You Should Stop Shopping at Urban Outfitters and American Apparel

Yo, hipsters. It's time to talk social responsibility here. There are two notoriously "cool" brands out there that have been causing huge stirs in the media lately. Though controversy is not always a bad thing (like standing up for what you believe in, etc.) these companies have been guilty of quite a few HUGE ethical, social, and legal crimes over the past few years. I'm talking about Urban Outfitters and American Apparel, and why you should think twice about shopping with either of their companies.

The Dirt on UO:
You may have seen the recent media uproar about the "Vintage Kent State Pullover" that Urban Outfitters sold on its website earlier this month. Splattered with what looks to be blood, the clothing item makes a mockery of the tragic 1970's shooting at Kent State University, in which four unarmed college students were killed by members of the military during a protest.

That has not been Urban Outfitter's only moment of distaste, as they've been known to rip off artists and sell their designs without credit. Here are a few examples:

A graphic artist called Spires discovered their work had been ripped off by UO earlier this year.

Stevie, owner of a shop called Truche, had her necklace designs ripped off by UO in 2011.

If you thought promoting violence and stealing art wasn't enough, let me show you a few other offensive items that UO has proudly sold over the years:


Items that blatantly promote and / or make light of serious mental conditions.

Items sold as "Navajo" that had no affiliation with the trademarked Navajo name or their people.

Items that glamorize the mixing of alcohol and prescription drugs.

Though most of these items have been pulled from shelves, I can't help but wonder where UO will cross the line next. Their half-hearted apologies, continued art theft, and 600% price markup won't be bringing me back. Likely ever. Are YOU angry yet?

Let's move on to American Apparel:

AA may just be the creepiest company on the face of the planet. Multiple sexual harassment suits have been filed against their CEO, they're known to discriminate against racial minorities and plus sized people during their hiring process, and have a focus on attracting "the right kind of customer." Who is "cute, thin, and trendy."

An anonymous former employee submitted this journal entry to Gawker, which highlights the general sleaziness of the company. In the article, she mentions managers at American Apparel allowing and even encouraging their workers to be leered at, touched, and objectified, just to sell clothing.

Many American Apparel ads were banned in the UK due to their sexual nature and implications of "school girl" (ie. underage) appearances. More interested in selling sex than selling clothes, AA continues to feature scantily clad or even naked models who may or may not have been comfortable with the positions or manner they were asked to pose in. CEO Dov Charney* has been reported to have "taken a lot of the company's advertising photos himself," and given his track record, it is likely that many of the models are sexually harassed as well. 

*Disclaimer - upon research many sources state that Dov Charney has been fired, but he still seems to have influence and/or a stake in the company.

This objectification is obvious in the photos in which the models are often stripped of their identity and have only their breasts, bottoms, legs, or other "sexy" body parts photographed. Others are blatantly sexual and feature only single items sold by AA.

Of course, it's up to you if you continue to support these companies, but I urge you to do your research before you shop. There are many hip, cute, and clever alternatives to these brands that are far more ethical in their practices.

What do you think of these scandals?
What are your favorite "hipster" brands?


  1. I think it's disgusting what both brands are doing and I'm baffled by how the things UO have been selling, got the go ahead to be made! I won't be buying from either brand, ever.

  2. Wow! I had no idea abotu any of this. How wrong. Thanks so much for sharing.

  3. That is crazy how UO can get away with ripping off others intellectual property! I have never liked American Apparel they are gross!

  4. I probably wouldn't fit into their clothing even if I wanted to but I was still aware of the controversy. I hope it makes a lot of people think twice.

  5. You have also educated me as well. You need to try to sell this to a magazine. I will brainstorms some markets. Anyone else ideas? I really think this information should be more widely distributed because I had no idea.

    Mary-andering Creatively

  6. Thanks for sharing this. I think it's really important to speak out when it comes to a loss of ethics & morals. This post shouldreally get bore attention :)

  7. I've always, always LOATHED American Apparel's approach to how they use their models to sell their clothes. It's absolutely disgusting and pretty much the main reason I won't even look at their website. I didn't realise Urban Outfitters was up to this kind of stuff though. That's a real shame. I don't really like their clothes but I love their homeware and I hate to think they're ripping people off!

  8. Wow I hadn't heard about these, that sweatshirt is shocking! I never shop at these places anyway.

  9. I have a cell phone case that is just like that triangle artist's work! I had no idea it came from a graphic designer. Clearly this cell phone case company is also ripping off that work...

  10. This. I've been hating against UO for years but no one will hear me. It's really sad. I did find more than once designs from Etsy sellers ripped off by UO and they are selling extremely cheap clothing from Asia for 20 times the price, it's absolutely ridiculous. Supporting your article and hoping more will join into the discussion!

  11. I've heard all the stuff about Urban Outfitters, but not about American Apparel, wow! I'm happy to say that I've never shopped in either (ridiculously overpriced in my opinion) and I definitely do not want my money going to companies like that.

  12. American Apparel is disgusting. Their porno ads are always popping up on websites. UO is just stupid. Their eat less thing pissed me off so much as does this Kent State thing. My best friend graduated from there and she said the whole school is so angry.

  13. great post...I find it disgusting what this companies are doing

  14. What AA and UO are doing is disgusting! no doubt!
    But let's ask ourselves this honest and simple question: "Why are they doing it"?
    Because let's admit it; most girls/women (mainly in the West) want to be sexually attractive or in other words sex objects. But when they get called out for it or it is not 100% on their own terms, they get pissed off and offended. Just have a quick look on i.e. Instagram or other social network sites and you will get my point.
    The solution to this problem: stop portraying yourselves as cheap sluts and elevate yourself to a higher level of respect.
    These ads are directed at women (womens clothing) and usually a marketing team is behind it who know what their audience want, so stop blaming others and begin with yourself.

    1. You seem nice! If you want to be a misogynistic piece of crap how about doing it without hiding behind the anonymous tag?


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