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.

 

149  Comments

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1   Cork ~ 23 November 2009

Thanks for taking a stand. It makes it easier for the weaker among us to take a stand as well.


2   Chanh Nguyen ~ 23 November 2009

For some reason this makes me think about Lady Gaga’s recent success.


3   Naz Hamid ~ 23 November 2009

I’ve often felt conflicted not so much for their marketing but moreso the antics of Dov Charney.

You may want to look into Alternative Apparel, whose quality I find even better than American. Jak Prints, a vendor I’ve used with great success for shirts before, offers them.


4   Eric Meyer ~ 23 November 2009

I certainly don’t disagree with your position, but I had thought AA’s advertising was suggestive-to-explicit for years now. Did they lower the bar even further in the past year and I missed it? (Which is easily possible; my brain treats AA ads pretty much the same way it does banner ads on web sites.)


5   Phil Nelson ~ 23 November 2009

The problem is AA is made by workers who are paid well, and in the US.

They’re high-quality, comfortable-as-hell, shirts that aren’t made by sweatshops. It’s hard to find all of those things. I’d love to see a competitor.


6   Rustin Jessen ~ 23 November 2009

I couldn’t possibly agree more with you on this.

I’ve been searching for quality american made textiles for a several projects and have beed directed to American Apparel time after time. I’ve always gone with other, possibly inferior, product because I’m so completely turned off by the marketing of American Apparel.

I’m so happy you wrote about this.

Here, here!


7   David Storey ~ 23 November 2009

I’ve not tried them yet, but I like the look of Edun Live T-shirts: http://www.edun-live.com/

They’re “grower to sower” which is what they call when the t-shirts are made where the cotton is grown. They’re used by a few indie bands for their t-shirts, and Bono’s wife is involved.


8   JoshuaNTaylor ~ 23 November 2009

Cameron, I too would be glad to not use/wear American Apparel anymore. I’d love to see some other alternatives though. The big issue is that their product is so superior. I’d also love to have some other options based solely on price. AA shirts are pricey.
Glad to see you standing up.


9   Justin DiRose ~ 23 November 2009

I’m 100% in agreement with you for many reasons. I’m beginning to despise the majority of mainstream American advertising because all it does is objectify women (yes, I’m a guy) and reek of a lack of creativity. It’s really the same thing over and over again, and it’s incredibly frustrating and annoying. Everywhere I turn practically, there’s a half naked woman on a billboard or ad banner trying to sell something. It disgusts me. Not to mention it just sucks.

I applaud your decision, Mr. Moll. More people must be willing to stand like this.


10   Dan Marek ~ 23 November 2009

Preach it.


11   Jake Stutzman ~ 23 November 2009

Agree Totally! Well said!


12   Rachel Nabors ~ 23 November 2009

I’ve been anti-American Apparel for some time now. Neither I nor my feminist friends have purchased anything from them in light of their outright creepy marketing and internal policies.

I’m glad we’re not the only ones incensed by this. Your public declaration inspires! Good on you!


13   Luke Dorny ~ 23 November 2009

I have to say that I agree with your stance. They started off with a cause: no sweatshops.
If their adverts were anything like those from other firms in Europe and elsewhere I might not agree, but they are a bit much, even to this liberalish eye.
I don’t mind a nice ad, even with nudity of some level, but AA’s ads are just not tasteful.

It seems to me that the CEO has mentioned something about his ad style, but I don’t recall th URL.


14   Philip Renich ~ 23 November 2009

Cameron,
I applaud you for taking this stand! I’m checking with my brother about alternatives. I know he debated this same issue in the shirts he sells. He may not have found a suitable alternative for the quality. I believe he, at least at that point, decided that purchasing from a company with poor advertising was better than purchasing from a company with sweat shops. Hopefully a quality alternative in both practices and materials will be found.


15   Kevin Carobine ~ 23 November 2009

Phil - I actually think AA added a factory in Mexico recently - to possibly avoid paying taxes in CA and the US.

I stopped using AA about a year and half ago, and have been bouncing around to differnet manufacturers. Unfortunately, nothing has cmpared to the quality and comfort of AA. Gildan and Anvil are now making comparable tees, but they’re not completely satisfying. Article 1 Apparel has a nice tee, but they don’t run their business very well - had a few issues ordering large quanities from them. Alternative Apparel is probably the 2nd best option, but they’re expensive.


16   Jonas Dees ~ 23 November 2009

“Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.”

I appreciate your conviction, although most of their ads don’t bother me personally, I also don’t have to worry about my kids seeing them because I am sans-children.

Print ads in magazines are one thing, you choose to pick up the rag and read it but billboard advertisements are another thing completely. I would hate to have to explain to a child what was going on up there as we walk down the street.

I’m actually more interested in hearing about AA alternatives than I am about stopping “sex sells” advertising, because that would take a cultural shift and I just don’t think is going to happen in the US.


17   Cameron Moll ~ 23 November 2009

@ Eric Meyer:

I certainly don’t disagree with your position, but I had thought AA’s advertising was suggestive-to-explicit for years now. Did they lower the bar even further in the past year and I missed it?

Perhaps I didn’t notice as much the first time I purchased a tee printed on AA a few years ago, but I do know I could browse the site without having to squint. I can’t do so now.


18   ~ 23 November 2009

Personally, I think your being too sensitive. Maybe because I’ve done work for them (database work) and I know the people. But, I’ve always found their ads to be in an artistic vein, that while it maybe pushes boundaries, is done from a more artistic standpoint then simply for shock and awe. I think it is an impressive collection of a corporate vision that is not driven by marketing but rather artistic vision, that also happens to work for marketing.


19   Chris Kalafarski ~ 23 November 2009

Article.1 sells some shirts that fit (me) great, and they also offer an organic cotton tee that is by far the best I’ve found; good size, fit, weight, printability, etc. Price, availability and color selection are a bit limiting when you go the organic route, but the whole idea here is to do things right, even if it means making sacrifices, right?

Here’s a link to the organic tees in their retail stores, prices are a lot better when you buy in bulk.
http://www.article1store.com/111O.html


20   testing ~ 23 November 2009

Just curious, how much of your stand is based upon your religious affiliations?


21   Nate Tharp ~ 23 November 2009

I think American Apparel’s approach to advertising has less to do with their marketing strategy and more to do with the ego and deviant nature of their CEO.

There’s plenty of data out there to show that the ‘Sex Sells’ mantra is essentially bunk. Ads like that often do more harm than good.

I just wish someone could make a tee that was as good as theirs.


22   Allen Pike ~ 23 November 2009

Honestly, I don’t really follow the argument between suggestive advertising and being unethical, but as long as you can say something like “Fits like American Apparel”, I’d be happy. The problem for me isn’t even quality, but that I’ve never found another American shirt brand that makes a Small that is actually small.


23   Krystyn ~ 23 November 2009

What a timely topic. Just this morning I walked past the American Apparel store in Soho, and thought “WTF?” as I passed a giant banner of silhouetted woman on a pole with her legs in the air. The only visible clothes were high heels.

Seriously? If it didn’t say “American Apparel” on it I would assume it was a men’s club or a place I could pick up stripper supplies.


24   Brent Hardinge ~ 23 November 2009

I applaud you for taking a stand against AA and their advertising techniques and will join you in this. While a few individuals taking a stand may not make much of an impression, I’m sure that when larger, more followed designers like yourself take a stand, that is something that is more likely to standout.


25   Will Findlay ~ 23 November 2009

Thanks for taking a stand on this. I agree completely.


26   Azucar ~ 23 November 2009

I agree with Nate Tharp: this comes down to the disgusting leadership of their CEO. The number of harassment suits that have been filed against him is one of the number one reasons I refuse to purchase AA. A man like that does not deserve to be in business.


27   paul ~ 23 November 2009

Thanks for taking a stand. I have a similar reaction toward Cafe Press. I know they don’t actually create the messages, but I reported a very offensive shirt to them about 6 months ago, and they “apologized” saying they would take “appropriate” action, but the shirt is still online.

While I would like to see this trend continue, sadly the reality is there’s a lot more folks out there that relish this trash.


28   Cameron Moll ~ 23 November 2009

@ testing:

Just curious, how much of your stand is based upon your religious affiliations?

That is irrelevant in this discussion. If being a father of four young boys and a loyal husband isn’t enough to warrant the stand I’ve taken, we’ve got bigger issues to deal with.


29   ~ 23 November 2009

I don’t buy American Apparely, but not because of the advertising. I’m not a fan of the thin (albeit soft) and form-fitting tee. I’m a 32 year old man—neither you nor I want my nipples showing.


30   Patrick Haney ~ 23 November 2009

While I’m not a fan of American Apparel’s advertising policies (which, by the way, objectify men nearly as much as women in my opinion), the fact that their clothing is actually made in this country by sweatshop-free facilities is more than enough for me to look past the questionable content of their marketing schemes. Add to the mix the fact that their form-fitting and lightweight t-shirts are the most comfortable that I’ve found, and you’ve got a winning combination. Still, I can understand refusing to shop in an American Apparel store as a way to make a point about their explicit advertising.

