Urban Recalls Voting T-Shirts

It’s not uncommon for a t-shirt to shrink, but Urban Outfitter’s “Voting is for Old People” t-shirt turned into a novelty item yesterday when the retail chain yanked it from their shelves.

The popular retailer recalled the design in response to national criticism that the shirt promotes political apathy among young people.

Harvard’s Institute of Politics (IOP) was one of many organizations that condemned Urban Outfitters for making what they said was “the wrong statement at the wrong time.”

In response to the recent recall, IOP student advisory chair Ilan T. Graff ’05 said, “I definitely applaud [Urban Outfitters] for making this very responsible and admirable decision. But we at the IOP still have a lot of work to do to get students on this campus and across the country informed, excited, and engaged about the election this November.”

In a statement released Friday night, Urban Outfitters apologized for the confusion surrounding the t-shirt. “We have no interest in discouraging anyone, much less, young people from voting. Thus we regret the misunderstanding that has occurred, but we appreciate the emotional debate.”

Urban Outfitters is no stranger to controversy.

In 2001, the store pulled its “Kansas Cattle Queen” t-shirt, which featured a naked woman’s body sectioned into cuts of meat, after many, including Yale administrators, complained that the product objectifies women.

Again in October of 2003, Urban Outfitters was persuaded to remove “Ghettopoly,” a version of the popular board game Monopoly, after the game sparked a national boycott by those who believed it perpetuated racial stereotypes.

Earlier this year, the store discontinued a t-shirt with the text “Everybody Loves a Jewish Girl” surrounded by dollar signs, after critics complained.

While some criticized the “Voting Is For Old People” slogan, individuals with the Oregon Bus Project—a group that rallies young people behind progressive candidates— decided to parody the Urban Outfitters product with the alternative t-shirt: “Vote F*cker.”

Project Chair Jefferson Smith, a Harvard Law School graduate, said that creating the alternative shirt was “an opportunity to bring the debate to an equally inappropriate, but positive level.”

Jennifer Yocom, the Director of Operations for the Oregon Bus Project, said her group’s shirt is “just as inappropriate… but fun!”

“One of the things that was dangerous about the ‘Voting Is For Old People’ shirt is that it’s reemphasizing the line of us-versus-them view of government,” Yocom said.

“But we need to understand that we are the government, and we need to participate and be accountable,” he added.