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Irish Americans not laughing at Urban Outfitters' clothing line

These St. Patrick's Day T-shirts are for sale at Urban Outfitters.

Apparently not content with being sued this week by the Navajo Nation for trademark violations, Urban Outfitters has managed to alienate an even bigger cultural group in the United States: Irish Americans. The clothing retailer has come out with a St. Patrick's Day-themed line based on the lamest of drunken Irish stereotypes.

While anyone who has seen a Martin McDonagh play knows that the Irish excel at poking fun at themselves, they at least do it with a modicum of wit and originality. (The same goes for the writers of The Simpsons, and their endless pot of Irish comedic gold.

But compare Springfield's subversive "Whacking Day" to Urban Outfitters' Irish Yoga hat, featuring a downward-facing figure upchucking shamrocks, and you'll understand why customers and even members of Congress find the clothing more offensive than funny.

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Members of the American Congressional Ad Hoc Committee on Irish Affairs (yes, the 40 million Americans of Irish descent are so powerful they merit their own committee) registered their disapproval in a letter to Urban Outfitters CEO Tedford Marlow (who recently returned to the clothing retailer after a brief stint in Canada as the president of Indigo Books & Music).

"We recently learned of images used by Urban Outfitters in its St. Patrick's Day clothing line that depict severe and negative stereotypes of Irish and Irish-American people as well as may promote binge drinking," the letter read, according to ABC News. "We strongly urge you to end the sale of these items."

Online reaction to the clothing is mixed. "I'm Irish, and to me this is no different than having a shirt with an African-American waving a piece of watermelon in a cotton field," wrote one commenter on the ABC website. "Racist is racist."

But another said: "You might want to inform Dunne's Stores here in Ireland, where they are selling the same shirts, that they are offending the Irish. Get a grip America!"

Speaking of which, if Urban Outfitters' $24 (U.S.) Truly Madly Deeply Irish Drunk Scoop Tank looks familiar, it's because it has the same slogan as a T-shirt sold last year at Old Navy.

Yes, the company that is already in hot water for its Navajo panty couldn't resist reusing "Irish I was Drunk." Too bad they haven't yet decided to copy Old Navy's abject apology, as well as its decision to remove the products from stores and online as quickly as possible.

Do you find Urban Outfitters' Irish products offensive, funny or simply overpriced?

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About the Author

Shelley Youngblut is the Western Editor of The Globe and Mail (and the mother of identical twins). The former editor of Calgary’s award-winning Swerve magazine, she is a veteran of ESPN the Magazine, and has commented on pop culture on ABC, CTV and CBC Radio. More

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