Taking a stand against American Apparel
~ 23 November 2009 ~
I’ve been doing designs for screened t-shirts on and off basically my entire career. Back in the day, Gildan and Hanes Beefy-T were popular choices for doing screened tee runs. The material was generally thick and beefy, and the fit was what you’d expect from a run-of-the-mill tee.
About four years ago American Apparel became mainstream and took the wholesale apparel industry by storm. The material was much lighter and the fit was more form-fitting. Printing a tee on American Apparel meant putting yourself on par with purchasing one from popular apparel outlets.
Unfortunately, American Apparel feels it’s not enough to merely make a quality tee that fits well. In the past year or so they’ve substantially broadened their product line and have resorted to advertising that is suggestive at best and explicit at worst. In today’s say-all, share-all socioeconomic society where a quality product virtually sells itself — which is precisely how American Apparel sold itself back when it became mainstream — there is no need for this, let alone the ethical reasons for which this isn’t necessary.
Fortunately, I don’t stand alone in refusing such advertising. Luke Sullivan’s Hey Whipple, Squeeze This, a book (and title) devoted to the idea that it’s possible to advertise lucratively and with integrity alike, offers the following argument. It’s a formidable defense against the trite and poorly coined statement, “Sex sells.”
To those who defend the campaign based on sales, I ask, would you also spit on the table to get my attention? It would work, but would you? An eloquent gentleman named Norman Berry, a British creative director at Ogilvy & Mather, put it this way:
‘I’m appalled by those who [judge] advertising exclusively on the basis of sales. That isn’t enough. Of course, advertising must sell. By any definition it is lousy advertising if it doesn’t. But if sales are achieved with work which is in bad taste or is intellectual garbage, it shouldn’t be applauded no matter how much it sells. Offensive, dull, abrasive, stupid advertising is bad for the entire industry and bad for business as a whole. It is why the public perception of advertising is going down in this country.’
To this end, I can no longer support American Apparel, and I’m putting my money where my mouth is. If your screened tee is printed on American Apparel, regrettably you won’t see an order from me. Likewise, the Authentic Jobs tees being given away in our “No Retweet Necessary” contest are printed on Tultex, a fairly comparable alternative with similar material and fit. I’m not 100% satisfied with Tultex as a permanent replacement, but for now it suffices. Any suggestions you have for other alternatives, please speak up — I’d like us to find suitable alternatives together.
Should American Apparel revise its advertising, I’m happy to support them anew. Until then, hopefully some of you can stand with Norman Berry, Luke Sullivan, and me in refusing advertising that is clearly offensive, abrasive, and stupid.
Stock photography, type, and killer tees. Genuinely recommended by Authentic Boredom.
Authentic Boredom is the platitudinous web home of Cameron Moll, designer, author, and speaker. More…
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