“Dear Aerie Girls, We think it’s time for a change. We think it’s time to GET REAL and THINK REAL. We want every girl to feel good about who they are and what they look like, inside and out. This means NO MORE RETOUCHING OUR GIRLS AND NO MORE SUPERMODELS. Why? Because there is no reason to retouch beauty. We think the real you is sexy.”
This letter is part of the new campaign launched by American Eagle Outfitters’ lingerie brand, Aerie, which seeks to promote healthy body image with the slogan “the real you is sexy.” This campaign, launched for the new year, has received enormous press, as it’s the first leading clothing company to promise not to retouch any photos of its models, beginning January 2014.
I work for the company in Water Tower Place, and while I think Aerie has always been a company to promote a healthy lifestyle and positive self image, I firmly believe that this new campaign takes the cake. As an Associate, I do a lot with store setup and marketing. Though the company never wanted to push aggressive or unhealthy ads, they realized that by using supermodels as their depictions of everyday girls was not, in fact, the best way to market their clothing to girls everywhere – instead, they’ve chosen girls who don’t fit supermodel standards and instead look like the average girl in America today.
I think this a really powerful concept – that we change how we advertise. We no longer advertise the ideal, but instead we market our product to the using means that represent them. While the models previously used were beautiful, they are paid models, meaning it is their job to look like that. Not only is their hair and makeup done by professionals, the lighting is aimed perfectly to make them appear flawless. In addition, they are photoshopped. Despite being beautiful naturally, they are then altered by the computer to make their beauty both unrealistic and unattainable, which influences young, impressionable girls who wonder why they will never be that beautiful.
I think we have to be careful though, with how we approach this new revolution that Aerie has started. While I fully support it, I think we must be careful with the term “real.” Aerie uses it as “we’re now using real girls as our models.” So the girls before were fake? I know they mean more that in the terms that the average girl doesn’t look like that, but still. While there is a smaller population of girls who actually do look like the models Aerie previously used, they’re still just as real as the rest of us.
In general though, I think the promise not to photoshop models is a huge step in the right direction for advertisers and companies everywhere. Although I understand how marketing works and why we use these “perfect” people as models, I think the negatives outweigh the positives. And not just for teen girls, either.
The Abercrombie & Fitch headquarters is in my hometown of Columbus, OH, so most models that they come from the area, and one of my classmates, Sage, was a model for the company for almost 5 years. The black and white image of his sweet smirk and shirtless chest (yes, he wasn’t even modeling the clothes) was copied and distributed everywhere. Hard enough to be a pre-teen boy, with acne, awkward weight gain and a bad haircut, but walk into the local Abercrombie and see your friend Sage up on the wall, getting paid to sit there and smile for a camera? Ouch.
I’m not saying Sage wasn’t a good choice – quote me on it, he’s drop dead gorgeous. (Although even he was photoshopped!) But by graduation, Sage didn’t have any friends left. Not because he was mean a bad friend: merely because everyone around him never felt good enough, and it’s hard to be friends with someone you’re constantly comparing yourself to.
But for those that don’t have friends who have been on the shopping bags for a company – it’s still detrimental to your self esteem. Though Abercrombie’s marketing strategy is another story completely, it brings up the question of the ethics of marketing. While there are no rules, I think it’s would be a positive change if all companies vowed not to retouch images and use models that more accurately represent the body type of the average teenager.
Krupnick, E. (2014). Aerie’s Unretouched Ads ‘Challenge Supermodel Standards’ For Young Women. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/17/aerie-unretouched-ads-photos_n_4618139.html
Aerie. (2014, January 17). American Eagle Lingerie Line Features Non-Airbrushed Models. YouTube. Retrieved January 22, 2014, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FzmbcPy6z90