Another day, another Urban Outfitters controversy. Today, the hipster retailer apologized for selling a pair of socks depicting the Hindu deity Ganesh after backlash from the Hindu community.
In an email to Yahoo Shine, Urban Outfitters confirmed that the socks are no longer for sale.
The $8 red crew socks (now sold-out on Urban Outfitters' website) have blue toes and an image of Lord Ganesh is printed above the ankle. Earlier this week, Hindu statesman Rajan Zed wrote in a statement on his website that "Lord Ganesh was highly revered in Hinduism and was meant to be worshipped in temples or home shrines and not to be wrapped around one's foot. Inappropriate usage of Hindu deities or concepts for commercial or other agenda was not okay as it hurt the devotees." He further called for Urban Outfitters to recall the socks and for the brand to issue an apology.
The incident is far from the first time that Urban Outfitters has courted controversy. In May, the retailer pulled a line of shot glasses, flasks, and pint glasses that resembled prescription pill bottles after state officials in Kentucky argued that the line glamourized pill addiction. In an open letter to the company, one even referred to sale of the products as "repulsive." In August 2012, Urban Outfitters launched a provocative T-shirt line for teens bearing slogans such as, "I drink you're cute," "I vote for vodka," and "USA Drinking Team." And in 2011, a representative of the Santee Sioux Nation won a lawsuit against Urban Outfitters for its use of the word "Navajo" on their clothing. The suit argued that The Navajo Nation holds 12 trademarks on the word "Navajo," and federal law prohibits companies from falsely suggesting that Native Americans make a product. "I am deeply distressed by your company's mass marketed collection of distasteful and racially demeaning apparel and décor. I take personal offense to the blatant racism and perverted cultural appropriation your store features this season as "fashion," wrote Sasha Houston Brown of the Santee Sioux Nation, in an open letter to the brand. The store eventually removed the term "Navajo" from any products. And, it's tough to forget the company's "Eat Less" T-shirts marketed to young girls, which it ultimately yanked from shelves in 2010 after a mass boycott of the store.
Has the retailer learned its lesson? If the past is any indication, probably not.