Urban Outfitters Makes Me Cranky

Alison Morris - September 29, 2008

Urban Outfitters prides itself on its knowledge of (and catering to) what’s hip and trendy with edgier teens and the college-age crowd. I was therefore happy, at first, to see that some literary classics had a place in their current product mix. (Click on any of the photos to here to be directed to their product page.)


Along with the Fitzgerald and Kerouac options above, the stores’ selection of "graphic tees" for men also includes a few salutes to "required reading" for the younger set. They offer three Sendak-y designs and one ode to Seuss in Italian.


And (hooray!) a salute to "Reading Rainbow," a show I dearly wish was still on the air, and not just because I dreamed of cohosting it with LeVar Burton. (Ah, maybe in my next life…)

So, here’s the reason I’m feeling cranky about Urban Outfitters. While I’m happy that these reading-inspired tees appear in the stores’ offerings for men, I find it both odd and irksome that they don’t also appear in the selection of "graphic tees" being marketed to women. Does Urban Outfitters believe that hipster girls are less likely than their male counterparts to actually read and enjoy books? Do they think girls don’t WANT to announce their own love of literature? 

No, I think it’s less complicated than that, and the ONE book-inspired tee aimed at women browsing the Urban Outfitters website pretty well confirms that: tell me this t-shirt doesn’t have a blatantly suggestive subtext.

Like SO many others nowadays, the Urban Outfitters brand appears to be more concerned with making girls and young women appear sexy than making them appear smart (or confident or capable or… where to start?). I won’t go into all the reasons I’m offended by the rampant sexualization of girls and women that’s so readily evident in the marketplace nowadays, because this is neither the time nor the place. I will observe, though, that if sexualizing girls and women is their aim, Urban Outfitters seems to have missed one crucial point when they decided to market just one book tee to women rather than the full range available to men — it’s a point expressed well on THIS t-shirt designed by Sarah Utter — which is currently NOT available in Urban Outfitters stores:

7 thoughts on “Urban Outfitters Makes Me Cranky

  1. Clair Frederick

    Alison, I’m trying to comment on this but the word I need to use (from the t-shirt above) has been declared unacceptable. Note the same slogan was used on t-shirts and totebags by the regional booksellers at MPIBA.

  2. Four Story Mistake

    If you ARE hankering for a women-sized literature-influenced non-naughty tee, I have a lovely Madeline tee I got from Delia’s. They have some others too (Cat in the Hat, Wild Things) and I think I saw Paddington once! So, don’t despair, Alison!

  3. Rich Rennicks

    As a confirmed T-shirt hater, I’m always irked that the cool literary inspired messages & designs are not available on regular button-up shirts. Would a simple, button-up, short sleeved cotton shirt with a Wild Things or Phantom Toolbooth image be too much to ask?

  4. kat

    I actually picked up the Gatsby shirt at my local Urban Outfitters, and while I was there I saw women’s shirts featuring Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird, among others. Why they don’t appear on the website I cannot say, but they do exist.

  5. Harry

    A great thing about men’s t-shirts…. is that they can be worn by women. Wahhhhhh if they are not formfitting, shorter cropped sleeves, or pink. Writer’s block=searching hard for this blog post

  6. KMcLean

    If you really want to check out some smart lit-T’s for girls, go to Bookshelves of Doom and do a site search for T-shirts. My favorite: Wimsey and Vane 4eva. Alas, Leila’s Etsy shop is empty, so I’m not sure she’s still making them for sale, which is a real bummer.


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