The campaign came as a jolt to the senses following the post-holiday slump. People, The Cut, GQ and Vogue quickly published articles dedicated to the stripped-down campaign on the day these skin-baring images launched on Jan. 4. Calvin Klein’s first Instagram post featuring two campaign photos garnered over 1.5 million likes, while fans commented “Yes, chef,” a lusty reference to his boss-man character in “The Bear,” the Hulu hit show with a 99 percent fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes.
By Sunday, the Calvin Klein campaign was the talk of Tinseltown at the Golden Globes, despite White going clinching a win for “Best Actor in a TV Comedy.” In just a week, the campaign has spawned countless opinion pieces on why society is comfortable objectifying men. Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority only highlighted this seeming hypocrisy when it banned a 2023 Calvin Klein ad featuring a partially nude FKA Twigs because it made the “Cellophane” singer a “stereotypical sexual object”.
But when it comes to visible underwear, the PVH Corp.-owned brand owns the space.
“There’s no doubt that Calvin Klein remains as the master of the trend and the go-to source in the eye of consumers,” said Kendall Becker, Trendalytics director of trend and editorial strategy. The trend intelligence platform reports that Calvin Klein saw a 102 percent increase in social actions (engagement and posts mentioning the brand) across platforms, thanks to the campaign starring America’s newest heartthrob.
The Calvin Klein campaign magnified the laidback sex appeal of underwear and denim and became a blueprint that other brands copied. Dsquared2 channeled the ’90s era in its Fall/Winter 2023 men’s collection. The brand styled models in slogan tees and jeans worn low to expose their branded underwear. Country musician Riley Green sported Levi’s jeans with Gildan underwear in Rivet’s Winter 2023 issue.
The trend has carried into women’s fashion, too. For Spring/Summer 2022, Coach styled women in boxer shorts peeking over the waistbands of denim jeans and shorts. Meanwhile, Miu Miu, which re-ignited the low-rise trend in 2022, has embraced exposed underwear as a key branding opportunity.
“The rise in low-rise denim has set the stage for this trend to rise––it feels very fitting of the ’90s and early aughts era where we first saw this trend come into popularity,” Becker said.
Australian streetwear brand Ksubi recently launched underwear. Designed to be a visible part of an outfit, the unisex boxer briefs are available in black, white and grey. The cotton briefs have a Ksubi-branded jacquard elastic waistband and signature 4×4 and T-box details. Ksubi shows male and female models wearing the undies with low-rise jeans.
Brands like Levi’s, Diesel, True Religion and Cult of Individuality also sell underwear collections. Telfar and Ugg collaborated recently on a collection of denim-inspired co-branded boxer briefs.
“With low-rise bottoms trending across both the men’s and women’s market, there’s undoubtedly opportunity for all markets to play into this rising trend,” Becker said.