I’m gay. I also love fashion and, as the editorial director of this website, spend the majority of my day talking about clothes or shopping for my own wardrobe. For the latter, I typically let my personal style and the market guide my purchasing decisions, but I do understand the importance of advertising as a medium to sell clothing as well—especially as it pertains to the “lifestyle” of the brand someone’s buying into. For me personally, however, the issue with most male-focused ads is that unless they’re super fashion-focused or avant-garde (re: Gucci), I often can’t envision myself within those lifestyles. Frankly, I’m just not the type of man that many of the campaigns for non-gay publications and websites typically showcase (i.e., hyper-masculine and attracted exclusively to women).
So you can imagine my curiosity when Amsterdam-based suit startup Suitsupply released its S/S 18 campaign featuring men in various acts of embrace, including kissing. My initial reaction: Excellent. While I'm aware the brand has been slammed in the past for sexist ads (and it's honestly unclear whether or not this campaign was intended to turn that image around), it appears overall that we’re making strides in some way to push inclusivity and diversity. Because let’s be real—gay men, like all men, often buy suits. And what’s the difference between depicting two men, versus a man and a woman, in an embrace to sell suits?
Well, as the internet informed me, a big difference. You may have already read about the backlash a few weeks ago when this campaign debuted to positive feedback, yes, but also an onslaught of hate messages via social media (and the loss of at least 12,000 followers on Instagram, according to BBC). On such comment read, “I do not judge gay people but you have made a very bad statement. I will never buy your suits again as I am not gay. That’s the statement you have made … fools.” Yes, you read that correctly. But come on—do we all really have to live that tightly in a box or, as it were, closet?
It didn’t stop on social media, either. I’ve read countless stories just this week saying that the physical campaigns displayed around the Netherlands have been vandalized with messages and symbols of hate in an apparent gesture of reclaiming what heterosexual masculinity means to many. Put simply, it’s insane.
While blatant homophobia has and will always exist, however, there’s comfort in knowing that brands like Suitsupply will continue to lead the charge by breaking down the concept of "masculinity," as well as the general acceptance of LGBTQ+ people. The response from CEO Fokke de Jong a few weeks ago aligned with that sentiment.
“We do not aim to and cannot control the reactions. However, the new followers and positive messages that have been prominent in our social media is a good indicator that this campaign has been well received and has impacted many people positively. It’s amazing what one kiss can do,” de Jong said in a statement to Business Insider.
And on that note, I think I know where my next suit is coming from.