What I’m unsure of is how penalizing t-shirt shops and individuals who use AA t-shirts for their screen printing process by refusing to purchase their products will really solve the problem. If I’m selling a t-shirt, I want the best product available, and many of us agree that American Apparel has just that. Then again, perhaps I’m just numb to their advertising to the point that I’m not affected in the same way (the Harvard Square AA store is directly across the street from my office).

Here’s an honest question, and one that I hope does not start a flame war: how do you feel about browsing websites that are hosted or have been registered with Go Daddy? After their previous Super Bowl ads, I stray from using the service myself, but I wouldn’t avoid websites that have or continue to use them as a registrar or even a web host despite their unnecessarily sexual commercials.

I welcome any suggestions on how to send a message to AA to let them know that their gratuitous use of sex in their marketing campaigns is unnecessary given their quality product, other than avoiding shops that have chosen an obviously superior product to pass on to their customers. Show me the way.


31   Doug ~ 23 November 2009

Some friends have had good luck with printing through Alternative Apparel (http://www.alternativeapparel.com/) for a similar quality print that isn’t through the company you mentioned.


32   dan ~ 23 November 2009

Thanks for saying this. I don’t shop at AA nor have I seen much of their advertising. However I applaud the idea of avoiding raunchy advertising.

Thank you.


33   Ryan Brunsvold ~ 23 November 2009

Please don’t assume I’m merely playing devil’s advocate, but I really don’t see the connection between ethical behaviour and ‘advertising that is suggestive at best and explicit at worst.’ Would you prefer American Apparel to employ less suggestive photography, or are you just unimpressed with their apparent lack of subtlety?

You also go on to call their advertising ‘
…clearly offensive, abrasive, and stupid.’ Perhaps I’m a bit out of touch here, but I honestly can’t remember the last time I noticed American Apparel’s advertising, much less found it offensive.

I’m just a bit confused on your actual stance.


34   Kate ~ 23 November 2009

I, too, thank you for taking a public stand on this. I have been increasingly disturbed by AA’s turn toward p0rn (let’s call a spade a spade) to sell their products. I am spending my money elsewhere, gladly supporting companies who exhibit integrity in advertising.


35   Tom Finley ~ 23 November 2009

@testing: I’ve often wondered about Cameron’s religious views in relation to the digital world given his previous employment, but as a skeptic of the highest order, I’ve not seen any shred of evidence to indicate Mr. Moll pushes that on others. In fact, I’m betting he goes to painful lengths to ensure that a religious bias isn’t attributable to any of his professional decisions.

As an agnostic bordering-on-atheist, it irks me that the society must attribute morals to a religious affiliation. Cameron succinctly voiced where he was coming from on this matter and it’s this simple:

Stop taking the easy, low-brow route; we’ve had enough with the culture of stupid and it’s time to move on.


36   Skylar Hartman ~ 23 November 2009

In agreement, I’m in marketing myself and do, in all integrity, won’t comply with any projects sexually suggestive or illicit. I find that most public, owners of companies or plain citizens with such boldness, enough to try and market their product sensually have little-to-no moral or even ethical standard.

To be frank, it makes me angry and therefore I agree with you. I can’t, in all seriousness, go to their site. I actually avoid their site as best I can (being a web/graphic designer).

Thanks for your post.


37   Daniel Marino ~ 23 November 2009

Great post. I too have been conflicted about supporting American Apparel, and am ashamed that I haven’t had the nerve to boycott them. They make great tee shirts that are comfortable, but that is a poor excuse to overlook their advertising (as well as moral and ethical) practices. I have no desire to view the offensive imagery and wouldn’t want my children to view it as well. I also had no idea that there are so many others that feel the same way and it’s very encouraging. From this point on I will not support AA unless they change their practices.


38   Jason Reed ~ 23 November 2009

I’ve been meaning to do the same with GoDaddy for a while now- their ads are obnoxious as well.

Good for you for voting with your dollars.


39   Chris Glass ~ 23 November 2009

I’ve been approached repeatedly by a customer for my company to switch brands for the same reason. I asked for any alternatives that pay workers a decent wage and provide affordable health care options and never heard anything back.

These are my number one issues.

I don’t care for AA’s advertising (they need more bears), but I think the product and work environment they create is exemplary. I’ll keep an eye on this thread through, in hopes that other companies are seeing the value of fair labor.


40   Michael ~ 23 November 2009

I don’t agree with the advertising nor the personal behavior of CEO Dov Charney, but I do think about workers making a living wage in humane conditions right here in America when purchasing a quality T-shirt. It’s not ideal, but the human rights of workers worldwide far outweigh the suggestive advertising in my mind.


41   Paul Burton ~ 23 November 2009

I appreciate the sentiment and applaud your decision. However, I would far prefer someone with your professional clout to take a stand against an industry practice that actually mattered beyond who you purchase your raw materials from for your own capitalistic aims. Ridding the ad world of suggestive advertising is as fruitless as jumping off your roof in the hope your arms will help you achieve flight.

Consider taking a stand against work-for-hire (stopworkforhire.com) and help the entire creative community - A worthy cause that will have an immediate impact among less well known and less experienced creative professionals.

Cheers.


42   Anon ~ 23 November 2009

Wish I knew more about what you find objectionable.

I don’t find nudity offensive. It’s the body God gave us.

I don’t find sexuality offensive. It’s just one way God intends for us to value each other.

I do find misogyny offensive, but I’ve never found American Apparel’s nude or sexually-suggestive advertising to be misogynistic. Have I merely missed the misogynistic ads, are are you just a far more prudish than I? From your blog post, I can’t tell.


43   Phil Nelson ~ 23 November 2009

The real question is which side of the scale weighs more. I love how their shirts fit me, they last forever, they aren’t super expensive, and they’re made by workers who get paid a living wage in a clean place. They’re pro-gay, they’re for immigration reform, they genuinely seem to care about environmental stuff.

Against all that, I’ll take some lame advertising. I respect Cameron’s conviction, but I think it’s misplaced.


44   testing ~ 23 November 2009

@ Phil Nelson

I totally agree with you. There are many other companies who may not have suggestive advertising however their products are made in sweat shops.


45   Ben ~ 23 November 2009

@Patrick Haney - Amen! Right up through the GoDaddy comment! I hate those ads, and GoDaddy’s website too.

I think this is an interesting article, and I agree that AA’s ads are getting over-the-top and creepy, but why punish independent sellers who purchase the product because of the above-average human rights considerations taken by the company (not to mention the product’s admitted quality)?

Furthermore, there’s certainly an argument to be made against AA’s claims of “slave labor-free apparel” and worker’s rights, but writing this article without even a nod to the subject seems negligent.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for advocating morality and taste in marketing, but I think that when you start talking ethics you have to take the human rights issues into account as well.


46   The Boss ~ 23 November 2009

After having worn an AA shirt and getting to first-hand experience its buttery-softness, I had thought that AA made the best fitting t-shirt in world history. And that’s without having seen a single ad or website.

Their shirts are great, but the trashiness in their advertising is not necessary. It’s true for me - I became a fan based solely on product experience. Now, I’m turned off.

Someone else mentioned GoDaddy. I feel the same about that company as well.

Objectification of people is no advertising strategy for me.


47   Joseph ~ 23 November 2009

Right On! I completely support and agree with the stance you’ve taken. I find it really cool that you did so. Thanks for the post. And I second the notion:

if being a father of four young boys and a loyal husband isn’t enough to warrant the stand I’ve taken, we’ve got bigger issues to deal with.

48   Brandy ~ 23 November 2009

I will echo what others have said: terrible advertising (for years), but I don’t know where else to get such nice stuff that wasn’t made in a sweatshop and was made in the US.


49   Allison ~ 23 November 2009

I also agree. When we had some company shirts made recently, we worked with the printers to find a good AA alternative. The shirts are not as comfy, sure, but I felt better about making the purchase.


50   Sharlene ~ 23 November 2009

Nice!

@people who keep touting AA’s “living wage” policy

It’s nice to know you care about factory workers, but it’s a shame you don’t care about their retail workers.

AA can afford to pay their factory workers well because they skimp on their retail operations. Not to mention discrimination is rampant in their retail operations. I was fired for reporting a manager that kept firing black employees.

Don’t believe me? How about a published resignation email from an AA employee?

http://consumerist.com/consumer/top/american-apparel-resignation-letter-180321.php

Of course, after that was posted, we all had to sign NDA documents prohibiting that sort of thing.

American Apparel exemplifies the spirit of exploiting people’s beliefs. Don’t sleep better at night thinking you’ve supported a brand that doesn’t screw people; it’s just screwing different people.


51   Bryan ~ 23 November 2009

“That is irrelevant in this discussion. If being a father of four young boys and a loyal husband isn’t enough to warrant the stand I’ve taken, we’ve got bigger issues to deal with.”

