronicle: "We personally thought Asians would love this T-shirt.”