Urban Outfitters, purveyor of super-tight pink skinny jeans and belly-button skimming v-neck tees for dudes, is coming under intense pressure from gay rights groups and Miley Cyrus. Is it time to boycott the hipster factory?
Urban Outfitters is having a rough press month. After being outed for ripping off independent jewelry designers, the Twittersphere has reawakened vitriol about the founder’s anti-gay campaign contributions.
Even Miley Cyrus joined the online anti-Urban Outfitters chatter last week, pointing out that president and founder Richard Hayne donated $13,150 to the political campaigns of Rick “gay sex leads to man-on-dog love-making” Santorum. She even went so far as to call the retailer “#SHADYASHELL.” Sharp words from the super-chill salvia-smoking teeny-bopper.
The one message uniting blog posts and Tweets aimed at Urban Outfitters is that it’s time to boycott the company and its brands, Anthropologie and Free People.
This sounds like a difficult boycott to mobilize, due to the store’s immense popularity. I shop at Urban Outfitters. While most of the clothing fits awkwardly and falls apart too quickly, the sale rack in the back is one of the few places where I can afford to buy a cute dress. It’s also by far the most convenient. But it’s worth pointing out that if everyone who supports gay marriage decided to collectively quit Urban Outfitters and its sister brands for just a few months, they could freak some people out.
According to Wikipedia, Urban Outfitters has over 140 locations, supports upwards of 75 Anthropologies, and rakes in yearly revenue to the tune of $1.83 billion. A recent Gallup Poll suggested that 53% of Americans support gay marriage, and one can assume that among the young, “hip,” Urban Oufitters-wearing crowd that number is higher. If all—or even half— of pro-gay rights customers committed to quit the brand for one quarter (3 months) they would draw substantial press and cut deeply into the store’s revenue for 2011. Make it 75% of pro-gay shoppers for two quarters and the company would start bleeding all over their floral jumpsuits and rubbery braided belts.
Urban Outfitters is confusing. The store sells funky duds that seem to aim at liberal, urban youth. In 2008 U.O. sold the Obama Head tees like hot cakes, as well as an anti-Prop 8 t-shirt with the words “I Support Same-Sex Marriage.” In what seemed like an effort to further confuse the customer, the latter tee was pulled from the shelves because “they weren’t selling.”
In 2008, ThisIsMoney.co.uk hit it on the head when they wrote, “Hayne must be the only retailer whose expansion plans depend on no one finding out who he really is.”
Many supporters of gay marriage are frustrated by how little is achieved by casting a vote for a pro-gay candidate. If that representative is elected, he or she is sent to haggle for rights with Republican lawmakers who usually, though not always, object to gay rights, as well as Democrats who are slow as shit to get anything done.
If U.O. shoppers could organize (and they can), America’s urban youth and older people who dress too young for their age could send a message to corporations and Washington.
Then, hopefully, we could all go back to buying semi-affordable, super-convenient shredded denim shorts and graphic tees.