This year's Super Bowl fans will be treated to a TV commercial of soccer star David Beckham modeling his new line of men's underwear. The commercial is getting so much advance notice that it was highlighted in today's New York Times. So I took the bait and clicked on the link.
While the soccer star's underwear ad was streaming in front of me, I couldn't help but notice that something was missing: Mr. Beckham's crotch. Seriously, a 30-second ad for men's briefs without the most important part. There's a lot of Beckham's body, including his tats and abs, but you only see the front of his briefs for a millisecond, and his hands are carefully covering that.
All we see of Mr. Beckham's crotch, and for less than a second.
What's even more interesting is how effective this 30-second spot is as a sales tool--not so much for the pricey underwear, but for Mr. Beckham's body. As my wife said after seeing the spot: "I was never a fan of David Beckham, UNTIL NOW!" The lack of Beckham's crotch was not an issue for her.
Male models with hot bodies are no strangers to men's underwear ads--at least not for the past 40 years. But these ads have almost always included the crotch as a central point of focus for the gaze. The gaze is what feminist scholars get cranky about when women's breasts or rear ends enter a man's line of sight. Feminists think of the gaze as objectification; men think of it as appreciation. I don't know what to call it when it comes to men wearing briefs, but the crotch is where your eyes eventually go.
Jim Palmer in His Jockey Ads
The modern era of ads with hot-looking men wearing briefs began in the late 1970s with hall-of-fame pitcher Jim Palmer. The Palmer ads for Jockey pretty much revolutionized the kind of underwear men wear. Palmer was the first briefs-wearing hunk to rate a billboard in Times Square.
Since then, a number of great-looking guys wearing briefs have populated Times Square billboards.
Pole Vaulter Tom Hintnaus for Calvin Klein
This ad of pole vaulter Tom Hintnaus in Calvin Klien briefs became the poster child for an entire genre of men's underwear. Calvin Klein's traffic-stopping billboards were anything but crotchless.
The Hintaus ad was followed by ads featuring Mark Wahlberg, then known as Marky Mark. (As was the case with the Hintnaus ad, these Marky Mark ads would have clearly been the lesser had they been missing a crotch.)
Marky Mark ads for Calvin Klein
Then we had Abercrombie & Fitch models wearing A&F underwear.
Abercrombie & Fitch Underwear Boys
And here's David Beckham in 2009 doing a print underwear ad for Armani.
David Beckham's 2009 print ad for Armani.
Even Twilight's Mehcad Brooks has gotten into the briefs-modeling business.
Vampire Show Actor in His Calvins
To give you an idea of how much the times have changed for brief's ads, here's a typical male underwear ad from 1951. (Instead of being a pole vaulter like Calvin Klein's Hintnaus, this guy is on the rings with nary a pole in site.)
1951 Men's Underwear Ad
And here are two Munsingwear men doing--well, what Munsingwear men used to do:
No one will confuse this gentleman, from a 1953 Jockey ad, with Jockey underwear model and baseball great Jim Palmer:
1953 Jockey Underwear Ad
Nor do I think you'll see too many of these frisky-man-with-boy-over-the-shoulder underwear ads that were so popular in the 1950s:
But here we are, back to latest and greatest in men's underwear ads: the 2012 Superbowl ad for David Beckham's new underwear line:
A still image from the 2012 David Beckham Super Bowl ad
The trouble is, this ad is a video as opposed to a still image like the others. So maybe you don't need the whole package to make it work. Whatever the case, the camera assiduously avoids Mr. Beckham's crotch in his new Superbowl ad. Perhaps it's to decrease anxiety and envy among male viewers. Maybe it's to avoid Superbowl censors, although that would be a bit sexist given the girls in the GoDaddy ads. Or maybe it's simply to add allure.
Given that women are often the ones who buy men underwear in the traditional family, the eventual verdict may well rest with them. See for yourself: David Beckham's 2012 Superbowl Ad.
For some very cool vintage underwear ads, visit VintageSkivvies.com.
For some very cool vingage ads in general, visit Vintage Ads on Live Journal.