In this week's edition of Blatantly Offensive Clothing That's Actually Sold In Stores And Purchased By Human Beings, Urban Outfitters pays homage to Native Americans by mass-producing products with gaudy interpretations of tribal designs and calling them "Navajo".

And even though on Monday — Columbus Day — Sasha Houston Brown wrote an open letter to Urban Outfitters CEO Glen T. Senk imploring the company to stop selling these items, and even though the internet has been in an uproar since, her request continues to go unheeded.

Of course, Urban Outfitters isn't unique in their exploitation of Native American culture in the name of fashion. But it's about time someone said something about the new heights this ridiculous "trend" is reaching. Brown shows how absurd it really is by simply listing the names of the products she came across on a recent visit to the store:

"All too often industries, sports teams and ignorant individuals legitimize racism under the guise of cultural 'appreciation'. There is nothing honorable or historically appreciative in selling items such as the Navajo Print Fabric Wrapped Flask, Peace Treaty Feather Necklace, Staring at Stars Skull Native Headdress T-shirt or the Navajo Hipster Panty. These and the dozens of other tacky products you are currently selling referencing Native America make a mockery of our identity and unique cultures."

And even though Brown pointed out that the sale of this stuff is actually illegal —

“The Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-644) is a truth-in-advertising law that prohibits misrepresentation in marketing of Indian arts and crafts products within the United States. It is illegal to offer or display for sale, or sell any art or craft product in a manner that falsely suggests it is Indian produced, an Indian product, or the product of a particular Indian or Indian Tribe or Indian arts and crafts organization, resident within the United States. If a business violates the Act, it can face civil penalties or can be prosecuted and fined up to $1,000,000”.

The would-jump-over-a-bridge-if-you-told-them-to characters over at Urban Outfitters maintain that, "The Native American-inspired trend and specifically the term "Navajo" have been cycling through fashion, fine art and design for the last few years" and have no intention of pulling any of the Native American-inspired designs — not even the 24 items with the word "Navajo" in the product title.

Unlike those adorable "I'm allergic to algebra" and "I'm too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me" shirts, that Forever 21 and JCPenney, respectively, were cajoled into pulling from their stock, it looks like Urban Outfitters is going to need a bit more bad publicity. So c'mon internet! Rally! At the very least, do me a solid and do not buy the Navajo Print Fabric Wrapped Flask. That's just tacky. 

Commentarium (40 Comments)

Oct 14 11 - 1:54pm

Ethics: Fuck UO...this shit ain't okay.

Law: It would be interesting to see this become a case. The law cited above seems clearly designed to prevent profiteering from counterfeit arts and crafts. But I don't think it would be easy to make the case than an average reasonable person would think these were the "product of a particular Indian or Indian Tribe." (Not that average reasonable people would be caught buying such tacky shite.)

Oct 14 11 - 2:48pm

A lawsuit wouldn't last a second.

I agree about UO though.

Oct 14 11 - 2:04pm

I first would like to say that yes, they are tacky and the names of the products conjure up terrible stereotypical images that do not give due respect to the culture and history of the North American Indians.
However, sometimes people are too quick to pull out the Racism card. Racism is defined as : the belief that there are inherent different traits in human racial groups which justify discrimination, which I dont think is what these products are doing. They just seem to be new way to try and appeal to young hipsters that think its the next best and avant- garde garb so to speak, when in fact, if its in Urban outfitters, is it really that avant- garde?

Oct 15 11 - 2:58pm

Racism also includes a general disrespect for the culture of a visible minority. Check, and check.

Oct 14 11 - 2:38pm

With all due respect to American Indians and their culture, I have seen underwear and Mini Coopers covered with the Union Jack, the American Flag on motorcycle helmets and bikinis, shamrocks and on tee shirts that proclaim, "kiss me, I'm Irish," and many other offhand cultural visuals that may or not flatter the folks they represent. I don't believe any are meant to offend. This "Navaho" garb is just a momentary fad and it will soon fade.

Oct 14 11 - 4:49pm

Are you sure that's not undue respect?

Oct 15 11 - 3:48am

You're not due anything.

