American Apparel Goes Bottoms Up

Men are eligible for American Apparel's user-generated exercise in voluntary objectification and narcissistic exhibitionism, but for whatever reason they're currently lowest ranked on the site. Speaking of which, is there a normative standard for what makes a "good" ass?

The contest is to find a model for the American Apparel underwear line, which has male- and female-aimed lines. (One of the men whose photo is already posted to the site writes that he shares his hot-pink underwear with his girlfriend). As has already been pointed out, the gimmick is both obvious and practically designed to outrage. It's of a piece with the company culture.

But back to asses. (Get it? Sorry.) In reaction to the campaign, a friend confessed, "Goodness or badness in an ass is sort of a mystery to me." And I see what she means — while it's obvious that there are certain ideals out there by subculture, race, gender, and so on, there doesn't seem to be the same prescriptive consensus (beyond say, supple flesh and lack of cellulite) about size or shape as there is about most parts of women's bodies. Which is probably a good thing! Under the circumstances.

The women who have posted to the site so far aren't breaking the mold much — self-selecting sample — but certainly being the nakedest or the skinniest seems to be no predictor of success in the voting pool.

The winner and subsequent billboard ass-flaunter might provide more clues. Last year, Jenna noted a subtle shift in American Apparel's ad campaigns:

The company's hipster girl-next-door aesthetic was fine and good, and its claim to never airbrush its advertising is refreshing, if true. For a while, American Apparel's ads seemed kind of like the company's wares: basic, cute, cheeky, cool. There was none of the aspirationalism of mainstream fashion, and that was nice. American Apparel, a purveyor of dependable cotton garments that don't change much from season to season, didn't position itself as a fashion brand and wasn't taken as one. The whole point was that they didn't have to sell us on their products with lavish, fantastical ads with otherworldly imagery, because the clothes were good, the clothes were needed, and the clothes were inexpensive.

But then their ads started getting sexier and sexier, the female bodies in them became perkier, less blemished, and thinner, and they were shot in ever more compromising positions (not so the dudes, unfortunately) and all around the company set about becoming exactly the same kind of aspirational pseudo-fashion mall brand as anything else.

Yes, the company has a checked history with the female form, it is perhaps an understatement to note. And while it launched a plus sized line for men, it hasn't for women.

Which is why it was particularly noteworthy to see this lovely woman headlining the website for American Apparel's vintage spinoff, Cali Select.

American Apparel Goes Bottoms Up

American Apparel Goes Bottoms Up

Like many of their models, she's an employee — in the vintage department, according to an American Apparel rep. As to whether she represents a break from a fashionably gaunt precedent, the rep replied,

"Skinny is not the right or fair word [for the other campaigns]. Our models are just themselves and it varies from shoot to shoot and product to product. They are who they are and our best ads and photos capture that."

PR tautologies aside, it's nice to see a greater range of women in these ads. Body diversity doesn't have to mean women larger than a 0 stripping down to their panties for the benefit of a score-keeping audience, but if they wanted to, I wouldn't mind.

The Search For The Best Bottom In The World [American Apparel]

Earlier: American Apparel Now Sponsoring Bloggers & Porn Stars (NSFW)
Women: American Apparel Doesn't Want Your Size 12 Revenue
American Apparel Will Make You Look Like A Fat Hooker