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American Apparel's amateur porn-styled ads
March 17, 2005 11:52 PM   Subscribe

American Apparel ads: Porn pushers or youth prophets? (Now, Toronto) Some believe American Apparel's amateur porn-styled ads using real models are retail brilliance – others say it's time for a boycott.
posted by hoder (63 comments total)

 
It's hard to judge without more and bigger example pictures.

Lots and lots of much bigger example pictures. Need to be posted. Now!

Especially that raven-tressed chick with the dark eyes and bushy eyebrows and the big sensuous lips and the strong Roman nose.

It's very very hard.
posted by orthogonality at 12:07 AM on March 18, 2005


Lefties shocked that sexual imagery works at pushing leftie products as well. Outrage at 11.

Before start hyperventilating over the "porn" buzzword, can we have more samples of the ad compaign in question? The article gave a little context but with precious few examples.
posted by DaShiv at 12:07 AM on March 18, 2005


Da Shiv: here.

I read an interview with Dov (too long ago to remember where, sorry) where he talked about fitting the t-shirts on the closest available "real women" he could find - from the strip club down the block from the factory. I think his first print models were his fitting models too. So how have they changed, exactly? By taking grainy photos instead of glossy ones, and having the models bend over instead of staring at the camera? I'm as sick of seeing halfnaked women everywhere as the next girl, but I don't see how AA is different from Calvin Klein or Abercrombie & Fitch. I'm not outraged.
posted by cali at 12:19 AM on March 18, 2005


I see these ads in every LA Weeklyand every week i think that not only are the models they choose are hot, but hey they could be a freakin' nerve.com photoshoot...

hey whatever sells...better these people than A&F or whatever flavor of the month shi-ite.
posted by schyler523 at 12:26 AM on March 18, 2005


Do you want me to be outraged over the sweatshops or the porn?

Cause I'm having a tough time making a call here...
posted by sourwookie at 12:26 AM on March 18, 2005


Porn? Christ, the billboard American Apparel had up at Sunset and Alvarado for months (right by what I assume is their flagship store) looked like the model was fucking dead. Seriously, I guess it was supposed to look sexy -- her eyes staring off into the middle distance, her mouth hanging open, her fingers knotted up in her matted, messy hair -- but it honestly looked like a crime scene photo of a woman who'd been beaten and dumped. Creeeeepy. Most definitely not sexy.
posted by scody at 12:32 AM on March 18, 2005


Ridiculous accusations. How are these ads qualitatively different than those in a Victoria's Secret catalog? Answer: no supermodels, the photoshopping is kept to a minimum, and the photography is better. We should be offended because there isn't a sheen of artificiality over the whole production? That's all that I'm hearing from these arguments.
posted by rockabilly_pete at 12:38 AM on March 18, 2005


I'm deeply satisfied that the Google ad by this article was for Christian t-shirts, a link I provide only out of pity, as it is not half as sexy as American Apparel.
posted by NickDouglas at 12:43 AM on March 18, 2005


None of those shots seem particularly risque at all compared to other adverts I've seen, except perhaps for the nude male butt. *gasp*
posted by Onanist at 12:50 AM on March 18, 2005


The Calvin Klein pedophile ads seemed more risque, but that's just me.
posted by AlexReynolds at 12:56 AM on March 18, 2005


Sigh. I looked at some of the pictures American Apparel calls its best on its website. They are trash. And not in a "porn" kind of way. They are just trite, hackneyed photographs. After the 50th shot of a model with her head cut off, I was getting pretty annoyed. Ooooh, how edgy. You can make a stupid, amateur mistake on purpose! Putz. I'd like to meet the photographer so I could smack him/her.

Are these things bad because they are "porn?" Get a grip. Sex sells. It always will sell. I'd be happy if we could leave this whole puritan bullshit behind, whether its coming from reactionaries on the right or the left. While there are real issues regarding the objectification of women, the idea that sex should, or could, be banished from advertising and art etc. is just patently stupid.

There is no better way to get someone's attention than to grab them by their balls/ovaries. That's hard-wired genetics. Any advertiser that ignores that deserves to be run out of business.

And we like it, besides.
posted by teece at 1:16 AM on March 18, 2005


How are these ads qualitatively different than those in a Victoria's Secret catalog? Answer: no supermodels, the photoshopping is kept to a minimum, and the photography is better.

