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On Top of Being Offensive, the Mass Shooting Hoodies Were a Rip-off

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by Kattoo King

This year during New York Fashion Week, a streetwear brand called Bstroy showed their fifth collection inspired by the current epidemic of mass shootings. 

The show featured T-shirts printed with “Bstroy Combat School’ models with latex bullet wounds, and the now infamous school shooting hoodies. These hoodies look like typical school spirit gear, from the sights of the most famous massacres, including Columbine, Sandy Hook, and Stoneman Douglas.

The hoodies are riddled with “bullet holes,” and styled with Khakis and a visibly uncomfortable front row. The show sparked controversy immediately, and even got some angry responses from former students at the schools featured. One instagram commenter said that the brand was “Literally profiting off of the deaths of children.”  This is an overreaction. There is no way this will be profitable. Because school shooting hoodies will never, ever, be A Thing.

Bstroy is designed by a duo Brick Owens, and Dieter Grams.  I don’t know why fashion designers think they need stage names now, but I’ve heard worse, so I’ll allow it. 

They describe their clothing as being “from a time after now” which is ironic for a brand whose aesthetic is ripped from last month’s headlines.  The brand has been described as apocalyptic, and dystopian, which I guess could be true if you’re one of those people that believes that we’re currently living in a dystopian, apocalyptic, society.  The actual clothes offered by the brand are boring, bordering on normcore. Once you wipe away the thick coat of edginess, the brand is really offering an uninteresting selection of, sweatshirts, jeans, and khakis.  

Bstroy isn’t the first brand to try to make school shootings trendy.  Back in 2014 Urban Outfitters released a Kent State sweatshirt, that was dyed to make it appear bloodstained.  Like the school shooting hoodies, it created controversy, Hands were wrung, think pieces were written, but ultimately, the sweatshirts remained unsold.  No one was edgy enough to pay $60 to make a statement and I can’t imagine that they’ll want to pay triple that to make the same statement 5 years later. 

Although, I’ll hand it to Brick and Du for blatantly ripping off Urban Outfitters. It’s an interesting role reversal for a small streetwear brand to openly plagiarize a company who built their business stealing from independent designers.  Bstroy isn’t the first streetwear brand to tread this ground either. The brand FTP, Fuck The Population, has released tees and hoodies that look like school spirit gear with a violent edge.

But plagiarism appears to be part of the Bstroy brand DNA.  The duo appears to be a big believer in Virgil Abloh’s 3% rule, the idea that if you take something and change it 3%, it’s a completely new design. Perhaps the boldest thing about the Bstroy brand is their confidence that they can do this idea better than the brands that got there first. 

In our current media landscape, there is a lot of discussion about what subject matter is off limits for artists.  Much of this discourse is about school shootings specifically. But in 2011 Foster the People released the song “Pumped Up Kicks” from the perspective of a school shooter.  Pumped up Kicks made it to number 3 on the billboard charts in a year where popular music was dominated by club jams, and was Foster the People’s breakthrough hit. Also, you should know that I’m writing this from the perspective of a white lady who likes alt-rock.  This song is My Trash.

Why did Foster the People succeed in making commentary about school shootings, where Bstroy failed? Foster the People brought an interesting perspective to the subject matter, while Bstroy presented it without so much as a hot take. The pamphlet at the Bstroy show explained that the show was about the fragility of life, a commentary on the irony of dying young.  But the actual clothing doesn’t portray any kind of fragility, or sense of irony. The real message of the show seemed to be “school shootings exist.” The show was pure shock value with no commentary. In our current 2 hour news cycle, shock doesn’t hold any real value anymore, and I remain unconvinced that this attention seeking will be a good move for the brand, financially.

I live in New York, so if Brick and Du want to come over and show me the receipts that prove they aren’t in debt, they’re welcome to slide into my DMs.  In the meantime, the concerned commenters on instagram can rest assured that this brand is most definitely not making a profit on the deaths of children.


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