Whether you want to refer to it as “Tees & A” or “Tease & Aye!” there is a fundamental shift in various facets of fashion these days that isn’t going to change anytime soon given the nature of the brands, consumers and portals that keep the lights on due to the large volume of traffic these “products” bring. While it’s not a new phenomenon, one of the most popular sartorial crutches a brand can rely on outside of a high-profile collaboration is to simply add erroneous sex appeal to a garment – regardless of lookbook ethos, company mumbo-jumbo or supposed “thought leader” approach to an industry already teetering on a Christopher Guest parody of itself. Sex has always sold, but at some point the consumers need to stop being the “John.”
Admittedly, the problem doesn’t start with the brands, it starts with the various digital outlets that gladly leach onto naked flesh and happily post items under the guise of fashion, when there’s a certain “wink-wink” and “nudge-nudge” amongst editorial staffs where it’s understood that “tits get the hits.” As horndog of a culture we’ve become, it seems to me that if someone wants to access some risque imagery – or merely have a visceral ride up and down the slope of Kate Upton’s cleavage – that person can use Google and doesn’t really care about the fair-isle print surrounding her tanned frame on an expensive T-shirt. The relationship between brand and blog has always been one based on mutual exploitation – where the imprint needs the added exposure and co-sign from an outside editorial voice – while that digital mag needs content produced in order to stay relevant. We still don’t know which came first, the chicken or the egg. But we do know that the added conundrum created when exploitation is at a relationship’s core will continually see these items outshining other products simply because they’re more beneficial to the blogs.
Brands have been relying on the use of scantily-clad women for years. It’s no different than MGM touting the “next Bond girl,” or the idea that Sports Illustrated dedicates an entire issue to swimsuit models – a far juxtaposition from hard-hitting stories like landing the first-person editorial from recently out of the closet NBA player Jason Collins. It doesn’t pay to be a chauvinist – instead it’s wise to toe the line between touting “female empowerment” and relying on the idea that “our brand is celebrating women.” Companies refuse to see the error of their ways because frankly, in order to get head and shoulders above the competition, they must tout an Instagram floosie’s tits and ass.
Alec Banks is a Los Angeles-based writer who has written for Esquire, Details, Maxim and Playboy in the past. Follow him on Twitter @smart_alec_