You mean the photography is worse, and decidedly so: terrible lighting, poor color balancing, and let's face it, the poses and compositions weren't intended to be terribly flattering to the models (professional models or not). The vast majority of the ads were shot rather straightforwardly, with a small minority featuring models facing away from the camera (fabric-covered buttocks! shocking!). Frankly, given that the article cites American Appareal as a distributor of "undies", crying porn just because its advertising aesthetic isn't the sterile (and higher production cost) look of your typical JC Penney lingerie ad is a disservice to feminists. You can only cry wolf so many times before people tune you out.

The article's probing of the guy's sex life reeked of ad hominem. As long as there was no coersion involved (i.e. adult consent was given), who cares? Would it have been different if it were a lesbian owner sleeping with the models?
posted by DaShiv at 1:20 AM on March 18, 2005


Exactly DaShiv.. I remember finding this ad dissected on some site where they were crying "porn" and "degrading to women". They made a huge deal about the lighter in that shot but I couldn't for the life of me get worked up about these ads. The only thing that pisses me off is that constant head-cropping, like teece mentioned.
posted by dabitch at 2:05 AM on March 18, 2005


via NOW toronto... via fleshbot? teehee. Personally I've seen the ads on the back of the Stranger every week and thought they were hot. Now there's controversy? Well, whatevers to those nerds.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 2:13 AM on March 18, 2005


The... lighter?

I don't get any of this at all. I'm going back to sleep...
posted by sninky-chan at 2:31 AM on March 18, 2005


Nothing to see here, please move along.
posted by fixedgear at 2:46 AM on March 18, 2005


I don't know what kind of paper NowToronto is, but this seems like manufactured controversy. These are extraordinarily tame ads. The one on the back of this week's Onion was funny, though. I don't have it in front of me, but it was something like "Svetlana was a Norwegina DJ who moved to New York. She found out that people here listen to Rock, not House. She's currently looking for work. American Apparel."
posted by shmegegge at 3:41 AM on March 18, 2005


I'm a woman and I don't feel degraded by pictures of normal women wearing everyday cotton underwear. And I don't get the lighter thing either.
posted by fshgrl at 3:43 AM on March 18, 2005


"Manufactured controversy" sounds about right. The cynical will point out that the article's author readily admits that her business has ties (as a client) to American Apparel, the dogmatic idealists will enjoy another minute in the sun to rage against the patriarchy, and at the end of the day, American Apparel will net some free publicity. Sounds like a happy ending for everyone who helped to put on the charade.
posted by DaShiv at 3:55 AM on March 18, 2005


Jesus, what is this about? I coudn't get past the shit writing and obnoxious tone of the person who declared himself a writer in that link.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 4:20 AM on March 18, 2005


It's a bit hard working up any outrage over this manufactured controversy when NOW makes loadsadough offa pages and pages of "escort" ads in the back of each issue...
posted by docgonzo at 5:51 AM on March 18, 2005


Boycott this, control that, disallow the other. Come on America with your phoney prudence and outrages. The world is sooooo bloody tired of you.
posted by acrobat at 6:06 AM on March 18, 2005


I would just like to remind acrobat that the phony prudence and outrage is provided by NOW Toronto.

What did they say in that movie? Blame Canada?
posted by MrZero at 6:21 AM on March 18, 2005


Jesus Christ, Toronto is lame.
posted by jon_kill at 6:24 AM on March 18, 2005


Porn pushers or youth prophets?

Maybe the former of the 'soft' variety, certainly not the latter. Only (slightly) remarkable thing here is the silly notion that there's anything insightful or prophetic about youth being interested in sex.
posted by scheptech at 6:38 AM on March 18, 2005


"Jesus Christ, Toronto is lame."

Now, now. Trolling for Canadians is generally considered bad sport. But for Torontonians? That's egregious.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 6:53 AM on March 18, 2005


Rhetorical analysis [PDF] of an earlier American Apparel ad.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:54 AM on March 18, 2005


acrobat said:

Boycott this, control that, disallow the other. Come on America with your phoney prudence and outrages. The world is sooooo bloody tired of you.

The article is Canadian and doesn't mention anywhere that the described outrage is voiced by Americans. In fact, the Americans commenting on this post have unanimously registered a total lack of outrage. So... what are you talking about?
posted by shmegegge at 6:55 AM on March 18, 2005


What incredibly tame ads.

