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The NSFW History Of American Apparel Advertising

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American Apparel, the, well, American Apparel company once beloved for its commitment to being made locally (instead of in sweat shops), became the company whose clothing you could only wash once before it turned into rags – is now insolvent. *Karma*. In the last five years they’ve lost a total of $340 million, and in just this past year alone – $45 million! See people, this is why corporations sweat shop their stuff. It doesn’t pay to be ethical. *Capitalism*.
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1995

And… here we go. In the beginning, the headlines were more suggestive, while the pictures, less porn-y. Still, a few women’s rights groups complained at the time, demanding to know what exactly “fresh funk” is.
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1999

Four years later and we’re still relatively tame. Tame by American Apparel standards that is, and at the time, Calvin Klein standards – who back then – featured nothing but models in their underwear.
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2000

Ok, now we’re starting to get a bit CK’esque here. It was just around this time that American Apparel looked to take the raunchy throne away from Calvin Klein.
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2001

Getting closer still … While CK ads featured just underwear, this American Apparel model here seems to be wearing none at all.
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2003

Then two years later the ads appear to take two steps back…
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2004

… and then a year after that, one giant leap forward! American Apparel officially steps into kiddie porn territory (suggests the rubber ducky), as this faceless, half-naked girl gets ready for a bath.
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2005

Now we’re really rock’n and roll’n with an ad featuring socks and nothing else. Can anyone guess what – or who – she’s doing on the left?
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2005

Of course being racy and raunchy is gender neutral. Meet Glen, the dude with the semi who’s kind enough to take a ride on the depravity train down to the bottom with us.
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2006

And now we’re almost at the bottom. Literally. The line says “Pantytime”, but “Party-time” is more like it.
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2006

Oh look, Glen’s back. This time with a boner. Err, we mean bottle. A bottle that looks like a boner. Cheers American Apparel for officially dethroning Calvin Klein – along with much of the porn industry.
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2009

And now we’ve reached rock bottom. (We told you it was NSFW). American Apparel officially casts porn star Sasha Grey to pose fully nude (minus the stockings) for a double-page spread. No, that’s not a pun either. The ad was so controversial that it was pulled from magazines, but not without proving that bad press is better than no press, as sales hit a record high that year.
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2011

You’d think American Apparel would have learned their lesson with their own “nipplegate”, but noooo, as they featured upcoming Bond girl (Lea Seydoux) flashing her two main features.
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2012

Taking a break from the nudity, American Apparel decides to tread on a different taboo terrain: Religion. While CEO Doy Charney okay’d this one because of his own Jewish heritage, quite a few other Hasidic Jewish groups didn’t take to the ad too kindly, screaming for it to be pulled for newsstands.
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2013

And now we’re back to nudity. Just not in the UK, as this one was banned for the bare butt. When it comes to nudity over there, there’s absolutely no if’s, and’s, or butt’s about it.
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2015

And finally, we’re mixing the best of both worlds: nudity and religion. And with this one, American Apparel crossed all barriers as it features a topless Muslim with text carefully placed over her nipples that is in direct reference to her Muslim religion, as American Apparel always makes their clothes domestically. Frankly, we’re surprised heads didn’t roll (literally) over at AA’s marketing department, as some Muslim extremists have been known to not take too kindly to such imagery.
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