Levi’s Marches On

Levi’s gets real about jeans and the LBGT community. The results are nearly groundbreaking.

A great brand, like a great pair of jeans, is all about fit. Just as fashion designers must know how to wrap denim around different body types, branders and marketers must know how to wrap their message around their different customers.

So hats off to Levi’s for identifying a clientele rarely addressed (openly), reaching to them and taking some risk in the process. Working with Logo, the three-year-old gay and lesbian network from MTV, the ad campaign “Logo Unbuttoned” puts us face to face with members of the LBGT community for frank talk about love, art and blue jeans. The result is a small step toward erasing the taboos surrounding openly marketing to homosexuals. Will the giant leap be next?

Enter the shirtless man. He’s no Calvin Klein model, skinny and possibly drug-addled. He’s got a bit of a gut, nothing to be ashamed of, just a regular, late-twenties male gut. And he’s talking about starting over again. About ending a six-year relationship with another man. About graffiti art in Germany. Oh, and that’s a pair of 501 Levi’s he’s wearing, just in case you were wondering.

See the ad on NYTimes.com

But it works. It works because he fits in those pants and because his story is honest and seemingly unscripted, albeit a bit boring. He’s a regular homo-Joe, one of thousands of others who also wear blue jeans. There is a lot of purchasing potential in the LBGT community and Levi carefully eyes this target with “Unbuttoned” and hits bulls-eye.

With “Unbuttoned” Levi’s stakes its claim for the LBGT market share. The best any other apparel company can do now is follow or go over-the-top of them. Jeans have always been marketed as a “lifestyle” product — it’s never been just about the jeans, there’ve always been cigarettes, coffee, or a Corvette close at hand — so it’s of a bit of a wonder why it’s taken so long to reach out to a lifestyle so widely lived. Maybe Levi’s believed the time was finally ripe.

And it’s a brave move in little explored direction. It may be 2008 but plenty remains stuffed into the corners of our culture’s closet. Dead bodies on TV no longer shock but one still gets the sense that a pretty girl discussing sexual exploration in a jean ad could get folks riled up. And this could potentially alienate a portion of Levi’s buyers who keep non-traditional ideas outside the doors of their homes.

I use the word honest to describe the best pair of blue jeans in my closet. The hole in the left knee is the result of a skateboard skid out. The fray at the bottom of the left legging is from spinning bicycle gears. While on, the slacks are an extension of my body, of myself, which is something truly unique for an article of clothing. It’s refreshing to see an ad campaign with the same amount of honesty as an old pair of jeans. Let’s hope that others follow suit.

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