I just want to thank you, not only for your stand on the subject (which I agree with), but for this very clear statement about our responsibility to our children and wives. It needed to be said.


52   Rob Bowen ~ 23 November 2009

I have to say, that yes, I agree that using sex to sell is not the way to go, but there are so many companies exploiting workers far beyond those being objectified in these ads. I think we should focus more on the Fair Trade labels and demanding more humane practices for the manufacture of all of these products before we take on the sensitive nature of the advertising that sells the products to us.

As has been pointed out, AA uses home based operations without moving their corporate factories to other countries so that they can exploit the workers and use toxic materials for the manufacturing of their goods without the strict guidelines and safeguards we have in place here. Chocolate, gold, and diamonds are among the world’s worst human rights offenders as far as their mining and farming, yet, I don’t see anywhere where you have called for people to not design or work or support Hershey’s or any other of the major staples that would disrupt your lives.

No, only the clothes, that you probably don’t normally purchase anyway. Because that is an easy target, and one that will not make you have to monitor and make any significant lifestyle changes to help efforts to stop these atrocious practices. Perhaps it is just easier to get people on board when you take a moral stand against sex. Guess all the other exploited beings across the planet don’t get your compassion because they have their clothes on….


53   Chanh Nguyen ~ 23 November 2009

I personally think it has to do more with it’s target audience. When I think of AA i think more of Artist and Hipsters that has become part of the main stream ie. M.I.A. Statagold, etc.


54   Christopher Dwan ~ 23 November 2009

Simply awesome. Thanks for being real, taking a stand, being a good example and a good husband and father.


55   Alex ~ 23 November 2009

Well, Charney’s definitely a misogynist creep but I actually find most of AA’s advertising a bit boring rather than offensive or “immoral”. It’s basically a bunch of half-naked hipsters being raunchy. Conceptually weak perhaps, but I don’t find it unethical.

Punishing independent silk-screeners/bands/etc for the advertising decisions of their supplier - a supplier with a much better working environment than many garment manufacturers - seems a bit harsh. But on a personal level, I’m not put off by nudity or sexuality in many of its myriad forms. If I was more conservative, I’m sure I’d feel differently.

And what about poor WOODY ALLEN? AA used his image on a billboard without permission! Oh wait - he’s married to his adopted daughter. Yuck. That’s the true sin here, folks.


56   scott ~ 23 November 2009

I run a tee printing biz that buys most of our tees from AA.
Yes I can’t stand the pics of all their models. Luckily the wholesale site has no pics! But I’ve tried so many other brands and AA still has the best product.

Alternative Apparel is very expensive, made all over the world and we’ve had a high defect rate with them (quality wonky).

Article1, sizing was funky and a lot of shirts were crooked. not made in the US but they do have a good selection of organics.

Bella has been our second choice for most stuff. decent quality, some of the styles are made in the US but not much info on their business ethics.

Continental Clothing, a British company with a ton of organic styles. They have factories in China and India powered by green tech. Their stuff is about a buck more than AA and pretty nice. But having to ship their stuff to the states kind of messes up the whole carbon footprint thing.

Ahh but the real kicker is that there is no perfect tee company! Here’s a fun read on how crazy the global economy is:
http://www.amazon.com/Travels-T-Shirt-Global-Economy-Economist/dp/0471648493

Even AA in their production is not 100% made in the US. When they say “Made in the USA” it’s just the final pieces are put together in the US (for the most part).

Lastly I don’t advertise that I use AA. I try to keep it generic and just say “High Quality tees” . Never know, maybe one day someone will have a better tee product!

Until then I’ll keep looking.
Anyone got some spare cash and time to start up a new tee manufacture?? ;)


57   mikeo ~ 23 November 2009

Well I have never purchased AA merchandise and nor do I plan to. The advertising turned me off right off from the beginning. I see no need to support them.

.mike


58   Brian Christiansen ~ 23 November 2009

Cameron, bravo on voting with your wallet. I wish more people would do so.

However, I won’t be joining you on this stand. I personally don’t find their ads exploitive, as like Patrick mentioned, they show just as many men clad scantily. I’m not saying their ads are interesting or effective, or that I personally like them. Visiting their website just now, the main graphic did look a little like a softcore shoot, I’ll concede, so I don’t think they’re doing their business any favors. GoDaddy was mentioned, and I think their ads are even worse, because sexuality doesn’t do much for domain names, but people do buy clothes to enhance their physical appearance.

I’m not worried about their ads impact on children. I feel that a parent’s influence has far more impact upon a child’s thoughts than a page in a magazine or a sign in a store. I think it’s kind of funny that most parents would not think twice to bring their children to a museum with renaissance-era paintings and sculpture of humans, fully naked in erotic situations, but will cover their eyes if they pass a billboard with semi-clothed people in similar poses.

I think we’ve lost touch with the fact that humans are sexual beings. We attribute sexual crime and misogyny with seeing sexual imagery, but IMO it’s the puritan taboo that’s doing more harm than the imagery.

Although I’ve never shopped for their clothes directly, I do appreciate the fact that they are an American company taking seriously the cause of manufacturing in this country. This means much more to me than their advertising.

But this is my opinion, and I fully respect the rights of others to abstain or boycott things they find offensive. More power to you.


59   Colin Williams ~ 23 November 2009

Just felt I had to weight in. I’m having trouble finding anything overtly sexual on AA’s web site. I mean, how else do you expect to market a Nylon Spandex Stretch Floral Lace Unitard?

Forget the sales results. AA is just appealing to there target audience. If you object to that, then you simply don’t understand the target audience as well as they do.

This big world has big problems. Don’t sweat the small stuff.


60   ddk ~ 23 November 2009

I do everything I can in my purchases to penalize frat-boy-antics advertising — including Twix, after the recent ad campaign: “if you eat some Twix after your inane pick-up-line fails, you’ll have time to come up with a new one that pretends you have ethical standards so that the nice girl will sleep with you.” Yes, it’s funny. But it’s disgusting (lying for sex is OK), depraved (lying is OK) and misogynistic (girls are easily manipulated for sex) too. If a lot of guys didn’t actually act like this, it would just be funny. But that’s not the case.

American Apparel has struck me this way for as long as I’ve been aware of them as a brand — as has Abercrombie & Fitch.

No, I can’t boycott everything, nor do I care to try to. But as long as I remember particularly degrading ad campaigns, they affect my purchases.


61   m ~ 23 November 2009

Not that I don’t totally agree with you, but let’s face it this isn’t anything new for them. I mean years ago if you got caught browsing their catalog you felt ashamed. Their branding and “in your face” sex is nothing new.

I still love their tees, and nothing has come close so I’m glad to see some alternatives.


62   Sean ~ 23 November 2009

Did you know that they are doing a 40 year collaboration line with Sesame Street? How messed up is that?

http://store.americanapparel.net/search.html?s=sesame


63   Blake ~ 23 November 2009

This is a manly post. It takes a real man of good character to take a stand on something like this, especially when it is obviously plaguing our society. I have thought this way about skateboarding companies that have “clearly offensive, abrasive, and stupid” ads. There is just no place for that kind of garbage in something that needs to remain fresh and original to survive.


64   Joseph ~ 23 November 2009

Anon:

I don’t find nudity offensive. It’s the body God gave us.
I don’t find sexuality offensive. It’s just one way God intends for us to value each other.

Thats fine, but don’t you think those things should be found on sites dedicated to them, and not in advertising with no warning to the innocent bystander?

After all, isn’t the advertising supposed to feature the apparel, and not the lack thereof?

Thanks for taking a stand Cameron, I think you’re absolutely right.


65   Craig Bailey ~ 23 November 2009

I must be one of the few people who hates AA Ts simple because he thinks they’re crappy Ts. Tissue paper-thin and undersized. No thanks.


66   John Lascurettes ~ 23 November 2009

I wasn’t even aware that AA had advertising and still have no idea to what you are referring. My only exposure to AA and its shirts is the shirts themselves.

So by your definition of what constitutes good advertising, that’s all I got.

It’s a shame that if I chose to print on AA (as we do for all our work shirts where I work), you’d choose not to buy from me because of problems you have with them, regardless of how you felt about the me or my design on the shirt.


67   josh ~ 23 November 2009

I’m taking a stand against american apparel as their t-shirts amplify the size of my beer gut tenfold.


68   Elaine, clothed much ~ 23 November 2009

Thanks for the being one of the firsts to say something about AA and their advertising. I thought I was the only one because it seems like a lot of people in the fashion blogging community supports AA 100% and, yes, their Tshirts are pretty amazing but it’s not worth it for me to buy it if I know they sold it to me with provocative images and poses.


69   C ~ 23 November 2009

@Cameron

That is irrelevant in this discussion. If being a father of four young boys and a loyal husband isn’t enough to warrant the stand I’ve taken, we’ve got bigger issues to deal with.

Come now… it’s really not irrelevant at all. if we’re going to take strong stances on issues like this, we need to be truly honest about the reasons. Religion is one the very few areas of humanity where sexuality is consistently shunned as being untoward, inappropriate, or offensive.

