American Eagle Outfitters has had its hand in a few April Fools pranks. They fooled customers with the Skinny Skinny Jean in 2013 and American Beagle Outfitters in 2014. This year, they continued the shenanigans with their #AerieMAN campaign. The sad thing is, no one was really laughing.
You see, the #AerieMan campaign recently released a series of videos with four different men. The men all had different body types: plus-size, muscular, thin, and even one with body hair reminiscent shag carpet. The men lounged in their underwear, letting the viewers know what being an AerieMAN meant to them. The videos got positive responses for including men in a body positive conversation that is usually targeted at women. Aerie has been credited in the past for promising to eliminate retouching their female models in their advertisements. The #AerieMAN campaign seems to go hand-in-hand with their newest pledge to eliminate retouching for male models in advertisements for swimsuit and underwear.
The AerieMen campaign even included bodypositive inspiration Kelvin, the plus-size fashion blogger of Notoriously Dapper, who started his blog because of an unfortunate shopping trip and made it his mission to prove that his size wouldn’t be an obstacle for his self-esteem and his style. He looked great in the ad and spoke about the importance of confidence. He wrote a message about the April Fools hoax on his Instagram account, letting his followers know that his stance for body positivity remains:
“I can't speak on the behalf of American Eagle. But I can speak on my behalf. I want to be clear, my involvement and stance for body positivity is 100% real. There is no joke about that what so ever. Of course the bubble bath, butt selfies and yoga were meant for comical relief of a newly and sensitive topic. I was a model in the campaign and every word I said was real and came from my heart! Body image is something I have and still struggle with to this day. As a man I try to open that dialogue through my blog and social media! People have been listening and the response is amazing!! Trust me when I say that even though the #AerieMAN collection itsself is not real, everything else was! Every word I said was heart felt from a place that so many of us can relate to.”
American Eagle Outfitters added with their confession, that along with their pledge to not retouch male models, they also donated $25,000 to the National Eating Disorders Association. In a lot of ways, the company is pulling the best moves, so how could they be so tone-deaf? How could they show this campaign that fits perfectly with their mission to improve body positivity, then tell us it’s a hilarious joke? The hypocrisy in their press release is astounding: “…the brand reveals today its #AerieMAN campaign, featuring a mix of quirky characters of different sizes and personalities sharing "real life" stories in their skivvies, was all in good fun to parody the #AerieReal campaign by Aerie, a leader in body-positive marketing.” We support body positivity, so we mocked it!
The ads aren’t even funny. One model takes a bubble bath and photographs his butt. One model has no rhythm. It doesn’t seem like a joke, because all adds for underwear are a little ludicrous (Victoria Secret, anyone?). Missing out on the actual laughter, it seems like they'’re poking fun at the average man for wanting to feel good.
Look, we all know there are plenty of men that aren’t represented as ‘attractive’ or ‘stylish’. Companies making advertisements for other types of men could broaden their audience, make more money, and encourage men to embrace their bodies/style. Even if they don’t shoot for body diversity, it takes a minimal amount of effort and decency to make them not feel like shit about themselves.
Look at Axe’s amazing ad. Look at the response it got! It has over 9 million views on Youtube, and under 300 dislikes. Kitten videos have more dislikes! THAT commercial was not a joke. It’s going to make them a ton of money. It got people to talk about Axe in a good way, which can be considered a Herculean trial because of their history of sexist ads, paired with the fact that Axe is disgusting as a physical product. When Axe looks more progressive than you, there’s a huge problem.