American Apparel or American Body?



The ad above was released by American Apparel back in 2004, but I believe the message is as problematic today as it was then. It pictures a partially naked young woman, with her breasts almost showing and a text that reads “Sophie is currently a student in Montreal. She met an American Employee on the street there, and was photographed the following evening”. The society which this ad displays is one of deeply rooted hegemonic masculinity, where women are subliminally being portrayed as sexual objects which can be used for one’s pleasure.

Sophie is portrayed as nothing more than something an American Apparel employee has conquered and subsequently photographed, and also gives off the image of how superior employees of American Apparel are that they can simply roam around the streets and have women accompany them and their amateur photography sessions the following day. In some ways, this is perpetuating rape culture by painting women like this and taking the concept of “sex sells” to new extremes.

As there are no details on what she’s wearing, and since she is barely wearing anything it’s clear the ad is not designed to have the consumer focus on the clothing, but rather on the girl. The focus is on the barely clothed younger girl who ironically is wearing a cross, perhaps to make the ad even more controversial. By how the text “meet Sophie” is situated above such an image, it doesn’t seem like they are selling a product, it appears as if they are selling a girl.


The society that advertising creates for us, the reality that we live in, can be extra problematic when we fail to realize the messages we are being bombarded with. Although to some, the American Apparel ad could be seen as nothing more than your average ad that plays on female sexuality, I believe by creating this new ad we can see just how problematic this message is. The new add is a slight justification of the previous one, and instead of the somewhat innocent message of “meet Sophie”, I am unpacking what the ad is really selling: Sophie’s body. By adding the number in the top, the ad has instantly gone from an American Apparel ad to an ad that promotes escorts- something that definitely opens one’s eyes to how alarming this is.

Suddenly it becomes evident what American Apparel and so many other large corporations are trying to sell: they are selling women’s bodies- and they are doing it non-consensually. What I mean by this is that although Sophie might have given personal consent to release the image, on a large scale the female body is being exploited and this is not something everyone has agreed to do. The idea of equality is being bashed one ad at a time, and it’s done under the label of “advertising” but in reality, all that it is advertising is misogynist ideals. In this example the point becomes even clearer because we know the previous CEO of American Apparel (the man in charge of releasing this ad) has been accused for sexually assaulting several women.

By remaking this ad it makes the CEO’s intentions clear and also opens our eyes to the society that we live in, a society in which ads designated to sell clothes, could easily be used as ads selling women.