In 1970, Army National Guardsmen opened fire on students at Kent State University in Ohio who were protesting the Vietnam War. The troops killed four of the students and wounded nine. In 2014, Urban Outfitters offered for sale a "Vintage Kent State Sweatshirt", spattered with what appear to be fake bulletholes or bloodstains, at a cost of $129.
On Twitter, the garment met with poor reviews, though many made a point of the retailer's longstanding willingness to generate and exploit outrage.
"Urban Outfitters explores the outer reaches of bad taste," wrote @NYCSouthpaw . "Urban Outfitters are selling a "vintage" Kent State jumper, blood splatters and all. Nothing says "hip" like murder," wrote Cory Zanoni.
The item is now "sold out", according to the website—but it's appeared on eBay (Update: the auction was subsequently removed), with a $2500 "buy it now" price tag and a sleazy fig-leaf promise of a charity donation: "I ordered it and am waiting myself, as soon as it arrives, I'll ship it to you. Perfect for Halloween or whatever your deal is."
In the past, other Urban Outfitters items to disappear during a PR imbroglio included designs swiped from independent artists, T-shirts featuring badges similar to those Jews were forced to wear in Nazi Germany, skull shirts featuring the Star of David, a Depression Logo Cropped Tee," and a "Ganesh" duvet. [via]
UPDATE: Kent State University issued a statement condemning Urban Outfitters.
May 4, 1970, was a watershed moment for the country and especially the Kent State family. We lost four students that day while nine others were wounded and countless others were changed forever.
We take great offense to a company using our pain for their publicity and profit. This item is beyond poor taste and trivializes a loss of life that still hurts the Kent State community today.
We invite the leaders of this company as well as anyone who invested in this item to tour our May 4 Visitors Center, which opened two years ago, to gain perspective on what happened 44 years ago and apply its meaning to the future.
UPDATE: Urban Outfitters "apologized" and is "extremely saddened that this item was perceived" as alluding to the Kent State tragedy: "There is no blood on this shirt nor has this item been altered in any way. The red stains are discoloration from the original shade of the shirt and the holes are from natural wear and fray."