American Eagle just launched a body-positive Aerie Man underwear campaign, casting the brand’s first-ever male models.
The latest move, using hashtag #AerieMan, builds on the #AerieReal campaign begun in 2014, when Aerie started using only unretouched photos.
SELF describes the men in the campaign as: Doug is a self-proclaimed health nut who loves spending time in his underwear. Devon is focused on letting go and having a good time. Matt is a model who thinks confidence goes a lot farther than good looks. And Kelvin is a style blogger who wants to unapologetically convey who he is to the world.
The Aerie Real campaign sent sales rocketing 20 percent last year.
“The core of what’s happening here in Aerie is really this marketing campaign that’s really starting to take hold,” Aerie head Jen Foyle told BuzzFeed. “The #AerieReal campaign is so authentic and it’s really resonating with this young woman today.”
Aerie “simply listened to what our customer was telling us—they wanted to see ‘models’ they could relate to and understand,” Foyle told BuzzFeed News. “Our customers want honesty and they want to be heard—social media has allowed us to engage with our girls in a whole new way… We don’t believe in flaws and believe real beauty should be shown in a natural unaltered way.”
It’s been a tough year for clothing chains, and Aerie rivals Gap, J. Crew and Urban Outfitters have all suffered. Stepping into a nascent body-positive market for men is a strong move for Aerie.
“I’m glad brands and companies are starting to see the need for male body diversity in fashion,” Kelvin Davis, one of four men in the campaign said in BuzzFeed. “I think it’s long overdue, and what better way than to celebrate men in diverse sizes?”
Davis runs the blog Notoriously Dapper and believes the lack of larger male models is an industry failure. One bright spot: IMG Models did just sign plus-size male model, Zach Miko.
“So many people have spoken up about the issue and it’s finally starting to make brands question their advertising,” he said.
Given the campaign’s release so close to April Fool’s Day may give one pause—Huffington Post’s article is titled: “Spoof Or Not, The ‘Aerie Men’ Campaign Is Pretty Great.” But the new collection is already available online priced between $12.50 and $15.95.
Aerie’s engagement on social media is highest on Twitter and Instagram and growing on Snapchat. Chances are all those fans will easily engage with Kelvin, Doug, Devon and Matt.
One notable drawback in the campaign: All the bodies on the website are chiseled models and Matt who’s recognizable from an identifiable tattoo. Kelvin, Doug and Devon didn’t make the cut.
“Unfortunately, while attempting to shatter stereotypes, double standards, and promote ‘real men’ over models, this one slip-up backfired, and these efforts become overshadowed,” notes Yahoo. “Aerie is instead perpetuating these practices it spiritedly attempted to dispel.”