Used to be that when you encountered a grainy photo of a spread-eagle girl sporting a metallic Lycra headband and a vacuous stare, you could easily dismiss (or embrace) it as '80s soft porn. Nowadays, you have to consider the very real possibility that what you're seeing is an American Apparel ad.
Plenty has been said and written about in the U.S. about the company's provocative approach to marketing. But in Sweden, where the brand has more recently become a presence, the backlash is just getting started.
Blogger Emelie Eriksson pointed out that the company differs hugely in the way it markets its "unisex" clothes to men and women. For example, a plaid shirt is sold using a picture of a handsome guy fully clothed, while the same shirt is shown on a near-naked model striking a sexy pose. Eriksson helpfully printed the images to help illustrate her point—and wound up inspiring a movement.
As debates raged and consumer complaints flooded Sweden's advertising watchdog group, a Swedish retailer opted for its own form of protest by using an image of a pantsless man to help sell one of their unisex coats. According to Business Insider, the model was actually the company's cofounder—and the image wound up getting reprinted in one of Sweden’s biggest newspapers.
"We thought it was sick that American Apparel time and again gets away with such sexist advertising," Michaela Forni, a Swedish fashion blogger who manages the product range for online retailer byPM.se, told Swedish news outlet The Local. "We wanted to do the exact same thing they did, but with the opposite gender."
Granted, this does little to reduce the amount of unsavory imagery in the world. (Nobody wants to see a male model in shiny spandex leggings and a scrunchie, but we feel sure this is somehow in the works.) But at least it evens the score.