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Urban Outfitters' 'drunk' shirts offend Irish

March 2, 2012 at 3:50 PM ET

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A T-shirt available on urbanoutfitters.com and being called into question by Irish organizations.

By Justin Fenner, Styleite

Urban Outfitters is taking a lot of flak from Irish organizations that say its St. Patrick’s Day merchandise defames and debases the entire Emerald Isle as a bunch of drunks. And like the Navajo-themed merchandise that came before it, the t-shirts and other products that inspired this anger may be headed off the shelves.

Irish people from all walks of life have responded to Urban’s Irish-themed product lineup pretty negatively, and some are prepared to wage a full fledged campaign to have the items removed from the store. And with products like a beer growler labeled Leprechaun Piss and shirts that say things like “Kiss Me, I’m Drunk. Or Irish, Or Whatever.” their anger isn’t really all that surprising.

Congressman Tim Crowley, head of the Congressional Ad Hoc Committee on Irish Affairs, sent a letter to Urban Outfitters CEO Richard Hayne, asking him, and nicely, to stop selling the products.

“By selling and promoting these items, Urban Outfitters is only fueling stereotypes that many Irish Americans, as well as the people of Ireland, work so hard to dispel.”

“We understand that such items may have been created with the intent of good humor. And, as members of the Ad Hoc Committee on Irish Affairs, we know that Irish and Irish Americans often revel in self-deprecating and blunt humor. However, we believe these items represent a step too far, crossing a line into stereotyping and denigration.”

“We strongly urge you to review your St. Patrick’s Day clothing line and consider its effects on the 35 million-strong Irish American community, as well as its implications for binge drinking. We also hope your review results in the withdrawal from distribution and sale of the items in question.”

But not everyone has been so genteel about getting the products off the shelves. Seamus Boyle, a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America (it’s the nation’s largest Irish organization), wrote in another letter that he’s ready to organize a boycott if the products aren’t removed post haste.

There are those few who use this day as an excuse to over celebrate but that does not give you or anyone else the right to defame and debase a whole race of people by selling the garbage that you display in your stores.

If this is the way you must make your money by debasing a whole race of people I can assure you that with over 40 million people in this country claiming Irish ancestry they will not be your customers after this display of arrogance and disrespect to a whole nation.

Urban Outfitters has faced those kinds of threats before. Last fall when it started selling an assortment of Navajo-themed products that featured Indian tribal prints, a boycott and lawsuit against the company was organized pretty quickly. In response to the pressure, Urban took down some of the products and renamed others to make them less offensive.

Whether that will happen in this case or not remains to be seen, but what we do know is that the people who source Urban Outfitters’ products should probably take some time off and enroll in some racial sensitivity courses. If they want to stay in business, stuff like this just can’t keep happening.

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