It’s not illegal to advertise this way, nor is it physically or emotionally harmful. Nudity, sexuality, and provocative photographs do not cause infidelity, nor do they preclude good parenting or cause damage to children. It’s a classically myopic and (again, if we’re being honest) religious point of view - the fear and shunning of all things provocative.

Think of it this way: are we to believe that children, fathers, and families in most European nations are somehow damaged or inferior? That’s the only conclusion I can draw, since this type of advertising is commonplace there, and many other places in the world. In fact, this would be tame there!

To be clear, I think it’s everyone’s right to make personal decisions to avoid any brand they choose for any reason they choose. I take no issue with that whatsoever. I just think it’s unfair and unreasonable to coerce that opinion onto others, especially when the opinion is rooted in a subjective viewpoint which (again, if we’re being honest) comes from a religious, or at very least a conservative set of ideals that everyone does not share.


70   Josh ~ 23 November 2009

Way to take not being a stumbling block to others to heart…. Kudos!! :)


71   Colin Sproule ~ 23 November 2009

I’d recommend http://www.alternativeapparel.com

Similar fit to american apparel but much softer material.


72   Cameron Moll ~ 23 November 2009

Some great suggestions for alternatives in the comments. Thank you.

Replying to a few comments below.

@ Patrick Haney:

Here’s an honest question, and one that I hope does not start a flame war: how do you feel about browsing websites that are hosted or have been registered with Go Daddy?

I feel the same, if you’d really like to know. In full disclosure, all of my domains are hosted on Go Daddy. However, this wasn’t by choice. I was part of the RegisterFly debacle several years ago (another CEO with highly questionable ethics) and it was either transfer to Go Daddy, who acquired the remains of RegisterFly, or watch my domains suffer demise.

I’ve had plans to move away from Go Daddy for some time now, but only recently have I finally had time to make the move.

@ Tom Finley:

@testing: I’ve often wondered about Cameron’s religious views in relation to the digital world given his previous employment, but as a skeptic of the highest order, I’ve not seen any shred of evidence to indicate Mr. Moll pushes that on others. In fact, I’m betting he goes to painful lengths to ensure that a religious bias isn’t attributable to any of his professional decisions.

Thank you for recognizing this, Tom. Indeed, I do go to great lengths to keep church and state separate.

@ Paul Burton:

Ridding the ad world of suggestive advertising is as fruitless as jumping off your roof in the hope your arms will help you achieve flight.

It only takes one to start a movement or to break the camel’s back, does it not?

@ Rob Bowen:

No, only the clothes, that you probably don’t normally purchase anyway. Because that is an easy target, and one that will not make you have to monitor and make any significant lifestyle changes to help efforts to stop these atrocious practices.

If you’re insinuating that I don’t purchase American Apparel, I have probably a dozen AA shirts in my closet, and I’ve had a wholesale account with them for nearly 5 years (though I’ve not yet used it).

@ C:

Nudity, sexuality, and provocative photographs do not cause infidelity, nor do they preclude good parenting or cause damage to children. It’s a classically myopic and (again, if we’re being honest) religious point of view - the fear and shunning of all things provocative.

Are you prepared to back that up with data? I have plenty of stories I can point you to regarding pornography and broken marriages or misguided children. I’ll agree with you that it’s not a shoe-in cause for those kinds of things, but certainly can be a contributor.

To be clear, I think it’s everyone’s right to make personal decisions to avoid any brand they choose for any reason they choose. I take no issue with that whatsoever. I just think it’s unfair and unreasonable to coerce that opinion onto others, especially when the opinion is rooted in a subjective viewpoint which (again, if we’re being honest) comes from a religious, or at very least a conservative set of ideals that everyone does not share.

I’ve publicly expressed an opinion and have elected to use another brand for a contest giveaway. Please explain how this is “coercing” my opinion on others.


73   Mindie ~ 23 November 2009

two words: you rock! I admire and respect the stand you have taken and agree with you completely.


74   Todd Zaki Warfel ~ 23 November 2009

Well said Cameron and glad to see that ethical people still exist in our field.


75   NycVixen ~ 23 November 2009

I just took a look at their website, I got curious after reading this article online. I live in NYC, and passed by their store on a daily basis when I went to school downtown. I had no idea that they used so much nudity and suggestive imagery. It is really apalling; it’s porn. There are topless photos of women in sexually suggestive poses, I mean men could literally get off on these pics. There is no need to objectify young women or men in this manner. I am really taken aback by the extremity of the photos. It is really sad that these girls are allowing themselves to be exploited like this. They may be sweatshop free, but using bodies like this to sell clothing is just as bad. I will never buy there and plan to spread the word.


76   Countervail ~ 23 November 2009

Well I think it’s completely up to you how you spend your money and the political implication you hope to achieve with such a boycott, but am I so desensitized that I really don’t see why you’re offended? Looking at their website, I don’t see images that are so much more tawdry than other retailers. Is it that the models appear to be so young and the photo shoots so informal looking, like these hopefully well paid young models are somehow being taken advantage of? Because I see advertising with other retailers - Calvin Klein (their “foresome” ad), Abercrombie & Fitch (2002 nudie catalogs) etc. - where the models are just as unclothed, occasionally simulating very sensual, perhaps sexual, acts only in classy black & white with good lighting. Is it more acceptable with the same kinds of pictures where the models seem older and/or more wealthy? Just saying that if you hope to be equitable in your boycott, you have a lot of clothing companies to avoid.


77   Josh Souter ~ 23 November 2009

Right on Cameron. The hyper-sexualization of culture is rather depressing.

And calling it “Art” or even “artistic”? A half-naked woman suggestively draped over the bed, and you snapped it with a polaroid camera? Damn! you’re an artist! We’ve never seen that before. You’ve brought your unique point of view on the human experience to the table…

Remind me why it suddenly qualifies as artistic if there’s sex involved? I tend to call it lazy. Anytime an entire industry is using it to get rich, I think you can discount it as Art.


78   Jim Renaud ~ 23 November 2009

I find it odd that people are disagreeing with your personal objections to American Apparel. I’ve banned companies for much less! I was on hold with Dell customer service for my mother-in-law and they played Matchbox 20 and I swore them off for good!

I think people need to ban things more often. It’s just a t-shirt.


79   Rob Lund ~ 23 November 2009

Good post, and I totally agree.


80   Jim Renaud ~ 23 November 2009

Oh, and I’d like to ban American Apparel because they always make me feel stupid. I always forget how to spell “apparel.” Is it 2 P’s or 2 R’s or 2 P’s & R’s!

Oh, forget it! Shunned!


81   Jason Lynes ~ 23 November 2009

interesting discussion, and fascinating to see the different views on the matter.

to me, this seems like a slippery slope. where do you draw the line, and how far do you go to make sure you’re not supporting businesses who disagree with your personal beliefs? i’m with Jim above, that we all stop patronizing businesses for tons of whimsical reasons, but once you take a public stand like this, you raise the bar a bit.

what if AA wanted to buy a listing on your jobs site? would you refuse? have you looked into companies who are paying you now? you can easily find this same material on yahoo or comcast or blockbuster, who you’ve gladly taken money from. why not take a stand across the board?


82   Dannyboy ~ 23 November 2009

In response to posts about this being a fruitless stand and saying there are more important stances, such as slave labor, I say yes in one sense. Trying to take a stand against morally corrosive ads often feels like holding back flood waters, the alternative is to just get swept away in it all. Maybe Cameron is being a particularist by calling out this one company amongst many others, but why not? To take a stand against one felt injustice one does not need to stand against every single one like it.

Taking stands will always stir controversy it forces people to self-evaluate, for better or worse. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to reflect on society’s affect on my wife and 3 young daughters.

Lastly, you never mentioned religion, and people artificially injecting it into this conversation feels like a red-herring diversion from your main points.


83   Rob Bowen ~ 24 November 2009

If you’re insinuating that I don’t purchase American Apparel, I have probably a dozen AA shirts in my closet, and I’ve had a wholesale account with them for nearly 5 years (though I’ve not yet used it).

I like how you conveniently seemed to ignore all the other points I raised. The ones that truly matter, and could potentially disturb your comforting bubble of convenience, and instead focused on a stray point that truly doesn’t matter. You see that’s the thing about the shirts. In the grand scheme, it doesn’t matter. You want to know why the company uses that kind of advertising? Because our sick, sad world has responded to it for generations and as long as we spend our dollars like that, they will continue to push it that way.

So yes, boycott them. But once again, what about the many other horrible practices taking place in the names of the American consumer? Those you don’t seem to bat an eye at. You see, you can easily find another place for shirts, I mean, they are everywhere. Now finding a chocolate bar that wasn’t made from chocolate farmed by slaves, including children (like those you are trying to protect from these suggestive and inappropriate images) is a bit harder. It makes things more inconvenient so we don’t talk about that. Just the t-shirt when in fact we could buy one of a dozen other shirts from a dozen other vendors. It means you don’t have to work to make a difference, because, hey who has time to do more than post about it and then choose our dozen other places to shop from.

