Was the Aerie Man Campaign Really A Hoax?

Kelvin Davis Aerie Man Plus Size Male Model

Photo: American Eagle Outfitters

Last week, we posted an interview with Notoriously Dapper’s Kelvin Davis, one of the models in American Eagle Outfitters’ Aerie Man campaign which featured men representing a range of body types. Seeing such a large and reputable brand promote body positivity and diversity felt like a step forward, until April 1st, when the company put out a press release calling the campaign a parody of their long-running #AerieReal campaign, in which they pledged to stop retouching their models.

The press release caused understandable confusion for customers and the press, who considered the whole thing a hoax. It also confused me, as I made clear in a comment to the Daily Dot about the whole thing:

“I’m disappointed that they feel the need to call this a parody, when, until today, the campaign felt like a step forward,” Sturgell said in an email to the Daily Dot. “My hope is that they further clarify their meaning here, and continue to lead the way by using models who represent a variety of body types as models for their clothing. “

Kelvin himself weighed in on the conversation, with the following message, via Instagram:

I know a lot of you have questions. My stance and advocation for body positivity has and will always be a major part of my life. I know the struggle of trying to accept yourself for you and battling to know if you are good enough! I had to put myself out there to get the message across that this is no joke. As a result I’m happy and excited to announce that AE will no longer be retouching male models in underwear or swim by Holiday 2016! This is a huge step forward. I’m happy to be apart of this and keep the drive going to a more body diverse fashion industry! I love YOU all and remember the REAL YOU is SEXY! No JOKE. ?? ?? #AerieMan

A photo posted by Kelvin | Notoriously Dapper (@notoriouslydapper) on

So, what’s the truth? I reached out to American Eagle Outfitters for more clarification, and received the following:

The #AerieMan campaign was not, and is not, a joke. We hoped that the video would start an important conversation. Our campaign was a way to launch our commitment to forego all retouching of our men’s images for swim and underwear this holiday, and believe this is a solid step forward. We aimed to reach as many men and women as possible to talk about the importance of body positivity and diversity. We’re pleased that our campaign has successfully sparked an important dialogue.

I believe that AEO started the #AerieMan campaign with good intentions. The goal seemed to be to announce that the company would no longer retouch male models in underwear or swimwear by the upcoming holiday season, which is a positive step forward. I think the press release could have been more clear about what specifically they were poking fun at (it seems to have been the model videos, such as Kelvin’s in which he discusses taking butt-selfies). This lead to confusion and a feeling that the company was using non-traditional bodies as a joke, which seems not to be the case here.

Kelvin Davis Aerie

Photo: American Eagle Outfitters

In all, I think the campaign was fun, and I applaud American Eagle Outfitters for featuring men of a variety of body types in this campaign. I think the PR culmination of the campaign could have been handled better, but I do think the company has done a good job of explaining their position, which I appreciate. After doing further research, it sounds like it wouldn’t be a stretch to see AEO feature bigger men in marketing campaigns again in the future, hopefully this time without any parody connected to it.

All explanations aside, I don’t think Kelvin would have signed on to be part of something that would turn out to be anti-body positivity.

What do you think about the AEO #AerieMan campaign, and how it ended? Does their clarification make sense? Tell us in the comments below. 

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