Suitsupply campaign generates homophobic backlash

The suit is the pillar garment of the masculine wardrobe. But more than just attire, the suit epitomizes the masculine norms that underlie society, business and all the codes associated with masculinity.

What is not deemed masculine, is two men in suits kissing or appearing to be a couple. This according to the backlash that has preceded the latest advertising campaign by Dutch formalwear brand Suitsupply.

At the end of February Suitsupply released several controversial images, featuring two men embraced or appearing to be same sex couples alongside the slogan ‘Find your perfect fit’.

In one photograph, a man in a white tuxedo is seen next to a man in speedos in front of a swimming pool. Tuxedo arm on bare man’s chest. In another photograph a man lying on a lounger is wearing a casual suit, head lovingly cradled by a man dressed in a sharp checked suit. In the most controversial image, a very well dressed couple are seen embraced in front of a fountain, passionately kissing.

For all the progress we are making in society on both sides of the masculine and feminine scales, from the #metoo movement to gay rights, it seems with every step forward we take another backwards. One needs only to read the social media comments under the Suitsupply images to see the furore it has caused.

Suitsupply campaign generates homophobic backlash

Billboards were vandalized and de-faced

In Amsterdam, arguably on of the world’s most tolerant cities and home of Suitsupply’s head office, billboards were vandalized and defaced. Faces were obliterated and hate messages graffitied onto posters.

While the ad may have garnered more publicity for Suitsupply than it would previously have achieved, it seems out of date that in 2018 two men embracing on a public advertisement could conjure such an explosion of negativity. Whereas Suitsupply had 361,000 followers at the time of the campaign, it has now grown to over 400,000 in just two weeks, despite an initial backlash of losing 12,000 followers.

Of the 5 thousand posters distributed across the Netherlands, over 30 ads were vandalised in the first few days, Suitsupply’s CEO Fokke de Jong confirmed to online site NU.

The controversial campaign also resulted in a barrage of emails and complaints De Jong stated. “Many people ask us how to explain these posters to their children. Those are questions we never get when we use an erotically charged poster featuring a man and a woman.”

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The campaign, which is due last throughout the Spring, was to highlight the attraction between people “because that is an important part of fashion,” De Jong stated. Oddly, mainstream fashion brands and advertising largely steers clear of gay subject matter, instead favoring photos of single males or males and females together.

But not all has been negative around this campaign. Social media users recreated their own versions of the ad with many citing homophobia is passé and intolerable.

As for the effect on Suitsupply’s business, De Jong stated: “We noticed that thanks to this campaign a whole new group of customers is discovering us.”

Photo by Yankeemagazines, Suitsupply and Dumpert

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