Buying diamonds and gold mined from slaves doesn’t seem to bother most, we turn a blind eye, rather than sacrifice these status symbols that we must have to show others how much they mean to us. It’s sad. It’s pathetic. And it’s the consumers who keep funding these atrocities! And as long as people like you keep them feeling like they do their part to change this corporate malfeasance by not buying a shirt from AA because of provocative advertising, they never will act to make these other changes.

So I was not insinuating. I made a mistaken declaration, dismissive in nature, because once again, in the grand scheme of what I was talking about this seemed pretty minor. But I guess these kinds of things don’t matter to the decent folk. The ones who would rather put their efforts towards this than address a problem ten times as great. The ones who would rather ignore the true horrors facing thousands so they could point out that they do in fact have an account and a closet with some selections from the store in question in it, so this does impact their lives in a major way.

If it is your kids that you are worried about, I ask you another question you can go ahead and ignore. What are you teaching them with your omissions and overlooking?


84   Kimberly Blessing ~ 24 November 2009

Good on you, Cameron! AA’s advertising is downright sexist, and society must object to that, regardless of an individual’s perception of or lack of concern for the ads. Perhaps one day we’ll all be able to look at these ads and not be at all concerned, but in an world where sexism exists, every stand — however big or small — helps.

What’s more, AA discriminates against anyone who doesn’t fit their ideal — not just race (as previously mentioned) but body size and shape. For the ladies: if you’re not a skinny girl with a small chest, good luck fitting anything they make. For the guys: if you’re a heavier-set geek, you might get one or two shirts out of them, but on the whole, you’re ignored, too.

Aren’t t-shirts supposed to be the one thing we all have in common — something that anyone can wear, feel good in, and emblazon with a personal statement to make it their own? Clearly, not according to AA. Even on just that idea, I could object… but there are so many, better reasons to do so anyway…

Thank you, Cameron.


85   Timmy V. ~ 24 November 2009

@Cameron Moll - First off, loved this post. Thought it was clear and right on point. I also didn’t know about AA’s advertising but as one interested in T-Shirts as a business I have been consistently directed towards them and I’ll certainly be thinking twice now.

Regarding the comments about the source of ‘prudishness’ being religion and nothing else, I believe there is good data (I can’t come up with any at the moment as it’s been a long time since I read about it and the keywords elude me) that the common thought that simulating an act is a good pressure release valve that makes you less likely to act out in reality is actually a fallacy and actually makes you more likely to act out on your impulses. Wish I could link to something here, but maybe someone else a little more familiar with Behavioral Psychology could find that information (or something contradictory!).

Second off, your commenters rock! It’s a sad thing that a thread like this one or the discussion about communal parenting over at Jason Kottke’s stand out so much because they’re so rare. Kudos to you for helping grow this kind of community.

Third, have you ever considered enabling Markdown or something similar for your comments? I’m sure your familiar with it but maybe you hadn’t considered this use of it. :)

@Rob Bowen - I really like your main point. Attempting to highlight the plight of many of the working poor in other countries and the vast issues of human rights abuses by nations and transnational corporations is a good drum to beat.

However, I’d like to suggest that you might be more effective in your evangelism if you tweaked a few things. You’re employing two common fallacies which I think aren’t helping your main point. Just because a ‘perfect’ fight against injustice would include taking on every dictator, eradicating extreme poverty, feeding every hungry person, disarming evil companies taking advantage of people who can’t fight for themselves, etc. doesn’t mean that taking a stand against a company that uses sex to sell its wares is wrong or pointless (Nirvana Fallacy). The fabric of our society and culture is made up of this stuff (all of it) and so every move makes a difference. Just because there are bigger fish to fry doesn’t mean that Cameron’s decision to no longer use AA doesn’t make sense. You do say in the first line of your first comment that “I have to say, that yes, I agree that using sex to sell is not the way to go” and I acknowledge that your not saying that boycotting AA is wrong (as some other commenters have said). But you’re downplaying it in light of these larger issues. That doesn’t help people do the both/and. The way you so quickly dismiss the issue of using sex as advertising as small makes the rest of your points feel like something of a Red Herring, which again, I don’t believe they are.

I hope that your money is where your mouth is and that you do take all the steps you seem to be asking the rest of us to take and that you truly are consumed by these massive global trade and human rights issues as you seem to be. I applaud you! But try to be a little more civil and humane in how you discuss it with people. You’re tone is really aggressive and, frankly, sounds baiting. Being winsome is as much about being civil as it is about being right.

I’m not trying to be pedantic, I just really like your ideas and I want them to be received rather than combated.


86   Danny Houk ~ 24 November 2009

@Rob Bowen says:

Buying diamonds and gold mined from slaves doesn’t seem to bother most, we turn a blind eye, rather than sacrifice these status symbols that we must have to show others how much they mean to us.

If we agree that these other horrible things happen in the world, how does that negate or subtract from the other horrible things in our world? Yes, our world is severely tarnished and someone is trying to fight against one aspect of it. Great! And you and others try to fight against another aspect of it. Great!

I agree that inhumane and undignified working conditions, as well as world disease and famine seems a greater cause. But moral pollution is still intrinsically bad. So why not give a “good for you” to Cameron and you write a persuasive article about the cause you’re passionate about?


87   Walker Hamilton ~ 24 November 2009

Royal Apparel is an American company that sells union-made clothing in the vein of American Apparel. I rather like the fit of their tees.

https://www.royalapparel.net/


88   Rob Bowen ~ 24 November 2009

@Timmy I agree that one fight does not mean that another cannot be fought, but what I asked on Twitter and here was if you are going to get all up in arms about this, then what are your stances on this. Basically, I get tired of the indignant attitude with which people launch campaigns like this, but still they engage in much worse supportive practices because of convenience.

So when people take these kinds of moral stances, I like to know just how much of it is posturing and how much is legitimate. As a person who does not only practice what I preach here, but a whole lot more, America’s moral schizophrenia is overwhelming and hypocritical. So I asked about his stance on other issues, only to have him ignore the points completely. This said to me, that no, he does not take a moral stand on any of these other grounds, and to me that is beyond sad. It also lessens the impact of their moral stance here, in my opinion naturally, because they are inconsistently outraged.

And yes, as I followed up with, go ahead and boycott the company, but as a vegan who has seen dozens upon dozens of single focus campaigns attempting to make a difference, these are rarely effective and do little more than placate people into thinking that they are making a difference. Attacking AA for their ads, isn’t going to effect Abercrombie with their vile sexist campaigns, so again, focusing on one arm of the beast doesn’t stop the beast from attacking. I applaud any activism (even if it is contrary to my own positions) because it means people are standing up for themselves. But we need to do it effectively. Don’t attack AA, attack the ad companies that have been making this the norm for generations.

That would be an effective venture for eliminating this issue. Thanks for your thoughtful ideas and discussion. Your kind, encouraging words are much appreciated.

As for my tone, I understand that it could have been better, but again, this is tiresome and all too frequently happening nowadays, so naturally I get frustrated and before I realize it, I am on my soapbox like an angry hippie, and don’t even realize that I am on it. Habit of the rant, I guess.

@Danny - thanks for responding. I think you will find my answer to your question is contained above as well. :)


89   Jim Renaud ~ 24 November 2009

@Rob Bowen: Is a blog post a campaign? Seems like this post is a guy who is sharing his thought process and looking for alternatives that meet the American Apparel quality and production without stupid advertising.


90   Rob Bowen ~ 24 November 2009

hopefully some of you can stand with Norman Berry, Luke Sullivan, and me in refusing advertising that is clearly offensive, abrasive, and stupid.

@Jim - Usually I would say yes. But since he is calling for a boycott and asking others to join in, then it would make it more of a campaign. Had he simply expressed his opinions, then no it would not.


91   Cara ~ 24 November 2009

I too would also like to suggest Alternative Apparel.

I started buying shirts from Alternative Apparel before I had ever even heard of American Apparel. When I heard all the hype about American Apparel, I bought a t-shirt from them and honestly, it is in no way even comparable to the fit and softness of Alternative Apparel t-shirts.

I don’t understand why people like American Apparel clothing just based on fit and comfort and then the advertising campaigns are so off-putting to me that I’ll never shop there again. It’s a lot like how Abercrombie advertising has gotten over the years. It should not be embarrassing to shop for t-shirts.


92   Matt ~ 24 November 2009

We’ve recently switched to Alstyle Apparel as their fit and feel is almost identical to AA, but their cost is significantly less. I hesitate to mention them as they have enough trouble keeping their Fine Jersey T-Shirt in stock as it is. Their selection isn’t as broad, but has worked well for our needs.


93   Cameron Moll ~ 24 November 2009

@ Jason Lynes:

to me, this seems like a slippery slope. where do you draw the line, and how far do you go to make sure you’re not supporting businesses who disagree with your personal beliefs?