Oct 15 11 - 7:20pm

You make a really good point, though i would like to point out kay that ,most irish people wouldn't be caught dead in a "kiss me im irish tshirt".and people who arent irish dont wear them

Jun 26 12 - 11:20am

so cee cee who's buying the kiss me shirts? I am Native American & Irish. None of it bugs me. I mean yeah the first time i saw the flask I was kinda like hmmm...just because of the whole "drunk injun" stereotype. Otherwise it’s an interpretation. If you look at some of the very old Native American textiles some of them actually have swastikas on them! Now we wouldn't be so stupid as to say that Native Americans were promoting Hitler? I guess I just think there are bigger issues for us to worry about then some cheap faux native print tee shirts made in Taiwan that will be worn until spring then tossed out! I don’t let it bother me I just laugh. If you want to see something check out the documentary “Reel Injun.” And don’t let the bastards get you down. :) And then maybe Urban Outfitters can start selling items with a nazi theme! woo hoo!

Oct 14 11 - 2:46pm

It's the equivalent to fighting for your trademark.
Don't do it and you lose the right to it.
The work Navajo has meaning and pertains to a specific tribe and the products they produce.
The items at UO use the word in a way that implies those are Navajo items, rather than calling the item "Hipster Panty with Navaho influenced pattern"

Oct 14 11 - 2:47pm

I am sick of people crying racism everytime a designer uses a non-copyrighted print to create clothing, worn by human beings who I am pretty sure aren't saying "Oh I really hate Indians, Africans, Asians etc. so let me wear clothes that inspired by their cultural dress."

Ghanian Wax Print is used to make clothing, so I guess that means that all people who wear wax print is racist. Also, anything made in the fashion of a Kimono is also racist. Right?

Tell me this, when Native American Indians, Japanese, Chinese and Africans wear Western and European clothing, are they being racist?

For crying out loud..

Oct 14 11 - 3:38pm

I totally agree.

Oct 14 11 - 5:01pm

It's different when you have been colonized.

Oct 14 11 - 6:08pm

that is plain ignorant.

Oct 14 11 - 7:14pm

"Okay we've subjugated your people, now we're gonna take your cultural traditions and use them to sell mass-market items to young people with disposable incomes, okie dokie?"

Oct 14 11 - 9:32pm

"Navajo Print Fabric Wrapped Flask"

If you can't see the racism buried in that ... oh why do I even bother?

Oct 15 11 - 3:48am

I see that in you!

Oct 14 11 - 2:51pm

I agree with both Stu and hmmm. It's hard to imagine that this is genuinely illegal, because UO doesn't seem to be saying that they are the products of Navajos. If anything, they would probably just have to put a little disclaimer on the merchandise. I mean, it's like if someone sold a beret and labeled it a "French Beret." I don't think the argument could really be made that people would believe it was French.

And in regards to whether or not this is racist: Well, a lot of it has to do with the United States' obviously fraught relationship with Native American culture and people, but I don't think it's outrageous (except maybe the flask, but that would be more outrageous if it were on its own, and not part of a larger trend). Tacky and embarrassing, yes. But worse than "oriental" or "tribal" prints, that also regularly cycle through the fashion mill? Not really. There's a lot of crass, casual racism in fashion, and if you get offended by all of it, well, you'll spend a lot of your time offended.

Oct 14 11 - 3:10pm

This kind of lawsuit actually would have some legs. Read the civil claim portion of the statute: There's a non-frivolous argument that Urban Outfitters is misrepresenting its products as being Indian designs. Among others, the Navajo nation or an individual Navajo would have standing to bring suit for treble damages and/or injunctive relief. Once UO starts paying its lawyers, the appeal of this stuff to them should drop substantially. I hope someone goes after them.

Oct 14 11 - 5:33pm

I truly hope you don't hope that the law be misused in the manner you suggest, robert. To do as you suggest would be a travesty.

A suit persist for, oh, five minutes of serious deliberation but no self-respecting judge (or appellate panel) would take much longer to throw this out. The requirement for a product to be "represented" as Native American is much more stringent than what UO has done.

If UO got nervous or doesn't want to pay for the defense of an obviously bogus claim, it could propose changing the description to "Navajo-inspired." UO would have the added bonus of all the publicity the action would generate.

Oct 14 11 - 3:18pm
Paddy O'Bog

We'll be comin for yer claddagh rings and stupid celtic knot designs too!

Oct 14 11 - 3:34pm

I would actually appreciate this. Not because I'm Irish or offended, but because they are lame. Also, those panties are cute.

Oct 14 11 - 3:27pm

Everyone does this.... If you haven't notices, faux native american art has been kitschy since some parlor lady included some design into her decoration.

