Calvin Klien's Underwear Advertising

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Another iconic advertising campaign was Calvin Klien's underwear advertising on the 1980's. Undergarments as we know them now were first sold “to promote cleanliness and improve the comfort of wearing clothes.”( Oatman-Stanford, 2013). The fact that they might “one day be deemed fashionable was not even an after-thought.”(Oatman-Stanford, 2013). In the 19th century, men's underwear was closely linked with hygiene, associating the undergarments with athleticism. The idea of them having a sex appeal is a “20th century notion.”(Oatman-Standford, 2013). The earliest advertisments tend to be quite text-based, but that was common in all advertising of that time(Fig. 3). When images were finally included most of them were “undergarments superimposed…show more content…
It was about showing his heroic, muscular body, which you could trace back to classical sculpture” (Cole, 2007, page 67). Calvin Klien had a huge impact on the way men were identified in advertising. It wasn't just his garments,“its the way he advertised those garments as well, which had a huge impact”(Cole, 2007,page 84). Calvin Kliens first underwear advertising campaign in 1982 had a budget of $500,000 for the launch of his underwear. “Klien was much more conscious of the male form underneath those garments than other designers, so he introduced this element of sex appeal. He effectively made underwear sexy.”(Cole,2007). Through the 1970's, you had this explosion of colour and pattern, but Klien “went back to a classic simplicity that was reflected in the form of the man in advertising” (Cole,2007). You had this statuesque, athlethic body in a very classic, simple, white brief (Fig. 4) Suddenly, men were “presented for sale in the way that women had been in advertising. One of Calvin Klien's biggest impacts wasn't on underwear but on the presentation of men in popular culture.”…show more content…
He always had a talent for producing questionable ads. In 1980, a series of commercials by photographers Doon Arbus and Richard Avedon that featured a 15 year old teenager Brooke Shields stating, “nothing comes between me and my Calvins” (Fig. 5 ) This made Klien's new denim jeans line a nationwide must have, selling “200,000 pairs in the first week alone.”( These provocative commercials marked a change in clothing advertisments. It was a “more sensual approach to marketing that would later be emulated by Klien's competitors” ( The commercials brought criticism as people felt they were pornographic. This negative publicity only served to “fuel sales” ( Again in 1982, when Klien put his name on the waistband of a line of men's underwear, as previously stated, and started a campaign featuring half naked men dressed only in these skimpy garments. He met with controversy as many publishers rejected the provocative ads. But once again, the negative press fueled the sales of this particular item, as stores simply, “couldn't keep them in stock.”( At the time his advertisements were being criticised, Klien's clothing was receiving acclaim for its clean, modern style. Time magazine called him the “Frank Lloyd Wright of fashion,” and named him one of the 25 most influential people in America in 1996. This shows us, that society was changing. People

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