There’s no doubt businesses conflict with all of our personal ideals —- whatever those may be —- in one way or another or at one time or another, and it becomes necessary that we be tolerant of these businesses if we are to function as citizens of society. However, as a citizen I reserve the right to draw the line whenever I feel the conflict is too great, and that’s what I’ve done here.

what if AA wanted to buy a listing on your jobs site? would you refuse? have you looked into companies who are paying you now? you can easily find this same material on yahoo or comcast or blockbuster, who you’ve gladly taken money from. why not take a stand across the board?

Actually, Authentic Jobs reserves the right to remove a listing “if it is for a position that involves adult content or an illegitimate work opportunity,” and I’ve exercised this right on more than a couple occasions.

@ Rob Bowen:

I like how you conveniently seemed to ignore all the other points I raised. The ones that truly matter, and could potentially disturb your comforting bubble of convenience, and instead focused on a stray point that truly doesn’t matter.

Don’t be so quick to assume I don’t care about your other points merely because I haven’t addressed them specifically. There are many other factors that you and I have not mentioned that might be discussed here, as well.

But if you’d like me to speak specifically to fair trade, humane practices, avoiding toxic materials and the like, I’ll use one of your examples (chocolate) and encourage you to read Sweetriot’s social mission. I hand selected them as another contest prize alongside the tees not only because they taste great but because I’m happy to support a company that strives for exactly the points you’re stressing.

However, if Sweetriot were to create advertising akin to AA’s, I’d not think twice about choosing someone else for my chocolate fix.


94   Bobby ~ 24 November 2009

Yowza. I was unaware how bad it had gotten. After reading your post, I browsed over to AA’s site (at work, no less). The home page was tolerable. However, the subsequent page I visited was actually beyond what’s appropriate for us to browse here at work. Luckily I was able to close the browser before any co-workers (or managers) walked by.


95   Garrett Murray ~ 24 November 2009

I’m confused here: What’s wrong with sexual and/or explicit advertising, exactly?

(And that’s not me being sarcastic, it’s a real question. I don’t understand the base concern here. Just simply saying the ads are explicit is not an actual PROBLEM. I don’t understand why “explicit” equals “immoral”.)


96   Rob Bowen ~ 24 November 2009

@ Cameron - You’re right. I did assume that based on the fact that you avoided mentioning them, and I do apologize. That has been a popular distractionary tactic over the passed few years, and so I did misinterpret it.

Thanks for the link to Sweetriot, I haven’t fully checked them out, but I did glance them over and I liked what I saw. I will definitely be checking them out more later.

So now back to the AA boycott. Do you not feel like your time and efforts would be better directed at the Advertising Company who is responsible for the ads? I would almost bet that they would be connected to other offensive advertising elsewhere. It seems that you have a case with a lot of support behind it. It seems like you could make an effective appeal to the source. Basically what I’m saying boils down to this problem being bigger than a single outlet, so it seems efforts should be directed towards the source which would cut off all outlets for such behavior.

And as I have said before, I think that in the grand scheme of things, when companies choose to not partake in the human rights abuses that are going on worldwide in the manufacturing of their goods, that their ads (which though they approved them based on suggestions no doubt from the ad firm much like our clients do with the designs we make for them) are not necessarily controlled by them. They entrust the creative professionals they have hired to derive an effective campaign that is responded to by the public. Which as I said before, sex unfortunately works en mass. This is why I think if you are going to focus on this for a boycott worthy offense, go after the producers of the ads. The “creative” minds driving them. That’s whose opinions need to be shifted and shaped, is it not? Those would be the voices whispering in the ears of the execs who’ve hired them.

And if that is where you chose to focus your fight, then so be it. I will leave you alone (though I have enjoyed the back and forth, and I understand it’s probably one sided;p ) But I just feel like there are worse things being committed in the names of the consumers and I know that those fights need every available voice, and as I have borne witness to, a large portion of the public only have enough ‘energy’ to devote to one cause, and I guess I am saddened that so many seem to be rallying to a cause that is subjective (like what constitutes being offensive to one is not always to another) rather than one that is objective (where I believe most of us can agree that these kinds of rights violations being carried out so prevalently should be stopped).


97   George Egonut ~ 24 November 2009

I think that you show your integrity in taking this stand, and I applaud you for it. Personally, I agree with you that we take our stands where we take them, and we can’t fight every fight that comes our way. I don’t think that taking this battle diminishes any other battle that others have chosen to fight.

I can understand someone not wanting to take up this fight, but I can’t understand why one would so vehemently deny the validity of it. I have shopped AA because of their no-sweatshop policy, their human rights policies, etc., but I won’t allow that to justify the exploitative advertising policies any longer.

Your marketing department/consultants are responsible for reflecting an image of your company, and you as a company are responsible for the image they reflect. Trying to push it off on them is a cop-out.

The fact is if we all fight the fights that are near to our heart, we can put more energy into them than selecting those that others deem more worthy. If we all do this, we have enough diversity of belief to take on every battle that needs to be fought.


98   Joe Clark ~ 24 November 2009

I believe you find American Apparel’s advertising “offensive, abrasive, and stupid” because you’re a Mormon. You need to be more honest with us as to the source of your objections, which did not spring out of nowhere.


99   George Egonut ~ 24 November 2009

@Joe Clark

Your post doesn’t meet your own guidelines. Please make sure that in the future, when you express an opinion, you clearly state your name, religion, and cultural background. Those are much easier to argue about than the topic at hand. Thank you. :)


100   Erwin Heiser ~ 24 November 2009

Sooo… let me get this right: AA’s advertising is too raunchy for you so you’re no longer buying their tshirts (fair enough), and this puts you on moral high ground how?
The one thing I’m taking away from this blog post is how good the quality of their t-shirts is… I’ve never bought AA in my life, now I feel I have to check out their gear asap.


101   Beerzie ~ 24 November 2009

Um. OK. Personally, I’m wondering really, who is hurt here? The women in the ads are there voluntarily, and AA’s ads and the jerkness of their owner is no secret. The shirts are high-quality and produced by workers who are non-exploitive. I think the girls are pretty attractive, myself. My opinion, just like Cameron’s.

But…as a “liberal”, non-religious, person, I have to ask: Who cares if Cameron is a Mormon? Would you feel better if he was a Buddhist? An existentialist? A Fascist? Sounds like a few people have an ax to grind (and one that is very nearly off-topic.) Attack the ideas, not the person, people.


102   Sterling ~ 24 November 2009

thanks for the post. it inspired this blog post: http://srgoodwin.blogspot.com/2009/11/taking-stand-against.html


103   Ben Dunlap ~ 24 November 2009

Several folks have asked, “What’s so wrong about sexually explicit advertising?”

If a particular behavior could get you fired from any civilized workplace, on sexual-harassment grounds — should it be photographed for a public ad?

Or, in other words, how are companies like AA not sexually harassing the entire world with their marketing collateral?

Forget the consent of the models — what about the consent of the public? And the public’s small children?


104   Ben Dunlap ~ 24 November 2009

PS (@Cameron): I think you meant “trite” where you have “contrite” in your OP. Although I would love to see AA, GoDaddy, and the rest express contrition for their tawdry ads. ;-)


105   Stew Man ~ 25 November 2009

For some sexy 8-years-olds check out their new kids line.


106   Cameron Moll ~ 25 November 2009

@ Joe Clark:

I believe you find American Apparel’s advertising “offensive, abrasive, and stupid” because you’re a Mormon. You need to be more honest with us as to the source of your objections, which did not spring out of nowhere.

I wouldn’t have expected that kind of a remark from you, Joe. But regardless, I’m pretty sure the Mormons don’t have a monopoly on advocating decency in advertising.

As I mentioned in an earlier comment, if being a father of four young boys and a loyal husband isn’t enough to warrant the stand I’ve taken, we’ve got bigger issues to deal with.

@ Ben Dunlap:

PS (@Cameron): I think you meant “trite” where you have “contrite” in your OP.

Why yes, yes I did mean that. Thank you sir. (Changed.)


107   Andy Rutledge ~ 25 November 2009

After reading Cameron’s article and most of the comments here I have to confess that I’m left pretty darned confused. For instance, arguments that nakedness is natural and/or beautiful (or even funny) are contextually irrelevant here, as they ask that we pretend that there’s no difference between being naked or behaving sexually in private and publishing sexually suggestive photos of naked people for indiscriminate public consumption. Likewise, statements like, “I don’t understand why ‘explicit’ equals ‘immoral,’ demand that we ignore context or pretend it doesn’t matter.

Issues of civil preservation and morality aside, the fact that it is likely that those making such arguments here are designers and/or developers reflects very poorly on those individuals’ grasp of their own craft. Context governs everything in design and development. Is it really this easy to cause professionals to lose all intellectual bearing? This sort of behavior should give you a gut check, as it brings into question your ability to handle ethical or moral dilemmas in a professional setting, too. One has to be left with the assumption that some clients are not in the best of hands.

