Another day, another Urban Outfitters controversy.
The latest outrage surrounds the site’s ‘Kellog Tee’ by Danish label Wood Wood. It’s a plain yellow tee that until recently, featured a six-pointed geometric print star-shaped patch at the breast pocket. To some, including the Anti-Defamation League of Philadelphia, the shirt recalled too closely the Stars of David that Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust.
The ADL released the following statement:
Barry Morrison, ADL Regional Director, wrote to Richard Hayne, Chairman, President and CEO of Urban Outfitters, about a t-shirt offered by the company which is associated with the yellow Star of David symbol Jews were forced to wear in Nazi Europe. Morrison said, “We find this use of symbolism to be extremely distasteful and offensive, and are outraged that your company would make this product available to your customers.”
We reached out to Wood Wood, the label that designed the tee in question. Knowing them to be a reputable brand we doubted that they intended to use the symbolism of the Star of David at all. Furthermore, it’s worth noting that a six-pointed star is used on Danish naval flags. We received the following statement from Wood Wood’s co-founder Brian SS Jensen:
As some of you are aware, several news sites have been writing about our ‘Kellog’ T-shirt, which feature an image of a six-pointed star, allegedly similar to the yellow badge jews were ordered to wear by the German nazis.
First of all the graphic is not the Star of David, and i can assure you that this is in no way a reference to judaism, nazism or the holocaust. The graphic came from working with patchwork and geometric patterns for our spring/summer collection ‘State of Mind.’
And if you look at the tee on Urban Outfitters’ site now, the star patch is completely gone. Jensen explains:
However, when we received the prototype of this particular style we did recognize the resemblance, which is why we decided not to include the star patch on the final production T-shirt. I assume the image people have reacted to comes from Urban Outfitters´ web site. This must be a photograph of an early sample, which is of course an error.
Here is the actual T-shirt as it is in stores.
I am sorry if anyone was offended seeing the shirt, it was of course never our intention to hurt any feelings with this.
Urban Outfitters is obviously no stranger to controversy. Offending people is kind of their M.O. There was the Navajo disaster earlier this year, where the retailer stamped the “Navajo” descriptor on everything from underwear to flasks without regard for cultural sensitivity and copyright infringement, resulting in a lawsuit brought against Urban Outfitters by the Navajo Nation. Urban Outfitters offended the Irish when they put out Saint Patrick’s day hats that read “Irish Yoga” and depicted a stick figure puking with the caption “downward facing upchuck.”
Urban Outfitters is clearly missing a sensitivity chip, but in this case, it seems to be more of a misunderstanding that’s at fault rather than a genuine cause for outrage. It was not Wood Wood’s intent for the patchwork shape they affixed to their shirt to resemble the Star of David. Even still, they realized it could be interpreted that way, and they removed it. Unfortunately, that’s what the internet likes to do best–react quickly and with plenty of rage.