Today, the Internet is up in arms about Urban Outfitters. And not because of their egregiously high prices, but because of their egregiously high priced “Vintage Kent State” sweatshirt, which has splatterings of (probably non-accidental) red dye all over it. Is it OK to be really mad about this? Let’s get some perspective first, shall we?
See, back when your parents were our age, they didn’t have Facebook or Twitter as a social and political soundboard, so instead they let their voices be heard in different ways. As the late ’60s and ’70s were a politically turbulent era, this often meant finding a collective voice and staging public protest (like, IRL). All throughout the Civil Rights Movement, The Women’s Movement, and continuing into the Vietnam War era, this voice was strong– some of the more notable events included the 1968 Democratic National Convention, the 1967 march on The Pentagon, and Woodstock (the one with the music!).
But it wasn’t all peace and love, man. One of the most significant images from the era was that of a female teenager, Mary Ann Vecchio, kneeling in agony with arms helplessly open over a dead student protester. This image was from the aftermath of the Kent State protest and resulting massacre. In May of 1970, a peaceful anti-war protest was staged on the Kent State campus, specifically to rally against the Cambodian Incursion, which was declared by President Nixon just days before. While the occupation was completely nonviolent on the part of protesters, most of whom were students, it resulted in the death of four when the Ohio National Guard completely mishandled the situation and fired off multiple rounds into the crowd. This is the reason why Urban Outfitters’ latest hot item is stained in that blood-colored dye.
(photo by John Filo)
Now that you have a bit of background, the answer is yes, it is definitely appropriate for people to be put-off by such an addition to Urban’s fall clothing line, especially given recent events that have once again brought into question the actions of law enforcement (see: an unarmed black teenager who was shot dead in Ferguson, MO last month, or the death of unarmed store owner, who suffered a heart attack while being suffocated by officers in New York while arresting him for selling untaxed cigarettes). It’s good practice, however, to have a dose of history when talking about these subjects, just so you know how to really make a zinger when you post about it on Facebook.