This business of making an issue of how Cameron has or has not sufficiently articulated how his religious values here is as telling as it is silly. You see the problem with not having any core values and not having an uncompromising faith is that it tends to make it impossible to understand how integrity and morals matter in each and every aspect daily life; professional life included. Faith, morals, values, behavior, choices, responsibilities, and mundane daily activities are not separate from one another, but inextricably linked. Without an understanding of this fact there is little common understanding or firm footing on which to have a discussion or disagreement (which likely explains the many examples of commentors here taking Cameron to task on the meat and the silly minutiae of these issues).

Finally, I’m left wondering how some can be threatened by Cameron’s essay or see it as an imposition. It sounds less like someone trying to affect specific change in someone else’s world and more like someone rightly proclaiming and taking responsibility for his own world and that of his family. We attract what we project and we are what we cultivate. Cameron has projected morality, values, standards, and responsibility. As someone rather newly self-employed, Cameron’s behavior and choice to publish this essay is entirely responsible. Admirable, even.

So good on ya’ Cameron, and best of luck in your new digs.


108   Beth ~ 25 November 2009

There are worse reasons to not like American Apparel than too-suggestive advertising, like a CEO who sexually harasses his female employees, or their terrible reinforcement of gender stereotypes and size ideals or their union busting.

If you take issue with their advertising does this mean you also do not support about 80% of major clothing brands that also use sex to sell their wares? See your local shopping malls for examples in just about every store.

It is a sad society we live in, where we can only be motivated to buy something with sex. But maybe it’s more sad that we’re persuaded to buy things at all.


109   Beth ~ 25 November 2009

I want to elaborate on what I posted a little more, first, I appreciate you taking a stand against something that doesn’t sit right with you. More people should be concerned about what they and their children are buying. It is our duty to be responsible consumers, because retailers / manufacturers certainly don’t regulate themselves and do whatever it takes to make a buck.

It was not my intention to question your decision, but I just wonder, where do we draw the line? Personally, I’m more concerned about labor practices than advertising, while I agree the latter is still terrible.

Basically all of our popular electronics come at the expense of rape and torture of oppressed peoples. I stopped drinking Killian’s beer years ago because of a sexist ad campaign, but then I come to find out my beloved iPhone was pieced together in a factory where workers are routinely tortured.

Do I take a stand against everything and live as a luddite, or choose my battles? I’m about ready to go live in a cabin in the woods.

I do wonder though, if people took a little more time to look at the practices of companies they buy from and made ethical purchasing decisions, if we could collectively force these companies into responsibility.


110   Joe Clark ~ 25 November 2009

If the real reason you object to the advertisements is your religious faith, it’s disingenuous to pin it on a concern for your four boys. I think the real reason is Mormon conservatism. In this context your objection reads like it came from a playbook, not from independent ethical contemplation.

If you were an atheist with four boys, you wouldn’t have published this post. It just wouldn’t have been that important to you.

Please be honest, Cameron.


111   Cameron Moll ~ 25 November 2009

Joe, if you’re hoping to extract more from me than what I’ve already said (repeatedly), it won’t happen. See Tom Finley’s comment, and bear in mind that Norman Berry and Luke Sullivan — neither of whom are Mormon as far as I’m aware — also enjoy the privilege of calling out advertising that they find to be offensive, abrasive, and stupid.


112   Cork ~ 25 November 2009

Look everyone! It’s Joe Clark and he has everyone all figured out, just like always. Where I come from, we’d call this TROLLING.

Joe: it’s disingenuous for you to doubt Cameron’s reasons. It’s disingenuous for you to imply that conservatism WOULD be a bad reason to object to such advertising. It’s disingenuous to comment with any air of authority, as if we care what you think more than we care about what Cameron thinks. It’s disingenuous to call Cameron out for honesty on his own blog, as if you’re on a higher moral ground. It’s disingenuous to assume Mormons have a playbook.

You have an ill-informed opinion of Mormons and that’s what’s bothering you. You want to pin your opinions on Cameron.

Please be honest, Joe.


113   Atheist ~ 25 November 2009

I’m just offended Joe Clark thinks atheists wouldn’t object to offensive advertising. Go to hell, Joe.


114   emsdot ~ 25 November 2009

Thank you Cameron for standing up for that which is decent and moral. You are absolutely right that provocative images hurt men, women, and children, both in our concepts of self image and the family, and how we build concepts of relationships. Whether we like it or not, design influences our perceptions of reality for good and bad. When a mainstream retailer pushes the line beyond what is acceptable, it pushes the rest of us with it.

The line we draw of what is acceptable is a personal one, but the more I expose myself to things that push my moral boundaries, the lower my line begins to go on what I will and won’t do. If our society continues to push boundaries, we will become worse than those who exploit others in sweat shops and child labor.

As artists and designers, we hold an incredible amount of influence on what people desire. Holding up the banner “Just for Art’s sake” is a little naive of the industry’s ability to sway public opinion and our own responsibility to put limits on ourselves.

Thank you Cameron for publicly standing up and drawing your line. It gives a reality check to AA’s moral line and shows that not everyone agrees with where they are trying to push the boundary.


115   ignite ~ 25 November 2009

Cameron, Thanks for sharing this. I just want to say I’m in full agreement with you and I look forward to finding quality options to AA.

Also, I’ve been wanting to move my domains from Godaddy as well for the same reasons.

I’ve had plans to move away from Go Daddy for some time now, but only recently have I finally had time to make the move.

Would you mind sharing where you’ve moved your domains and any other quality options you’ve found? (If not here then perhaps another blog post?) Thanks.


116   Forrest Anderson ~ 25 November 2009

It seems to me that when a company has to rely on sex to sell a product, be it t-shirts (AA) or website hosting (goDaddy) that they have completely lost the underlying purpose for the product and it is all about money - at any cost.

Thanks for taking a stand. Well said and well done.


117   Tomek ~ 25 November 2009

Can someone post the links/screenshots/examples of those sexists, offensive ads, photos of whatever else of those evil things that this company is supposed to be doing? I’ve visited their website and didn’t found anything too controversial for my taste, but that might just be because I haven’t search too deep. Seriously, it would be good to know what exactly we are “talking” here about and also interesting to know where the “obscenity” bar is set for different people.


118   RAch ~ 25 November 2009

I can’t believe your done with it because of it’s ads.


119   anon female ~ 25 November 2009

@Tomek Just click on “women” and you get 8 thongs for 30% off. Can’t they just show a picture of the clothing instead of eight models rear ends clad only in a thong? Or “fitted tee” models wearing a tee shirt and panties. Or see-through mesh dresses with no underwear. Or models posing like sex workers in mesh hosiery sprawled on a mattress with everything exposed.

Please. Either they’re American Apparel or Victoria Secret.

Come on guys. You can be better than that.


120   martin ~ 26 November 2009

i don’t see you taking a stand against apple, the company with possibly the worst set of advertising ethics (and ethics in general) in the world.

http://www.inquisitr.com/45600/apple-ad-bombing-windows-7-on-google/

and let’s not forget their Mac VS PC adverts which are pretty insulting to those who are quite content using the Windows platform.


121   Greg Paulhus ~ 26 November 2009

@Joe Clark, I’m not a Mormon and I have four young kids, a wife, and I think AA advertising is quite stupid. You know what else I think is quite stupid? Your comments here. Just being honest.


122   Tomek ~ 26 November 2009

@anon female: from what I saw is nothing more shocking than what you can see on other fashion sites. After all it’s rather normal that there is some sexual element when company produces lingerie. I understand that someone might not like it, but is it sexist (especially when the mens are presented in the same way as women there), offending, bad looking? For me not really or at least not so much that it’d be worth all that fuss.


123   300 ~ 27 November 2009

I’ve never felt their t-shirts were better or more comfortable. If not for the sheepish nature of… EVERYONE, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

So now the sheep have a blog post to point at to explain why they’re Anti-American Apparel. And so it continues.

That’s not to say I don’t agree with you on principal Mr. Moll, I just find it abhorrent that the comment herd needed their shepherd to say something before they felt it was okay to “not like” AA.

As an experiment, please post your toothpaste preference so I can watch the twitterverse light up with comments about how much better Colgate, or Crest, or whatever you prefer is over the competition.


124   Godless ~ 27 November 2009

I’m an atheist and I hate American Apparel, unions, climatologists, and Joe Clark.


125   Adrian Rodriguez ~ 29 November 2009

Cameron,

I definitely like what you’re doing here. Taking a stand. Honestly I have felt the same way ever since I first started seeing some of their ads across the web.

It’s ok if it wasn’t so sexual, revealing, and explicit at times. I would hate to be reading an article on the web just for my wife to walk in and see such an ad on my screen, and think something else of it.

I think American Apparel needs to re-think their branding strategy, but something tells me that this type right now won’t change for a long time.


126   Daniel Sellers ~ 30 November 2009

If you are still balking at Cameron’s stand go back and re-read Andy Rutledge’s comment. He makes some really important points that we all should be thinking about and summed up most of my thoughts better than I could.

