The Vagenda

Urban Outfitters are High Street Trolls: Why Are We Still Shopping There?


Like a dog that vomits and then eats its own sick, Urban Outfitters are at it again. This week they’ve been forced to pull their “controversial” (read: “insensitive posturing dickbag”) Depression crop top. [pictured] Yep: DEPRESSION. All over your tits! Who wouldn’t want this? I mean, probably not people with depression, because if you’d had depression, or are depressed], you know it’s not an accessory. And probably not people who’ve known someone with depression because they know how sad it is to watch someone you love struggle with depression. That’s quite a lot of people who won’t be wearing that top. 
So, aside from the aforementioned posturing dickbags, who exactly would want this? Well, apparently everyone. After Urban Outfitters issued their non-apology (“Hey everyone, we hear you and we are taking the shirt down from the site”) Urban Outfitters immediately changed the page listing to “Sold Out”. And perhaps it did. Who knows? It might crop up on ebay now for thrice the retail price. Either way, nothing says contrition like bragging about how much money you’ve made from being a professional troll. 

I’m using the word “troll” because I’m becoming convinced that riling people might be their entire marketing scheme. A couple of years ago they “got in trouble” for having T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan “Eat Less”. That was the latest in a long line of offensive products which had been accused of being, to varying degrees, racist, sexist, culturally insensitive, and transphobic. Now we can add glamourising mental illness to that clusterfuck list. As I type this I imagine their design team are brainstorming yet more ideas, probably by typing “offensive shit lmao” into google while singing “troll-lol-lol-lol-lol-lol”.

It’s the repeated guzzling of their own vomit that really cements Urban Outfitters troll status. It started about ten years ago with ‘Ghettopoly’, the ‘black version’ of Monopoly they were selling. It had an angry black man waving a gun in the middle, instead of Mr Monopoly, and Park Lane was replaced with a peep show. The racism it exhibits is almost of a “can’t see the woods for the angry black men” variety. It’s so blatant and so offensive that you actually take a second look to check that you haven’t misunderstood. 

At the time, Reverend Glenn Wilson said that it was in fact so racist that “the only way to take it was to say that the people had racist intent in marketing it”. It’s not ‘funny and accidentally’ racist, it’s just racist. And in the ten years since that board game was created, Urban Outfitters have remained staggeringly loyal to this policy. From trucker caps with the slogan “Irish Yoga” on them showing a drunk stick man throwing up, to a T-shirt with a Star of David on the pocket which mimics the stars Jewish people were forced to wear during the Holocaust, to a complete misappropriation of Native American culture, brilliantly taken apart here, by Jezebel. 

But it’s not just those who don’t look, feel or live the way Urban Outfitters’ white hipster demographic who are in the line of attack, they also don’t seem to like women. For anyone who’s recently gone shopping on a UK high street, that’s not news. Coats that don’t button or have pockets? Crop tops? Skirts so tight and cheap you’ll produce enough yeast to brew your own beer? It’s all there.

In 2011, Urban Outfitters decided to take it that one step further and feature the crotch shot of a 14 year old model, without her permission, on the front of one of their T-shirts. Women in handcuffs, women with their tits out, women’s shirts with “I Drink You’re Cute” written on them – all they care about is your money, basically. In 2012, they produced a transphobic card which included the phrase “Jill was a closet tranny”. It showed them for the playground bullies that they are, a massive company that picks on people who already spend their daily lives tolerating frequent abuse. Behaviour like this can have devastating effects. 

We need to stop rewarding a marketing strategy which seems to involve trolling everyone who’s not exactly like them. Yesterday, Urban Outfitters’ shares increased in value from $50.00 to $55.00. They have worked out a profitable way of making money out of racism, transphobia and sexism. It doesn’t matter how many times they get told to remove these products because chances are they’ll just go away and dream up some new one about date rape or addiction or they’ll steal a young designers work (all things they have already done in the last few years).

You may say, that by writing about this, we’re just providing them with clickbait, but lots of non-US readers seem to be unaware of how gleefully trollish Urban Outfitters can be. We’re not going to link to them.  So here it is. DEPRESSION! All over your tits! Were YOU lucky enough to buy one of their sellout crop tops? 

‘Each collection is presented as a black comedy based on medical themes, and some titles of their men’s, women’s and shoes collections include AW12 ‘Plastic Surgery’ and AW13 ‘Dysmorphia’, reads the bio for the top’s designers. In case you didn’t manage to snap that one up, there’s always next season’s ‘Life Support Machine’ and ‘Massive bereavement’ ranges.

Quite frankly, I am DONE. 

- BD

3 thoughts on “Urban Outfitters are High Street Trolls: Why Are We Still Shopping There?

  1. I agree, not to mention most of their items I’ve seen something similar in a genuine thrift shop. The only time I have ever shopped there was in 2011 on their sale rack. I like to see what they have, but the overpriced BS and the unethical behavior grinds my gears too.

  2. Overpriced is the word! Even the stuff they sell which isn’t hideously offensive is ridiculously marked up. When it’s new designers I don’t mind that so much but when they’re ripping off designs and not crediting them £90 for a t-shirt seems a bit steep.

  3. Hopefully one day we can all grow up and stop thinking this kind of thing is “edgy”. It isn’t. It’s just offensive and I’m right behind you.