Although, to tell the truth, I'm actually tired of "sexy" ads. Not out of any moral objection, but just because after awhile all those artfully semi-exposed crotches blur into one big ubervagina thus rendering it all very boring. Plus it's permeated advertising so much that half the time I don't know what the ads are for anymore. Plus the clothes are kind of lame.
posted by jonmc at 6:56 AM on March 18, 2005


Frankly, I'm more offended that Americal Apparel charges $15 for an undershirt.
posted by schoolgirl report at 6:58 AM on March 18, 2005


MetaFilter: One big ubervagina rendering it all very boring.
posted by DaShiv at 7:05 AM on March 18, 2005


What docgonzo said. NOW specializes in mock outrage and empty lefty (disclaimer: I'm somewhat to the left myself) sloganeering. Which is unfortunate, because they do occasionally produce some pretty good muckraking journalism, but a lot of people who would otherwise sympathize with their views are permanently turned off by the hipper/holier-than-thou tone NOW seems to take pride in. Of the Toronto alterna-weeklies, I much prefer eye, which tends to tone down the world-weary hipster schtick, and has better reviews to boot.

A freelance writer I know said that NOW is largely run by bitter, aging ex-hippies, and it shows.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:10 AM on March 18, 2005


I think the ads are great, and if they get more people to buy American Apparel stuff (a great company that makes a great product) than I say, awesome! Sex sells.
posted by agregoli at 7:13 AM on March 18, 2005


I never knew this company had stooped so low.
It's about time!
posted by gorgor_balabala at 7:39 AM on March 18, 2005


"One big ubervagina rendering it all very boring..."

I find the idea of one big übervagina quite exciting, actually. I, for one, hail...

Well, you know.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 7:43 AM on March 18, 2005


One man ass? Come on! Where's the beefcake?
posted by yesster at 7:43 AM on March 18, 2005


One man ass?

You'd prefer a two man ass, maybe?
posted by jonmc at 7:45 AM on March 18, 2005


Yes, the ads are based on porn. And I love them. Those chicks are hot, not airbrushed. I'd take those ads over Calvin Klein any day.
posted by fungible at 7:56 AM on March 18, 2005


bitter, aging ex-hippies, and it shows

As the former news editor for a Canadian alternaweekly rag, I'd like to state for the record Mr. Card Cheat is 100% correct on all counts.

(And I'm pleased to say me and my comrades would have laughed the piece of crap linked out the door.)
posted by docgonzo at 7:58 AM on March 18, 2005


I see those ads on the back of Eye all the time... the chix are usually very sexy... but they're not explicitive
posted by drunk7daysaweek at 8:12 AM on March 18, 2005


Do the adds seem any different when you know that Dov Charney likes to whip it out and masturbate in front of reporters?
posted by sugarfish at 8:20 AM on March 18, 2005


Explicitive?
posted by agregoli at 8:24 AM on March 18, 2005


I'm a canuck...and I get to see one of those ads on the side of an AA van parked across the street from me on a near daily basis.

My opinion? No diff than any Calvin Klein ad. Perhaps not the way I'd market a company who's greatest selling point is that it treats it's employees, but then it's not my company, and I'm not in marketing. I'd hardly call it porn.
posted by furtive at 8:26 AM on March 18, 2005


" Do the adds seem any different when you know that Dov Charney likes to whip it out and masturbate in front of reporters?"

No.

But it's worth mentioning for those that don't follow the link, that Charney likes to whip it out and masturbate in front of all women that he has any power over (and a reporter is there to do a story). He's a nutcase living out his middle-school fantasies.

But I don't know how that changes the ads.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:31 AM on March 18, 2005


I'd rather look at those ads, than to see Vincent Gallo push Chloe Sevigny's head into his lap for a rousing skin flute sonata.
posted by clevershark at 9:29 AM on March 18, 2005


Interesting. We're used to porn having bad photography. So now any time we see bad photography, we think of porn.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:35 AM on March 18, 2005


skin flute sonata
Oh yes, please give me attention for baiting you Vincent Gallo...
posted by gorgor_balabala at 9:38 AM on March 18, 2005


well, just to balance things out a bit, I found these ads mildly depressing, and am less inclined to think AA is a company I'm particularly likely to support in the future. I've bought a couple things from them; a bit expensive, but nice quality, and the idea seemed appealing in one sense, but possibly exploitative in another (making money by appealing to people's ethics - I mean, that they promoted that, not just let people make up their mind over it, but advertised themselves as "the ethical clothing shop" - felt like it had the potential to be manipulative).

I was kinda on the line about the place. The general feel these ads give me pushes me just over to the "nah" side.
posted by mdn at 9:53 AM on March 18, 2005


I third what The Card Cheat said. NOW gets Hippie Indignant at the drop of a hat. The writers are either college kids just discovering Injustice or burnt-out old hippies still banging their old, tired drums. And the writing... eh, the writing, she's-a not so good.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 9:55 AM on March 18, 2005


Now, now. Trolling for Canadians is generally considered bad sport. But for Torontonians? That's egregious.

