Why It’s Got To Be A Good Thing That Sex In Fashion Advertising Doesn’t Sell Anymore

Some ahave been lamenting the demise of Tom Ford's naked, sexual ads. Not us, though


by Zing Tsjeng |
Published on

When did the sex in fashion ads go? That’s what some fashion insiders are trying to figure out. Over at Women’s Wear Daily, op-ed writer Lisa Lockwood is mourning the death of sexually charged fashion advertising.

'Outrageous, edgy fashion ads that get everybody talking,' she writes. 'Where did they go?' According to Lockwood, corporate overkill on social media – not to mention kowtowing to 'cross-cultural sensitivities' – has killed the edge in advertising.

Seriously? As far as I can tell, sex in advertising never left. If you’re looking for a 2014 equivalent to the 80s ad where Brooke Shields purrs 'nothing gets between me and my Calvins', look no further than Miranda Kerr’s new 7 For All Mankind campaign. 'They feel so good,' the Aussie model whispers as she rolls around in a pair of skinnies, sans top (she’s talking about her jeans, obvs).

The brash, in-your-face sex appeal of ads in the noughties – best epitomised by Tom Ford’s faceless, tits-out 2007 cologne campaign – might be missing, but sex hasn’t gone anywhere. Even American Apparel, despite ousting CEO and head perv Dov Charney, says its raunchy advertising strategy will still remain part of its brand.

READ MORE: Louche And Lewd American Apparel Founder Dov Charney Has Been Sacked

But these days, raunchy ads are more likely to elicit a big yawn than an outraged Twitter campaign. When American Apparel’s Tumblr posted an image that stopped just shy of exposing a model’s actual puckered arsehole, bloggers just shrugged and sarcastically wondered, 'I feel like we’re way overdue for glorifying the butthole.'

Meanwhile, retailers that once relied on racy ads – like Abercrombie & Fitch – are now struggling with falling sales. Just take a look at some of the spreads from Abercrombie’s quarterly magazine – I’m not sure you could inject more sex into the campaign, short of lubing all the male models up and making them wrestle in paddling pool filled with quivering jelly.

So maybe the real question is: why did sex stop selling? As Jason Wu puts it in this WWD interview: 'The idea of overtly sexy advertising was always that it was shocking. But I feel like it’s hardly shocking anymore, because that’s all we see all the time.'

Call it the Pornhub dilemma: if you’ve got an endless cesspit of internet filth to wallow in, why get your kicks from a tame magazine editorial? In that context, Cara Delevingne flirting with some topless chick in a mascara advert quickly stops being transgressive and starts being eye-rollingly obvious.

But let’s not just blame porn for this. The specific sexual aesthetic that advertisers rely on has also become too ubiquitous for its own good. These days, if I need to see some skinny white girl frolic naked in a field of pansies through a lo-fi filter, I could just hit up any amateur Tumblr photographer. Even the most 50 Shades-y of adverts goes stale after it’s been re-appropriated and re-circulated about half a million times.

And unlike Lockwood, I don’t long for a return to the bad ol’ days of rude adverts. For one thing, some of these ads might as well be Blurred Lines in print – they’re all naked girls and overdressed men (just check out this blinder from Tom Ford).

Plus, am I the only one who thinks there’s something fundamentally demeaning about being shilled sex in fashion? What, you think a quick flash of vulva will make me pay £56 for a pair of leggings? Puh-lease. Women are savvier than that – pass us a hand mirror and we can check our own vag out, thanks.

If advertisers want to rekindle our love for sex, it’s got to be about more than just bare-faced titillation and old-school tits and ass. You’ve got to be smart about it – and hey, guess what? There’s nothing sexier than actually being smart.

Follow Zing on Twitter @misszing

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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