In Defense of the New Suit Supply Campaign

If you spend any amount of time in the online world of menswear, you have most likely seen the brouhaha surrounding the newest ad campaign from Suit Supply.

For those of you who aren’t aware, it features well-dressed men in Suit Supply’s newest summer offerings surrounded by half-naked women. The uncensored version is even NSFW (Boobs. Lots of boobs).

Suit Supply Spring Summer 2014

The reactions have ranged from the simple face palm to some serious outrage.

What’s funny is that none of the arguments I’ve heard have a leg to stand on.

And don’t take me wrong, I think it’s a bad campaign. Not bad in the ineffective sense; bad as immoral. But I come at it from the religious standpoint of sex being something that is private and should be treated as such – that displaying it so openly makes light of and cheapens something that should be kept sacred.

I know that most of the world doesn’t think like that though. Rather, we’ve been bombarded with the commodification of sex for years. Instead, it’s bad because of sexism, the male gaze, objectification of women, the perpetuation of male stereotypes or any other secular-humanist, politically-correct, self-contradicting dogma that teaches that sex is no big deal – except when it is.

As many things as this ad is, it’s not sexist. At least, not in the women-are-less-than-men kind of sexism. Instead, it’s a smart play off of the different types of sexual attraction that exist between men and women.*

As much as our Women’s Studies professors tried to convince us otherwise, no man has ever been turned on by a woman’s degree, her career, or her credentials. While those things may build comfort or create a desire for a deeper relationship, the primary thing that turns a man on is how a woman looks. Is she young? In shape? Does she have large hips and breasts with a small waist? How about long hair, clear skin, and a good smile? If so, a man’s sex drive kicks in – plain and simple.

While women are attracted to men who have a good physique, it’s not nearly as much of a factor as a woman’s build is for a man. Instead, her primary attractors are a man’s ability to control the environment around him. His physical, social, financial, emotional, and mental strength are the things that turn a woman on. It’s the reason why young, attractive women end up with bad boys and older millionaires. These men have proven their ability to shape the world to their image.

A good-looking man, who’s in decent shape, and well dressed gives off the impression of success and control. It’s why little meme pictures like this exist:

a tailored suit is to women what lingerie is to men

From a real equality standpoint – this ad campaign objectifies the men just as much as it does the women. It reduces them to their status – irrespective of their morals, character, and integrity – just as much as it reduces women to their bodies.

So if these gender equalizers, who are getting their panties all twisted, really had any consistency to their ideology, they’d be just as upset about the objectification of the men as they are of the women.

The idea of being disgusted by sex advertising in a sex-positive culture is nothing but hypocritical. This level of cognitive dissonance is what leads to things like newspeak and thought crime. The models were consenting adults, as were the photographers, the producers, the publishers, and everyone else involved. In order to see the uncensored pictures, a viewer has to consent to them. With consent being the ultimate arbiter of modern integrity, there is nothing morally wrong or offensive about this campaign.

But our society wants to have its cake and eat it too. We want all people to be equal, consenting adults when it suits the narrative and we want everyone (except for straight, white, Christian, middle/upper class males) to be victims when that suits the narrative as well. So what happens?

All of the different social groups jump to play their acceptable roles. Women, minorities, and the non straight or cis-gendered all do everything they can to claim their feelings were hurt the most by the insensitivity of the campaign. At the same time, straight men everywhere clamor as loudly as possible that they too find it to be a violation of their good taste and that advertising like this is bad because (insert feminist/modernist/humanist argument here).

The greatest irony in all of this is that most of the guys who are ardently denouncing this campaign as sexist, backwards, and misogynistic are the same men who are fapping to these photos and more the same night. They’re the same men who take on the persona of the “nice guy” with the hopes of it endearing them to more women, thereby making it possible for them to see these women naked.

To these guys and the rest of the West, an unapologetic and overt sexual appetite is not offensive because sex should be private and sacred, but because it’s a uniquely masculine way of approaching the topic – making it evil.

And that’s the real crux of the disgust with this campaign. It’s not outrage at the fact that women are naked. It’s outrage that there are people who don’t play the sexually passive-aggressive martyr that these nice guys and their feminist enablers believe all men should be. It’s in your face, blatant, and aggressive.

There’s no nuance to it, and nuance is the only tool most SWPL’s have in their belt. There’s a time and a place for subtly, but it’s the only means of communication for a coward. There’s no risk in subtly, there’s no courage in nuance. When everything can be explained away as inference or implication, it takes all accountability and all masculinity out of communication.

This campaign is as blunt as a Michael Bay movie – and it’s working. It has worked for Suit Supply for three different campaigns now and they continue to grow. Very few menswear stores are opening as many locations as rapidly and with as much hype as Suit Supply. They’re cashing in on all of this outrage and leaving the complainers red in the face.

