7 Of The Most Controversial Ads In Fashion History

It’s Friday—let’s look at pictures. Debonair Magazine has a rundown of some of the most controversial fashion ads in history. Well, “in history” is a bit overstated, since the oldest is a Jordache spread from 1979, and by today’s standards it looks like something from a brochure for Build-A-Bear. However, a few of the more recent ads are borderline NSFW, especially the pornoriffic Tom Ford For Men. Then again, they all appeared in a fashion mag at one point or another, so if your boss is not so good at debating, you can argue that point and maybe get away with it.

The Tom Ford ad has always confused us: the product is a cologne that a man would wear to (theoretically) smell more attractive to a woman—yet the ad implies the cologne smells exactly like a woman’s nethers, which means the man would attract other men—other straight men? Or he’d attract gay women? This ad is confusing, or else it’s perfect and the product is aimed solely at bisexual masochists. Or maybe tranny hookers.

“The Most Controversial Ads in Fashion History” [Debonair] (Thanks to John!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. DorothyZbornak says:

    I like that they translate the tag line so you can be sexist in any language!

  2. ideagirl says:

    I got a 404 on this??

  3. bonzombiekitty says:

    Seems that whole website is messed up. can’t even get to the homepage.

  4. vaxman says:

    The link doesn’t work anymore :(

  5. bess marvin, girl detective says:

    tom ford hates women.

  6. It was working about 30 minutes ago… I’ll keep checking and remove or update the link as needed. Sorry about that!

  7. helen says:


    cached page

    gracias, google.

  8. DorothyZbornak says:

    @helen: Ew! Tom Ford is disgusting!

  9. target_veteran says:

    Meh, I was expecting more social commentary aside from “OMG, SEX!!!” I know there’ve been ads out there with not-so-subtle racist/classist/mysoginist/(insert your favourite -ist) undertones, yet the best they could find was wulva and a facial?

  10. kimair says:

    there are so many ads missing from there. calvin klein kiddie porn anyone? tom ford’s full frontal male nudity? gucci’s “g” pubic hair? where are all of those?

  11. ceejeemcbeegee is not here says:


  12. n/a says:

    el page 404’d

  13. DrGirlfriend says:

    The Akademiks ad could at least have gotten the Spanish right. Tsk tsk.

  14. j03m0mma says:

    awesome Consumerist readers overloaded their website


  15. darkclawsofchaos says:

    I don’t know, this may sound fruity (no pun intended), but I like smelling like some stuff that what some may consider “girly,” like my Irish Spring, Sometimes I can’t find the regular green or blue one, so I use the aloe smelling one, or sometimes some other sweet smelling soap, girls don’t seem to mind, in fact they say they prefer it over Axe or whatever weird shit cologne smells like today, at least thats what my friends tell me

  16. mattshu says:

    I’m currently wearing Tom Ford For Men. It’s one of my favorites, though it’s pretty safe to say the ad campaign played no part in my decision.

  17. nuch says:

    I got, “Bad Request (Invalid Hostname)”

  18. Jacquilynne says:

    I think the message of the Tom Ford campaign is not ‘Smell More Like Vaginas with Tom Ford’, it’s ‘The Way to a Woman’s Vagina is Through Tom Ford’.

  19. Electroqueen says:

    What? There’s no woman between man’s legs shoe ad? Can’t anyone see that reference? Aargh, I guess this only counts if the ad’s in fashion magazines.

  20. Electroqueen says:

    @Electroqueen: BTW the ad I’m referring to was in the New York Times Sunday Newspaper a few years back.

  21. krom says:

    No mention of Benetton’s David Kirby on his deathbed looking like Jesus ad? The one so bad that many magazines ran two facing blank white pages instead of printing it? Whatever. I’d never even heard or seen any of the ones they list, and they collectively just listed American Apparel as a cop-out.

  22. B says:

    @Electroqueen: The ad for Puma shoes? That one made the list.

  23. LESSTHANKIND says:

    Ugh. I think I’ll see that Sisley ad every time I close my eyes for the next week. Gotta dig out that box of toothpicks I keep for just such occasions.

    As for the Tom Ford ad… hope that cap is on tight, or that baby’s gonna sting something chronic.

  24. RocktheDebit says:

    I think the woman is humping the bottle of Tom Ford cologne because she’s so turned on by it. At least I think that’s the reasoning.

  25. RocktheDebit says:

    And the D&G ad? I’m not really seeing any violence there. More like bored bisexuals trying out S&M and the woman’s thinking “Dammit, I should have gotten a pillow for my shoulder blades”. Dude on the right is checking out Dom Guy’s delts, and the guy to the far left is looking longingly at the woman but is too chicken to admit to Dom Guy that he wants to do the whole het monogomy thing. The guy with the jacket is rethinking his whole jacket idea, considering just how hot it is outside.

    I’m not sure what Dom Guy’s thinking. I have a feeling he’s supposed to represent Karl Lagerfeld, though.

  26. Shred says:

    why must the dolce and gabana ad be considered gang rape and not just a good, ol’ fashioned consensual gang bang?

  27. WMeredith says:

    My sentiments exactly. If it is a rape, that’s the most bored terrified woman I’ve ever seen. Oh and rape victims don’t usually arch their hips towards their attackers pelvis. Definitely a gang bang.

  28. oneswellfoop says:

    Idiots and prudes. The people who made this list must be idiots and prudes, or at least the people offended by them are. Sex sells, how much more over does one get than taking the product you want to sell and placing directly in front of a woman’s sexual organs(or at least the access to said organs)? Beautiful bodies and beautiful people sell, at least they sell most of the brands who made the ads in this list, the people that buy akademics I try not to notice. In any case, the more of these beautiful bodies you can show and associate with your product the better right?
    The “gang rape” ad? How bout the “group sex” ad? While it may be the same to some people, it certainly wasn’t to a ton of the people I partied with in college. The milk thing? That brings in both sexual bits, since she’s hot you know, and mother bits, since it’s milk.
    So many of these things just address fetishes or sex directly. The sooner our culture gets off this “sex is bad” puritanical kick the better.
    le sigh

  29. rdm24 says:

    I’m disappointed that all these ads are overtly heterosexual, when two of them (Tom Ford and D+G) came in gay equivalents.

  30. jstonemo says:

    Tom Ford cologne smells like Chicken of the Sea?