Underwear Ads Lose the Macho: How Marketing Has Embraced Real Men


by: Tiffany Hsu

A number of ads for briefs, boxers and other products aimed at men have lately turned away from old notions of square-jawed masculinity.

In a Hanes commercial that made its debut last month, “Every Bod,” a wide range of men perform an elaborate musical number in their skivvies.

A recent Jockey commercial focused on a man getting emotional as he described his battle with alcohol and drugs.

The emphasis on men with ordinary bodies and others who don’t fit tired stereotypes seems like progress for an industry that, a decade ago, featured a shirtless hunk scented with Old Spice. These days, more and more advertisers are telling men they don’t need to be the buffest or most interesting man in the world, just themselves.

The challenging of stereotypical notions of gender has been a feature of marketing campaigns aimed at women at least as far back as Nike’s “If you let me play” campaign in 1995. Dove’s “Real Beauty” ads, of more recent vintage, also functioned as a critique of ads that placed women in categories like “bimbo” or “housewife.”

Axe’s “bathsculinity” commercials, created by the 72andSunny agency, feature a man soaking in a bubble bath while musing that “tingle” is “not the manliest word, not like ‘machete’ or ‘hand grenade.’”

Such ads are variations on a news-making, #MeToo-influenced commercial from Gillette earlier this year that was critical of toxic male behaviors like brawling, bullying, catcalling and mansplaining.

Some observers said that the new style in ads for men’s products might not really be intended for a male audience. “I bet it’s women,” said Lisa Wade, a sociologist specializing in gender at Occidental College, who noted that women do much of the spending on such products.

“That’s what women are craving right now,” Ms. Wade continued, “because of their uniquely exploited and objectified status in American society. It’s about money, the bottom line — the people behind these ads are feeding into some kind of cultural desire.”

This article is interesting as it explores males’ relationships with advertising and how advertising has changed to be more inclusive of what it means to be a man. Frequently when the topic is discussed, the conversation has a focus on women and what it means to be a woman. However, this article did bring up an interesting point about how this change in tactic may be an attempt to appeal to women more than men highlighting the power shift to the female consumer.

Originally Published By: The New York Times