*Yes I’m speaking in generalities. I’m sure you, someone you know, or someone you’ve heard of is an exception to the rule. Big deal, most generalities tend to exist for a reason and they’re worth looking at as a trend as opposed to a destiny.

Meet The Author

Tanner is the founder and primary author of Masculine Style. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah with his wife and two kids, and helps run Beckett & Robb - a men's clothing company built around custom suits and shirts.
  • jackbrannen

    This is insightful and interesting. I agree 100% that sex is a sacred thing and certain expressions of sex cheapen and dishonor it. I also agree that ads like these objectify men and promote a lot of (very dangerous) cognitive dissonance.

    At the risk of turning the comments section in a nuclear wasteland—I’d be interested to hear (in the broadest of strokes) what your religious beliefs are.

    • Glad you liked the post Jack. I’m Mormon.

    • MasculineStyle

      Glad you liked the post Jack. I’m Mormon.

  • Steve

    I love the 1984 reference. I suggest reading Atlas Shrugged, as it has more than a few discussions about the topics you covered.

    • MasculineStyle

      I’ve been through it twice (although I skipped Galt’s speech both times). There are a lot of correlations between Rand’s world then and ours now.

  • NormaR

    My favorite SuitSupply campaign is the dark ‘Killing Prices” one from years ago. They only had shops in the Netherlands at the time.

    I wonder if US customers would feel more at ease with these images.

    • MasculineStyle

      I hadn’t seen this campaign before but it proves my point above – there is nothing subtle or nuanced about Suit Supply. You can hate on it all you want, but it gets the job done.

  • Peregrine John

    Most excellent, sir. Nicely put. Basic truths (like, say, the one in the graphic just up there) are some of the most hilariously offensive things ever. Hilarious to me, that is: probably less so to the professionally offended.

    Well put, stem to stern.

    • MasculineStyle

      It’s a scary world when the truth is offensive.

  • Joseph

    Well, what do you know. A reasoned, rational argument presented without histrionics or hyperbole. Who knew the Internet could handle such a thing.

    • MasculineStyle

      Thanks Joseph. All things considered, this post had more emotional language than my usual fare, but I tried to keep it even keeled.

  • Alex MIller

    “The idea of being disgusted by sex advertising in a sex-positive culture is nothing but hypocritical…”
    First, I don’t see anything particularly shocking about this promo. A company is using sex and half/mostly naked women to sell products. Shocking.
    However, to address your statement, sexual positivity doesn’t necessarily include negative or exploitive interpretations, depictions of sexuality. A viewpoint that is open to human sexuality, feeling that it need not be needlessly controlled or stigmatized by cultural or religious tradition, is not total ignorance to the reality that unrealistic (photo shopped, etc.) depictions of a person’s body or exploitative or demeaning depictions of sex and gender roles can be psychologically damaging to others.

    • MasculineStyle

      Alex you’re just making my point for me. The idea that these depictions of women’s bodies are completely unrealistic is a product of the current culture’s view on sexuality. Have you ever followed a fitness Tumblr or Instagram account? There are plenty of women on there with amazing bodies and no photoshop to artificially enhance them.

      Also, the idea that any overt expression of male sexuality is either exploitative or demeaning is also just needless control and stigmatization of certain sexual perceptions. The only difference is that this view is practiced by the new culture and new religion of the Western world.

      That’s where the hypocrisy is. They preach sex positivity, but it’s only really positive if it’s expressed in a culturally approved way. Hence the idea that ads like this are psychologically damaging and exploitative.

  • josh higgins
    • MasculineStyle

      Very interesting need. It’s too bad they finished off by saying the male tendency towards protection is a negative effect of seeing people as agents of experience instead of agency though.

  • Matthew K

    You may be misunderstanding what people are referring to when they say someone is being objectified. It indicates that one is being treated as a tool for use by another and that they lack agency. The argument against the ad is that it portrays women as purely sexual objects. Presented within a culture where treating women as less than fully human was until recently ubiquitous, it’s reasonable to have concerns over this ad.
    And further, suggesting the man is being objectified because he is being treated as merely representative of his social status is not equivalent. Both because this literally contradicts the definition of objectification, and because this isn’t a significant social problem.
    Your article as a whole seems a little confused. You make a few strange sexist comments. You whine a couple of times about feminists/humanists/etc for a bit. Then seem to complain a bit about the victimization of straight men and the “masculine way of approaching the topic.” I’m relatively new to this site, and was curious whether you’ll likely be posting more nonsense like this or do you generally stick to fashion?

  • Michael

    This was a bit of a disappointment. When Antonio Centeno endorsed you I came over here to check out your style advice and discover a religiously driven view of what you think sexuality is and should be and a defense of the poor old white straight male. I accept that you’re right to have your own views and opinions but I don’t know how you can not see that picture as a reinforcement of the traditional practice of the pure objectification of women. It’s okay, I understand, I suppose we all secretly want a harem.