Sex can even sell socks

Fashion giant ‘American Apparel’ on one hand operates as a socially responsible and seemingly sustainable business, on the other hand – It’s Ads put the ‘outrageous’ sexist ads of the 1960’s consumer era to shame.
Fashionable apparel basics, heaps of colour varieties, In-house design/advertising/marketing, manufactured in downtown L.A, full benefits for employees and above minimum wage pay. Sounds like a socially responsible and non-exploitive fashion brand.
Unfortunately or fortunately, advertising is the medium that brands use to throw their products and services in front of us in hope of generating things like impressions but ultimately the sale. Unfortunately or fortunately, advertisers throw psychological black magic spells into their strategies, copy and creative (informed by very specific ‘target’ research) by utilizing things like ‘semiotics’ – signs, symbols, indexes, denotations and connotations to make the sale.


“The American Apparel advertising campaign has become as synonymous with our brand name as the signature Made in the USA basics that first put us on the map.”

“They regularly feature women in provocative poses – lying in bed, legs spread, on all fours, from behind, bending over – trust me, they’ve done it all.” It would almost seem the American Apparel advertisers thought: “sexually provocative pin up girl, being objectified on a billboard is the new cut through strategy’. Take that feminism! (Then again there are feminists who may see this as empowering – my body is a weapon.)


So an American Apparel Billboard: it is a sign, we understand from the consumer perspective what advertising is and its purpose. Its medium literally denotes – advertisement, buy this. Advertising is culturally bound and often subtly uses semiotic elements to build or transfer associations of another to a product/or service – 9 times out of 10 creating the problem and providing the solution.

American Apparel ads create a problem for women – at a deeper level the connotations we get are really simple in this form of advertising: ‘you will be sexy if you buy and wear our clothes’, ‘you will accrue a trendy lifestyle’, and in one light pushes the chauvinistically geared ‘sluts rock’ agenda – this is hardly liberating women & celebrating the female form. Some switched on people in our society have got a problem with this – denouncing – American Apparels Best Bottom Competition 2010.

Others like FHM endorse the move: “American Apparel began a hunt earlier this year to find the world’s best bottom. Lots of ladies sent pictures in, and they’ve worked out a top ten which we’ve handily laid out below using all the numbers from one to ten… Having said that, we want Donk to win because then she might go out with one of us, and then that someone could look her in the eyes just before they have sex, point at his genitalia and say “put a Donk on it”. Also, it would mean that if that someone was asked at work what he was doing on any specific evening, he could say: “putting a Donk on it”

donk, van city

Intellectually I disagree, but the photos are just so damn exciting and you can’t argue with data and dollars.


4 thoughts on “Sex can even sell socks

  1. Pingback: The Sexiest Editorials | The Absence of Color

  2. Ahhh I’ve seen so many of these ad’s and thought my focus in trying to understand semiotics would be American Apparel’s advertising niche as well… but I just couldn’t find a balance between being really really offended and thinking Ryan Holiday and Dov Charney are geniuses. This is my favourite of your blogs by far!

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