Sunday, March 25, 2007

American Appalling

I was browsing through Dog Eared Books the other day when I came across a calendar entitled "American Appalling". It is a culture jam of the provocative American Apparel ads that seem to be popping up everywhere as of late. Instead of featuring scantily-clad hotties, the creators of the calendar took pictures of goofy looking people that dress awful and, in one hilarious photo, have mustard slathered all over their face. The point of the project is to dispel the socially conscious image that American Apparel has built up around itself and draw attention to the fact that the company is using sex to sell their clothing just like some of the unethical brands they are trying to distance themselves from.

I can see why some people consider their ads to be tasteless as well as sexist. American Apparel advertisements represent the latest update of the fashion industry status quo; the celebration of sex appeal and good looking people. For many of the young, socially aware consumers that make up American Apparel's demographic this represents a step backwards. Aren't we supposed to be changing paradigms instead of supporting the same old shit?

I'm not a fan of American Apparel advertisements because I consider them to be a highly unoriginal attempt at parody (I agree with the American Appalling project on this point). From a business standpoint though, they make perfect sense. The sex appeal and hipster posturing of the ads do a good job at grabbing the attention of the less critical members within Generation Y. As a result, these people end up buying products from a retailer that creates jobs within the US while seeking to maintain decent labor standards.

Does the end justify the means here? Leave me some comments.

Oh, and here's the American Appalling website.


mdrennan said...

Wow, I really have to go check out that book! I'm glad to see people are taking notice of the difference between parody (which doesn't necessarily have to provide any kind of critique) and satire (which connects the subject with some socially significant flaw). The American Appalling "ads" do a good job of exposing the shamminess of the original advertising -- that faux-trashy, oversexed-preteen aesthetic. I'm always surprised to find those ads on the back of The Onion because I want to think Onion readers are a little smarter than that brand strategy takes into account...

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