Offensive Fashion

By Anita Bielicka

In light of the latest uproar concerning the “Kent State University” sweater by Urban Outfitters— which was made in a vintage design and splattered with fake blood, causing one to remember the shooting that took place in 1970— it is interesting to explore some of the rather controversial fashion items that have been released to the public over the last few years. Additionally, a five-point scale of offensive potential is going to indicate which incidents are minor felonies and which can be seen as total wipe-outs.


  1. Abercrombie & Fitch Thongs

In 2002, A&F released an underwear line that was deemed to be “pornographic” by plenty of American family advocacy groups, due it featuring thongs with printed phrases like “eye candy” or “kiss me”. The catch is that the line was aimed at girls of an age between 7 and 14, which, considering the printed lines, seems particularly inappropriate. However, controversy is not new to the brand since another scandal erupted when the CEO of Abercrombie announced that they would not produce large sized clothing in order to avoid fat people wearing the brand.

Rating: 2/5

  1. Adidas Shackle sneakers

It seems that even an acclaimed designer like Jeremy Scott can be prone to a mishap like this: When Adidas announced the launch of a collaboration line with the designer, there was an instant uproar about the “slave shoes” that were supposed to go on sale, but got pulled in the end. What made them controversial were not the shoes themselves, but the added yellow shackles that were reminiscent of slave shackles, a particularly sensitive topic concerning the history of the United States. Jeremy Scott himself claimed that the shackles were inspired by a cartoon figure called Pet Monster and not by actual slavery. Nevertheless, the sneakers remained banned.

Rating: 4/5

  1. H&M feathered headdress

Even though the issue of the appropriation of Native American headdresses is nothing new, it becomes more problematic when a major international retailer like H&M sells them as fashion accessories. As many have complained, the item has been taken out of H&M’s inventory pretty quickly, and with good reason. Unfortunately, the problem still has not been rooted out: In July, Elle UK published an issue with musician Pharrell wearing a Native American headdress on the cover.

Rating: 3/5

  1. American Apparel Ads

The type of controversial advertisement that American Apparel puts out on a regular basis should not be news. From a poster featuring a half-naked woman and the title “Made in Bangladesh” to t-shirts with a print saying “Teenagers Do It Better”: they have it all. The scandals surrounding the founder and former CEO Dov Charney, which included plenty of sexual harassment allegations from models and employees, did not really help either.

Rating: 3/5

  1. Urban Outfitters

When it comes to Urban Outfitters, it is hard to decide on just one offensive item, which is why the whole brand makes it on the list. The offenses committed by Urban Outfitters range from “Everybody Loves A Jewish Girl” t-shirts together with small shopping bag and dollar sign prints, t-shirts with a caption encouraging its customers to “Eat Less”, or “Vote for Vodka” to a downright racist Ghettopoly board game. Oh, and last but not least there is still the State Kent sweater that sparked the idea for this article. Whether this is all just “ironic fun” or a desperate marketing attempt, Urban Outfitters has proven to be the most tasteless brand so far.

Rating: 5/5

Anita Bielicka, Class of 2015, is a Law and Politics Major from Bremen, Germany.

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