Oct 15 11 - 3:08am


Oct 15 11 - 2:55am

Fuck is the big deal? People have been making and selling clothes based on/interpreting native american designs for a long time. Oh what? Urban Outfitters does it and because of you people's why exactly the reason escapes me, personal vendetta against the place, you want to go and get a hair across you ass over it? Oh? Is it cause they've mainstreamed "hipsterism"? They're percieved as being and really aren't douchey? You fucks need to get over yourselves.

Oct 15 11 - 3:08am

Also answer me this smart asses, what about all those little kitcschy carts at malls and marketplaces and gas stations where they sell those dreamcatchers and tom-tom drums and peace pipes and native american statue thingies? Hmm? Or nature reservey,well,maybe that's not the right word, but those places like well yeah, nature reserves, where they sell fake arrowheads,and native american-y statues and stuff? I don't hear anyone bitching about them. Why? Not as easy a target as Urban Outfitters for you p.c types with a major hair across your asses?

"“The Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-644) is a truth-in-advertising law that prohibits misrepresentation in marketing of Indian arts and crafts products within the United States. It is illegal to offer or display for sale, or sell any art or craft product in a manner that falsely suggests it is Indian produced, an Indian product, or the product of a particular Indian or Indian Tribe or Indian arts and crafts organization, resident within the United States. If a business violates the Act, it can face civil penalties or can be prosecuted and fined up to $1,000,000”. "

Well, see previous statement and what if they say it is a fake/replica? Oh! Can't prosecute em then can yahs?!?!?!

"In this week's edition of Blatantly Offensive Clothing That's Actually Sold In Stores And Purchased By Human Beings,"

Really? You had to go there? I don't see why it matters, so that angle holds no weight.

Oct 15 11 - 3:15am

Oh Check and Mate.

Oct 15 11 - 3:47am

Do you really feel? share.

Oct 15 11 - 4:50am

How do you think I feel?? And who erased Danny Fuckin O'doyle's comment?!!?!?

Oct 15 11 - 2:57pm
Share with us

Your true, inner feelings...

Oct 15 11 - 2:46pm

The Navajo Nation has actually trademarked and licensed the name Navajo to prevent people from falsely using their name to sell products. So a lawsuit sounds like a real possibility
And if Native people don't want their culture simplified and mass-marketed, you should respect and try to understand their views instead of dismissing them and saying it's not racist. White people took native land, lives, and rights away from indigenous people. They have the right to try to preserve and maintain their culture AS THEY SEE FIT.

Oct 15 11 - 7:40pm

Simply put, no one enjoys control over their own culture. We don't and natives don't.

Oct 15 11 - 8:31pm

God damn it, I hate that over 300 years ago, my ancestors did things that you now hate. I wish to God that you weren't injured by them. You have to be, what?, 250 years old?

Oct 15 11 - 10:48pm

We love Observer.

Oct 15 11 - 3:51pm

There's a difference between Indian and Native American

Oct 15 11 - 10:20pm

Some years ago there was a produce company that started selling "Hopi" brand vegetables. The Hopi tribe successfully sued them. In the process they had to also bring suit against Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, which had an astronomical camera called HOPI (because otherwise their suit against the growers would be undermined. Fortunately a quick name change to HIPO got the Observatory off the hook.

Oct 16 11 - 6:36pm

I guess they were tired of stealing designs from artists on Etsy, so they instead used native americanesque patterns so white people can feel cultured, just like all those girls who wear NA headdresses.

Being culturally appreciative is so hip. (Okay, I admit I am being a bit of an ass on that last thing.)

Oct 17 11 - 2:46pm

Why do the hipsters need their own panty?

Oct 19 11 - 7:17am

Maybe you are the racist ones for having such a pole up your ass about people wearing clothes inspired by your culture.. if you havent been out in the real world yet, which it sounds like you haven't..shops and designers see things that they love and want to share it with the world through clothing.. this is not an insult to you, this should make you happy that people like the traditional and that more people can see the beauty of your clothing.. who cares if someone is wearing underwear with a pattern on it? if someone wants to spend money on an overpriced flask, let them waste there money.. shops sell tartan hats with ginger hair as a stereotype for Scottish people or sunbrero hats for mexicans and they don't pull out a law suit.

Oct 19 11 - 6:35pm

As a native woman I find this extreamly offensive and I am so sick of Native People being taken advantage of in our own country. And I am very happy that someone is taking a stand.