Here we go again, Urban Outfitters. The popular retailer is no stranger to controversy, but this recent gaffe seems to be one of the worst ones yet. It appears as they have not learned their lesson about toying with drug culture since pulling prescription drug-themed koozies from their shelves last year. In fact, it's almost like they've done the complete opposite and are choosing to embrace it instead. According to Consumerist, a New York City Urban Outfitters is featuring a pop-up salon called “Hairroin”, where shoppers can get their hair done or just pick up a promotional hypodermic needle pen (that looks like it's filled with heroin) with the words “I Love Hairroin" on it. Yeah, you read that right.
This isn't the first time Urban Outfitters has chosen to team up with the LA-based hair salon. A writer for Modern Mom wrote about her and her daughter's encounter with the pop-up salon and pens at their Santa Monica location in 2012. They apparently did not receive enough backlash from the media, however, since they've chosen to repeat the partnership, this time in their NYC location.
The most sickening part about it all is the fact that Urban Outfitters's main demographic — young, twenty-somethings from upper class suburban families — make up a huge portion of heroin users. In the last few decades, there has been a shift in the heroin epidemic, and researchers have found that the typical heroin user nowadays is a young, white 23-year-old woman. The exploitation is almost blatant. By handing out these free pens to shoppers, Urban Outfitters is supporting the idea that heroin is sexy.
It's clear why they're choosing to team up with "Hairroin" again. The fashion of the '90s is experiencing a resurgence, and a huge part of that trend was "heroin chic" — pale skin, dark eyes, hollow-cheeked faces. So, in addition to their Keith Haring tank tops and daisy-printed offerings, they must've thought, "Why not take it a step further? Why not embrace another popular part of the '90s era — heroin!"
It's tasteless. And it's wrong. And Urban Outfitters should be completely ashamed of themselves. To make matters even more ridiculous, the heroin epidemic is at an all-time high; the number of drug-related deaths more than doubled from 940 in 2004 to 2,044 in 2012, according to the New York Health Department. Hey, Urban Outfitters — WTF are you thinking?