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Calvin Klein: Selling More Than Just Jeans

Culture Jam Assignment

  1. Original Advertisement

2. The Advertisement and the Issue Adressed

Calvin Klein is a brand that is always looking for trendsetting ways to appeal to a new and younger generation. In doing so, they often employ celebrities to create fantasies that link clothing to sex, fame, and wealth. In the past, stars such as Eva Mendes, Mark Wahlberg, and Jamie Dornan have been the face of the brand (Spencer, 2015). However, in 2015 a new face was chosen for the company. This was the young, influential popstar Justin Bieber.

This advertisement was part of a spring 2015 collection featuring model Lara Stone (Milligan, 2015). In this particular advertisement, Bieber is powerfully placed on top of the model. Where on the other hand, the female model lays underneath him shirtless with her arms back and her eyes closed. From a female’s perspective, the intended fantasy portrayed is that wearing Calvin Klein Jeans will make you feel as if you are appealing and sexually engaging to a powerful popstar like Bieber. While from a male’s perspective, the intended fantasy is that you will feel like a powerful popstar and all girls will want you if you wear Calvin Klein Jeans.

Like in many popular advertisements, subliminal messages are masked behind fantasies and ideals. Seeing that Calvin Klein’s target groups are adolescents and young adults, the harmful messages portrayed inform them on how to behave simply by wearing a garment. When fantasies are presented to people repeatedly, they can become a reality. One of the underlying messages I seek to address in my jamming or altering of this advertisement is that it perpetuates stereotypical gender roles through the presentation of appearance and behavior. This advertisement may seem as if it just serves as an outlet for young people to imagine themselves in the role of others; however, in a realistic sense, it is teaching them how to look and behave in order to achieve an ideal in society.

3. “Jammed” Advertisement

4. My “Jammed” Philosophy

In altering the advertisement, I added the slogan “Jeans so powerful, they’ll knock her off her feet!” The explanation behind this slogan is twofold. First, the person wearing the jeans becomes as powerful as the man in the picture. Undeniably, Justin Bieber is famous and holds a lot of influence in terms of music and fashion among adolescents and young adults. When young males wear jeans made by Calvin Klein, they associate the jeans with feeling and acting like a powerful, popular popstar. Secondly, Calvin Klein makes sure to display Bieber’s physique. He is a young, clean cut, white male with a toned body covered with tattoos. Thus, the “they’ll knock her off her feet!” part of the slogan suggests to viewers that these jeans will not only make you feel powerful and famous like Bieber, but they will also somehow provide you with some of his physical attractiveness that will make any woman unable to resist you. In other words, any woman will be knocked off her feet, perhaps even to have sex with you, because you look so good in Calvin Klein jeans. Also, the model is actually shown knocked off her feet while he pins her down with both his legs and his arms as he gives a fierce stare directly into the camera. He is clearly dominating the situation.

In addition to the slogan, I altered the advertisement so that the model laying down is thinking “He leaves me helpless.” This plays with the common phrase of being left breathless by something, but instead of just being breathless from her interaction with Bieber, the model is left helpless. She lays underneath him, her upper body naked, with her hands above her head in a vulnerable position giving him complete control of her and the situation. Rather than looking into the camera, her eyes are closed passively. She also appears to have an unattainably slim, child-like body. The only thing she needs are her Calvin Klein Jeans; whereas, Bieber is wearing both a top and bottoms. Young women may see this advertisement and interpret it as what they  have to behave and look like in order be attractive to a Bieber-type ideal man or, even worse, any man. They have to be skinny and submissive.

Instead of creating new trends, Calvin Klein is perpetuating old notions of gender roles such as the dominating male and the passive female. The fact that they have chosen to use Bieber in the advertisement, and also the way he is portrayed in terms of his positioning over the model proposes the subliminal message of how young men should act and appear if they want to be the ideal of society. Also, the position of the model placed underneath him gives young women the subliminal message of how they should act and behave in order to be with men. It is clear that Calvin Klein is selling more than just jeans in this advertisement.

Works Cited:

[Digital image]. (2015, January 7). Retrieved October 19, 2017, from http://www.instyle.com/news/mycalvins-justin-bieber-fronts-calvin-kleins-steamy-ss15 campaign-lara-stone

Milligan, L. (2015, January 7). Bieber On His Calvins. Retrieved from http://www.vogue.co.uk/gallery/justin-bieber-calvin-klein-campaign-lara-stone

Spencer, H. (2015, January 7). #MyCalvins: Justin Bieber Fronts Calvin Klein’s Steamy SS15 Campaign with Lara Stone. Retrieved from http://www.instyle.com/news/mycalvinsjustin-bieber-fronts-calvin-kleins-steamy-ss15-campaign-lara-stone



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