Okay, Suitsupply. Let me level with you. I love your store. I’m beyond happy you guys came to Philly. Really. I don’t even really mind your crazy dressing rooms, which are generally splashed with images like this. If that’s what you think it takes to get guys to realize the power of a well-tailored suit—of your well-tailored suits—well, then that’s your own problem (though I think a self-help book or Dr. Phil would chalk this up to a lack of self-confidence). Hey, your suits worked for our formerly polyester-shirted A&E editor Victor Fiorillo, who now—I swear!—stands taller and looks thinner. But you really missed the mark with your latest spring/summer 2014 ad campaign, which was evidently dreamed up by a pack of drooling frat boys.
When I clicked on your homepage (above), I got a bar across the screen: Show Uncensored? I clicked ‘yes’ and suddenly that bevy of water-drenched women were topless. There’s a guy in the middle of it all wearing a blue suit and shades. But it’s hard to really tell much about the suit, what with all the nipples.
Classifying these ads as just sexist towards women, though, isn't the entire story. Women are props here, and that's the main complaint the ads are stirring up, and rightfully so. But they're also demeaning to the very men they're trying to win over: Are guys really so dumb and hopelessly unstylish that we need to trick them into buying nice clothes with pictures of naked women and wet t-shirts? I don't think so.
I asked Simon van Zuylen-Wood, one of my fashion-conscious male coworkers—and a Suitsupply shopper—what he thought of the ads. He wasn't entirely surprised.
"The vibe I get when I go into their store is that it's [staffed by] wannabe metrosexual frat brothers. It's more like 'Yo, bro! You need a suit for a wedding?' The assumption is that you don't know anything about fashion. It's patronizing," he says. "They've got a low bar for the kind of customer they want to rope in—which is why these ads are probably effective."
But is setting the bar for your clientele so low really so smart? Suitsupply's price points are relatively low for suits (most fall in the $500 to $700 range; typically, good suits edge into—and way over—four figures). For guys who can't trot into Boyds and shell out a few months rent for a suit—or who simply don't want to—the store is a great way to score Euro-tinged style without breaking the bank. But, newsflash, these guys aren't all necessarily discovering good style for the first time, and, hey, they might not even need boobs to get them to pay attention.
To that point, your shoppers also aren't all necessarily straight, by the way, so maybe a few shots of guys who've doffed their tops might be in order, too. My fellow blogger over at GPhilly, Josh Middleton, agrees.
"Being a European company, you'd think Suitsupply would be more forward-thinking in the way it presents its ads. This seems archaic, kind of douche-y, and completely hetero-focused," he says. "I know tons of gay men, myself included, who love Suitsupply. Seeing this kind of stuff on the walls absolutely makes me apprehensive about going inside—mostly because I'd wonder if it's representative of the staff. When I shop, do I have to act all macho, and pretend that I like boobs? It feels like college all over again. It would be badass if they'd used an ad with all males. It would show an awareness of the client and, hello, show that the brand is living in the 21st century."
So, Suitsupply. Here's where we stand: Your clothes are sophisticated and stylish. They're well-fitting, well-priced, and they look great on most guys. I think you're a little better than this desperate, sleazy attempt at being edgy and cool. Give your shoppers a little more credit. Not all men are complete idiots when it comes to fashion, and you don't need to try so damn hard. (Seriously, haven't you read anything about Abercrombie & Fitch lately?)
Read more on Badvertising here, this time with pubic hair!