Mere weeks after an image of J.Crew president and creative director Jenna Lyons painting her son’s toenails pink sparked a gender identity controversy, the brand has fed social conservatives even more fodder. An online image featuring a male J.Crew designer with his boyfriend is already getting attention as an affront to traditional values.
The image, part of a slideshow of men who work at J.Crew photographed with “those they hold nearest and dearest” sits alongside images of men with their dogs, children and brothers — there’s even one where a model poses with his girlfriend. But we’re going to go ahead and bet that none of those are going to be subject to the same kind of fire as the one of J.Crew’s Somsack Sikhounmuong and his boyfriend Micah.
And it’s not because the J.Crew ad is salacious or anything. In terms of its style and its brand messaging, J.Crew has always come across as fairly conservative. What will undoubtedly be seen as threatening about this image is that it’s not threatening — it’s even positive. It suggests that being proud of being gay and having a boyfriend who is proud of you is a normal thing, which goes against the ideology of the same people who said Jenna Lyons would turn her son transgender if she kept on painting his toenails pink.
For our part, we don’t see anything wrong with the ad. We think it’s rather sweet, and it’s exactly this kind of depiction of gay men that’s missing from mainstream retail advertising. For years advertisers have been targeted gay men, who are a pretty valuable demographic, through images of shirtless guys with abnormally low body fat percentages. But the Abercrombie and Fitch locker room fantasy doesn’t begin to comprise who or what gay men are. And sadly, for a long time the only depiction of gay men in mainstream advertising was highly sexualized, but no one complained about that because the men in those images weren’t specifically presented as gay. Now that there’s finally a healthy depiction of two men emblazoned with the word “boyfriend” for everyone to see, we’re just waiting for the floodgates to open.