Clothing companies push the boundaries of good taste


Recently, the trendy clothing company Urban Outfitters debuted a “Vintage Kent State Sweatshirt” on their website. The sweatshirt, which has the Kent State logo on it, was adorned with blood stains and what seemed to be bullet holes.

Although many may already know, May 4, 1970 was when four students attending Kent State were killed on campus while protesting the Vietnam War. To some, myself included, the blood and bullet holes, seem to make a mockery out of a sad moment in history.

Urban Outfitters, after realizing that many people had found the sweatshirt offensive and distasteful, removed it from their online website and apologized, but only after a large uproar on social media. The company reports that the intent of the sweatshirt was not to be a reminder of this tragedy. They released a statement saying, “We [Urban Outfitters] are extremely saddened that this item was perceived as such.”

Upon seeing this, I immediately shared it on my social media accounts, expecting everyone to find it as offensive as I did. However, not everyone I know shared the same belief. Some people believe that it was only a little hiccup and that people need to have a sense of humor. They saw this as a joke, while others saw it as an insensitive mockery of a serious incident.

“I believe if it mocks a tragedy, is discriminatory against a group of people, or tries to lessen the severity of something sad, then it’s crossing the line,” said Junior Abbey Branco. “Something offensive is totally disregarding a horrible event or degrading something different than what we are used to.”

Tragedies can happen anywhere, to anyone. One well-known tragedy is the terribly infamous Holocaust led by Adolf Hitler.

We have all learned about the Holocaust throughout our multiple years of school, whether it is while reading Eli Wiesel’s Night, or in a US History 2 class. Similar to Urban Outfitter’s sweatshirt slip-up, the clothing company Zara sold a pajama shirt that earned the disgust of many.

The teeshirt, aimed for children aged from three months to three-years-old, had white and blue stripes, and what Zara attempted to call a “yellow sheriff’s star” that just happened to closely resemble the Star of David that concentration camp prisoners were forced to wear during their imprisonment. This pajama set reminded people a little bit too much of the Holocaust novel and film The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. The sleepwear set was removed from Zara’s website and stores after being ridiculed on social media sites such as Twitter.

There has been quite a bit of discussion regarding the degree of offense that is taken to mascots with Native American names recently. One example being our very own team name, the Dartmouth Indians. The fact that early English settlers treated the Native Americans badly is both indubitable and an understatement. The early English settlers brought disease and brutally claimed the land that many Native Americans called home. One of the slogans that was used to justify the acquisitive acts of these settlers was Manifest Destiny.

Knowing the history behind Manifest Destiny, it is easy to understand why some people were offended when Gap, yet another clothing company, released a shirt that had the term printed on it in bold lettering.

These are merely a few examples of times when clothing companies have stepped on quite a few toes. To some, these incidents and their backstories are completely insensitive, yet to others, they are viewed as something that is being overly analyzed.

“What I think can be offensive to other people is when people make comments on another’s race, sex, beliefs, or class.”

— Junior Ian Woodcock

When asked what others take offense to, DHS junior Ian Woodcock said, “What I think can be offensive to other people is when people make comments on another’s race, sex, beliefs, or class.”

When asked the same question, junior Nicole Ponte said, “I don’t feel I have the right to decide what is ‘too offensive’ or not. If someone tells me I am offending them, I’ll gladly change my ways.”

This is how we should all react to something. It is very important to be conscious of other’s feelings and thoughts.

The degree of offense taken to a certain statement or action varies among whom you ask and what their experiences are. Yes, people do need to have a sense of humor, but jokes do not have to be funny at someone else’s expense.