We’ve all seen the photos of American Apparel’s recent mannequins. Nickie Shobeiry discusses whether they should have caused such a stir.
Well, folks, here we are again: American Apparel has found itself in hot, hot water. Boasting a history of banned adverts, claims of underage models and even sexual harassment lawsuits, how could they possibly have outdone themselves this time?
Could it be… pubic hair on mannequins? Good lord, say it ain’t so!
Recently, New Yorkers were stunned to see the nostalgia-evoking ‘bushes’ gracing the windows of the clothing store. Cue an ocean of iPhones being waved about, and it wasn’t long before the media was itching with the controversy that is American Apparel’s untamed nether regions.
I’m going to be honest, when I first saw the photos (on a news site, no less), I chortled to myself and clicked through the links to ogle at the plastic bodies. Why? Because I’m human, curious, and a little debauched – but if I am, that means that the thousands of other people allowing this story to reach news-worthy levels are, too.
Ergo, on one hand, this is a publicity stunt I take my hat off to. American Apparel has successfully caused hype by exploiting our perpetual tunnel-vision when it comes to sex; well done to you, American Apparel.
Yet, on the other hand, how has a fistful of synthetic hair caused a metaphorical forest fire of this calibre? The US clothing chain has churned out photos that would put your father’s old Playboy magazines to shame, including advertising with ‘real life!’ pubic hair. Heck, they’ve even famously used porn stars to model their products in the past (for your ‘research purposes’, that’s Sasha Grey and Faye Reagan).
So, why is pubic hair suddenly such an issue when we’re being fed a daily dose of soft-core pornography everywhere we turn?
Maybe, in living with a media that treats ‘excess hair’ like it should be exorcised, pubic hair has been graced with a much more voyeuristic feel. We expect to see a beautiful woman pouting at us from between her smooth legs, but give us a crotch-shot of unkempt hair, and we’ll lap it up like we’ve never seen it growing between our own thighs.
Is this new campaign the company’s way of condemning the absurd ideals we set for the female body image (and for men too, of course)? American Apparel has claimed its display is a celebration of the natural, an action to stir conversation about our perceptions of beauty. Whatever the real reason, it remains that flaunting pubic hair in a world that seems to gag at the mention of it is something new and – dare I say it – welcome. I whole-heartedly agree with one of American Apparel’s Visual Managers, Dee Myles, who points out that it’s offensive that people have been offended by this in the first place. C’mon, world – it’s pubic hair; just unzip your flies, look down, and try not to scream.
Flipping this foxy little coin over, though, it’s got to be said that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a more hairless approach to life, despite the slow turning of the styles and shifting mind sets. Like most people, I’m more likely to put my face on something soft – but the real problem arises when we start letting the media dictate every little part of our lives, provoking meltdowns over musings like ‘landing strip or no landing strip?’
As we all know by now, it gets pretty tiring having societal standards shove a magnifying glass over us, let alone under our clothes. Like someone speculated recently, ‘I thought some people shaved and some didn’t and that was that’. If you ask me, that’s a pretty good philosophy.
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