I am Canadian. And one in four of us is Torontonian (I'm not). Let's think.
posted by jon_kill at 10:17 AM on March 18, 2005


Fuzzy Monster, your appropriation of the voice of the stereotypical Italian immigrant makes me burn in righteous indignation!!!! How your regressive attitude can be allowed to exist in our modern, more enlightened world is beyond me. Shame on you, Fuzzy Monster!!! Now turn to page 52 and buy these Kool Gadgets and Designer Clothes!

/ NOW writer
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:19 AM on March 18, 2005


Mamma Mia! The Card Cheat, he's-a gonna cut me good!

*flips to page 52*

Hmm... you know, I have been in the market for a glow in the dark translucent musical mousepad... and they're only two hundred dollars!
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 11:01 AM on March 18, 2005


I'm Canadian and I approve of this porn. Sex is fun, both to have and to watch.
posted by srboisvert at 11:58 AM on March 18, 2005


those pics look more like abduction photos
posted by pwedza at 12:02 PM on March 18, 2005


I read an interview with Dov (too long ago to remember where, sorry) where he talked about fitting the t-shirts on the closest available "real women" he could find

if they get more people to buy American Apparel stuff (a great company that makes a great product) than I say, awesome!

See, this is interesting because my one problem with American Apparel is that their women's clothes are made for skinny chicks (or short, round ones). So then I find myself torn between shops that make clothes that fit but use sweatshop labor and shops that sell ethical clothes that happen to require wearing men's tops or some home tailoring. And I find that dilemma far more interesting than the is it porn debate. Because we all know all the arguments to that one.
posted by dame at 12:11 PM on March 18, 2005


I'm surprised no one's jumped on to the other American Apparel "controversies" by this far down in the thread (I've heard they're union-busting evil overpriced bastards who are just waiting to sell out to the highest bidder!).

In any case, I tend to like the ads but feel some sort of dorky guilt that I own products from a company that's advertised all over the damn place in such obvious ways. I guess that's their branding, though. As for sexy advertisements, I still think the girl in the Puma print ad who's growling while crouching next to a tiger is hot.
posted by mikeh at 12:13 PM on March 18, 2005


This tastes to me of false outrage. Even viral marketing.

Hey, y'know what tastes good with non-porn? Pepsi Blue.
posted by graventy at 12:36 PM on March 18, 2005


"I am Canadian. And one in four of us is Torontonian (I'm not). Let's think."

Think what? I pretty much guessed you were a non-Torontonian Canadian since it's pretty much non-Torontonian Canadians that feel the need to diss Toronto. The point here is that it's just not sporting because Canadians are so easy to provoke and Torontonians in particular. You follow?
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 2:34 PM on March 18, 2005


Reminds me of the fake Puma sneaker ads that pretty blatantly insinuated oral sex AND pretty blatantly pushed the Puma logo. (Previous MeFi discussion.)
posted by SenshiNeko at 9:18 PM on March 18, 2005


puma ads in large format. (also, first web posting, feb 25 2003.)
posted by dabitch at 9:39 PM on March 18, 2005


disclaimer, my post by the way. It just annoys me that Slate didn't mention adland. *cries*. ;)

About the lighter I'll see if I can re-google that strange outraged article, it was something about the girl being "dirty" because she does "bad things" like smoke, so it was a visual que that she was a bad girl.. Yes, tres weird.
posted by dabitch at 9:40 PM on March 18, 2005


Thanks for the link, NickDouglas, some very amusing designs there. :)

As for the AA ads, it simply looks to me like they've succeeded in copying the VICE magazine aesthetic. They know their demographic, and they're marketing to them. We're surprised?
I don't own any AA clothing, but I know others who do, and they're quite happy with the quality of the goods. The fact that they're "sweatshop free" goods is why they cost $15 for an undershirt. Think about that next time you buy a two-for-$10 pack of undershirts at Walmart or Target.

And reading NOWtoronto for anything other than concert listings or film reviews/times is a complete waste of your time...10 or 15 years ago they were much better, but they've learned to suck so much more since then...
posted by Al_Truist at 11:55 PM on March 18, 2005


it was something about the girl being dirty because she does bad things like smoke

Just in case that sentiment crosses gender lines:

I've been bad, oh so bad. Spank me. *lights up*
posted by DaShiv at 2:44 AM on March 19, 2005


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