Urban Outfitters is known for their awesome array of graphic tees pertaining to popular culture, but the favorite hipster emporium has not been met without some controversy throughout the years. This time it’s a Che Guevara shirt that got their amnestic consumers riled up.
While seen as an icon to many for his guerilla methodology in the name of improving the dire conditions of his native Argentina, what’s often swept under the rug is that Che was also a criminal. The shirt that Urban was recently selling featured the famous portrait taken by Alberta Korda (black and white, with Che seemingly looking yonder), and is a picture that’s been regularly re-produced on everything from mugs to posters. Despite Che’s unceasing popularity with young people, plenty of people complained to Urban about their endorsement of the Marxist leader.
An open letter was even written to the CEO of Urban Outfitters by Thor Halvorsseen of the Human Rights Foundations, and following the plea, at least ten stores so far have discontinued selling it. However, loyal Che fans caught wind of the news and stocked up on the shirts which suddenly became collector items, selling out the same day the chain announced it’d be no more. Halvorssen described the results of his letter as “bizarre.”
The minor incident is an intriguing case of consumer interest vs. morality, as buyers for UO are fully aware of what their fans would buy in spades, and often times those choices are irreverent and colorfully controversial, often emblazoned on their best-selling graphic tee. So while the Human Rights Foundation won the initial fight of getting the shirt off the racks, naturally, they may be feeling that their message got lost in the pandemonium for Che that still exists which speaks volumes on the power of celebrity and being a cult figure. —Carmen Shardae Jobson