@Cameron: Thanks for taking a stand.


127   Jake Toolson ~ 30 November 2009

Having also screen printed my own designs I too remember switching from the Beefy-T’s to American Apparel. But I eventually found Alternative Apparel and feel they are the best thing ever!


128   Lisa Clarkson ~ 01 December 2009

If seeing an explicit, offensive, stupid, and abrasive advertisement corrupts your four children and threatens the fidelity of your marriage, you’ve got bigger issues to deal with.


129   Bark ~ 01 December 2009

@Lisa Clarkson

Are you projecting, honey? Because he didn’t say those advertisements did any of the sort. In fact, if you had read the post instead of just the comments, you would have discovered that his main thrust was that such advertisement is “bad for the entire industry and bad for business as a whole.”

So now that we’re onto bigger issues to deal with, you might want to start reading posts and reacting to them, instead of reacting to your insecure reaction. If this doesn’t make sense, get someone to explain it to you.


130   Joseph Alessio ~ 02 December 2009

It’s great to see that so many other people even in the world of visual design and the arts that agree with this statement. The world has fallen below the level of humans because evolution has taught us that we are simply an advanced beast, and the animal instincts (i.e., uncontrolled sex drive in particular) have completely taken over advertising and many lives.

For an alternative to AA, try Pacific apparel. It’s a good fit, feel and value. I have used it in quite a few designs that I have printed (I do screen printing as well as design) and it works well and fits well. I wear it, too (I usually get one of the shirts I print).


131   Kevin Cannon ~ 02 December 2009

I’ve publicly expressed an opinion and have elected to use another brand for a contest giveaway. Please explain how this is “coercing” my opinion on others.

Hmmm.

…hopefully some of you can stand with Norman Berry, Luke Sullivan, and me in refusing advertising…
It only takes one to start a movement or to break the camel’s back, does it not?

Why don’t we be honest here, because clearly this isn’t just stating an opinion. You’re using your influence to try and start a movement with the goal of censoring advertising that a infinitesimal number of people find offensive. Should we also start burning “offensive” books in the libraries, because children might stumble across them?


132   Nick Chaves ~ 02 December 2009

I hate to depart from the philosophical discussion going on in the comments, but I have a purely functional question —

I am fairly skinny (ok, very) and tall (6’1”), and my one AA shirt is my all-time favorite T-shirt because it fits me so perfectly — fitted, long enough sleeves, and long enough to not come halfway up my back when I lean over. Are any of the alternatives you have mentioned as good as AA for this type of build?


133   Michael Locke ~ 03 December 2009

Well said Cameron! They make a great product, not sure why they need to advertise the way they do. Looks like armature pornography. Their product is good enough, it would sell itself. I totally agree with you on this.


134   Lisa Clarkson ~ 03 December 2009

@Bark

I think you must have issues of your own if you can’t present your opinion without bringing my gender into the discussion.

From a comment above that Cameron wrote: “I have plenty of stories I can point you to regarding pornography and broken marriages or misguided children.”

Nice try, though, honey!


135   Jason ~ 04 December 2009

What a great discussion.

Yes that is the norm in Europe, good for Europe.

Next time you would like to see those ads, go find them.

Next time you don’t want to see them, avoid them the best you can.


136   Cameron Moll ~ 04 December 2009

I asked my printer about some of the suggestions mentioned here. Their reply:

For the most part, I don’t get a lot of complaints with Tultex, except some people think they fit a little smaller then other shirts.
We have used Alternative Apparel many times and no one complains about their quality. I can’t honestly say they are any better than American Apparel but certainly there are some people out there who thinks so. We sell more American App then Alt App, mainly because they are cheaper and really popular right now.
My biggest complaint with Alternative Apparel is some of their shirts are so thin that they stretch and twist very easily on the screen board and some styles are prone to scorching in the drier if we are not careful. Other then that, they print like any other shirt.

137   Michael Locke ~ 05 December 2009

Just read through most of the comments again because this discussion is interesting. It’s funny reading some of the responses you’re getting for your stance, but this is typical in a world lacking of any objective moral convictions.

It’s really sad because it doesn’t take a theologian to see the problem with AA’s advertising. Just like it doesn’t take a saint to understand that it’s wrong for a man to cheat on his wife (i.e. Tiger Woods). What America needs is more people like Cameron to stand up and point out what is wrong rather than be liberal and tolerate things for the way they are.

It starts with simple logic and rational thinking. Just a simple understanding that absolute truth does exist and there is an objective standard that we all intuitively know is wrong. And this is one of them. You don’t have to be religious to know that this advertising is pornographic and is simply wrong for children to see. A Victoria secret catalog which shows much more skin doesn’t even come close to the amateur soft porn style ads AA runs.

Lastly, bringing up a typical straw man argument does nothing but take the attention the way from the facts at hand. I could be a heroin addict while still telling children to stay off drugs and I would be right for doing so.


138   rajbot ~ 06 December 2009

I’m taking a stand too — you’re now removed from my Google Reader. PLONK


139   Pizzle ~ 06 December 2009

Look! Your non-AA panties are all bunched up.


140   Shammer ~ 06 December 2009

Crazy business…
I guess certain stories tend to repeat themselves: Company with lots of cash blows it on ads that appeal to a bi part of society leaving the smaller one heavily bruised.

It’s a sad story but keep pushing on!!!


141   Paul ~ 06 December 2009

I think sexuality in advertising is probably the least important issue in the world today. But to each their own.


142   melanie ~ 06 December 2009

As a retail consumer, I do not think AA is a superior product. Not to mention it’s pompous no money back return policy. Dov Charney is a fraud, hiding his perversion behind his pseudo “progressive” company. He jumped on the anti sweatshop bandwagon because a competitor had done the same. He could care less. Sure, his product is manufactured in Downtown LA ….. by plenty of false or undocumented workers.

Just because you manufacture overpriced “Legalize Gay’ Tees does not make you progressive or socially conscious. Hardly. Marketing soft core pornography to teens is socially unconscionable.


143   Brade ~ 07 December 2009

Joe Clark’s logic assumes that one’s religion is the sole reason for one’s moral judgments. Yet as a person gets older, doesn’t it work the other way? Doesn’t his or her moral outlook influence which religion they choose to practice (or whether the practice one at all)?

As several atheists have pointed out, they arrived at the same moral conclusions while not practicing the same religion. People’s decisions (moral, financial, social, etc.) are based on a number of factors in different proportions, so criticizing those individual factors can be time-consuming, if not pointless.

Cameron’s appeal will obviously find agreement with those who have arrived at a similar conclusion, regardless of the factors that influenced the conclusion. Those who have arrived at another conclusion can choose to argue their case, but most arguments boil down to “my factors for choosing my position are more appropriate than your factors.”

The reason arguments often take forever without accomplishing much is because each of the many factors on both sides needs to be explained satisfactorily. (Remember those mathematical proofs we all had to do for Geometry class in high school?) That takes way too long for most situations, so we frequently end up targeting one or two factors at the exclusion of others, greatly limiting either side’s ability to sway the opinion of the other.

But such arguments can provide significant entertainment for onlookers. ;)


144   Nate ~ 08 December 2009

Good for you for taking this stand. I’ve felt the same way about other companies as well for a long time and gave up on supporting them, despite their quality products.

@Kevin Cannon, it’s anyone’s right to choose their advertising methods, and it’s anyone’s right not to support them, just as it is anyone’s right to read or not read certain books. No need to burn books to show your opinion of them.


145   Ben ~ 10 December 2009

Cameron - I agree with you 100% - Advertising should be bound by ethical standards as well. There are just some advertisers who are willing to do anything to stand out …


146   Jake ~ 10 December 2009

I love their products. This isn’t 1958. Modesty and repression in self expression and media is long gone. The young, trendy demographic they’re aiming for has no problem with it and probably eats it up.


147   Cameron Moll ~ 10 December 2009

@ Andy Rutledge:

Faith, morals, values, behavior, choices, responsibilities, and mundane daily activities are not separate from one another, but inextricably linked. Without an understanding of this fact there is little common understanding or firm footing on which to have a discussion or disagreement…

As usual, your thoughts are very reasoned and articulated. Thank you for chiming in.

@ rajbot:

I’m taking a stand too — you’re now removed from my Google Reader. PLONK

Sorry to see you go, rajbot.


148   Greg Warner ~ 05 January 2010

Thanks for taking a stand on this Cameron. With so much crass and suggestive branding in our visual diet, it’s refreshing to see a designer who is willing to take a stand on ethics in the field.


149   Cori ~ 22 January 2010

Get over yourselves! If you are going to take a “stand” against using young in advertising, you might as well just run around naked yourselves, because you won’t be buying ANYTHING! Enough of this holier than thou posing, you guys! Just enjoy the clothes, and let them market in whatever way works for them. It’s a private company that treats its workers well, that’s all the moralizing you should pay attention to. Sheesh!!!!




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