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“When Did Skivvies Get Rated NC-17?” by Guy Trebay


Modern world of advertising sees no limitations in attracting clients, which, of course, results in higher profits. Each company is aimed at getting more money for the products it manufactures and advertising is a powerful tool to achieve the desirable. Advertising is especially important for fashion industry which would not have succeeded so much without it. Fashion magazines abound with the names of popular brands and comments of well-known designers about their new collections of clothes. What attracts special attention here is that the advertising of clothes necessarily involves the depiction of unrealistically proportional human bodies, either male or female. At this, the extreme nudeness of these bodies evokes resentments in both audience and mass media. Despite the common idea that “women are more likely to be portrayed as sexual objects than are men in advertising” (Hargrave and Livingstone 167) and that “fashion advertising often seemed to be one big woman-hunt” (Faludi 199), a number of designers use men as their models and the depiction of a half-naked male body has become quite wide-spread in modern fashion industry. This became a point of a wide discussion and numerous articles on fashion industry try to determine possible limits of nudeness at magazine covers or in pictures with brand advertisements. Thus, for instance, the article “When Did Skivvies Get Rated NC-17?” written by Guy Trebay discusses the advertisements of men’s underwear and using men models for advertising in general. It is necessary to consider particular ideas the article covers in order to find out what its author is aiming to express and what writing strategies he uses to produce an impression on the modern reader.

Main body

What should be mentioned above all, is that negative tone of the author of the article lets the reader know that he is critical about the subject. This can be seen from the first lines he begins his article with: “LET it be noted that there was a time when buying a pair of men’s underpants was a simple matter of grabbing a three-pack of something in one’s waist size from a shelf near the hardware department at Sears” (Trebay). Guy Trebay attracts the readers’ attention to the modern world of fashion which due to innumerous brands can meet the demands even of an extremely exigent client. “Dazzling variety of products at every price range” (Jones 42) makes it possible to choose among the best products guiding by the correlation of quality and price. The article is focused at the diversity of men’s underwear the modern department stores can offer: “There are briefs and boxer briefs and “action bikinis” and “athletic strings” and shorts with breathable mesh pouches or waistband condom pockets, and even a new brand called C-IN2 with patented “sling support” (Trebay). Another point raised in the article is the depiction of men at the packages with these products. The author states that it is namely the cover what matters for the consumers; when the cover displays a young man with a body of a porn star they believe that this person indeed looks like this without thinking how much graphics was used after the picture of model had been taken.

What else should be mentioned is that the tone of the author is changing throughout the article. He begins with criticism but as he proceeds, the tone of the article turns into simply informative and he provides the comments of the designers which justify the depiction of half-naked male models on the packages with their products. The overall arrangement of the article is spatial, which means that he does not concentrate at one issue and changes the subject from time to time. He discusses such issues as using computer graphics not only by “upstarts” such as Baskit but by traditional brands which include Hugo Boss and Hanro. Further the author moves to reasons why the brands use men as models for advertising and points out that this happens mostly due to feminization of the advertisements. Trebay also informs that Calvin Clein was the first designer who started using men for advertising. And the final subject the author brings about in his article is that initially specific men’s underwear was designed for gay population but with time “the borders of this territory have blurred” (Trebay) and bikinis and thongs started to be worn by heterosexuals as well. At the end of the article Trebay returns to the subject raised at the beginning, namely men models’ pictures at packages with underwear. He describes a particular brand of underwear, Adam + Eve, the package of which is so luxuriant “that a consumer might become seduced by the box’s unorthodox oblong and fail to notice the cover models are posed, on certain products, wearing no underpants at all” (Trebay).

And, finally, some features of the author’s style should be analyzed because they add to the impression the article produces on the reader. The style of the article can be considered informal because the author uses informal language (this can be seen in the title of the article – the word “skivvies” is an American English slang word) and the article is humorous in some parts. It can also be characterized by a frequent usage of terms typical for fashion industry such as “lingerie”, “microfibers”, “combed pima cotton”, “boxer briefs”, etc. The sentence structure is complex and most of the sentences are declarative which shows that the article is not aimed at convincing the reader, expressing emotions or leaving the reader in thoughts (which is usually achieved by means of rhetoric questions). The author uses quotations which are, in fact, the direct speech of people working in fashion industry and dealing with advertising. He uses the quotations to support his ideas and to explain why certain innovations in the fashion industry took place. For instance, justifying the indecency of some depiction of men in advertisements, Trebay provides the commentary of Gregory Sovell, a designer: “Guys have a lot more confidence in what they’re wearing, and they don’t worry about what people think” (Trebay).


Taking into consideration everything mentioned above, it can be stated that the author of the article “When Did Skivvies Get Rated NC-17?” achieved his aim to inform the reader about the current situation in the fashion industry, namely in the sphere of men’s underwear, by means of discussing the main ideas, such as variety of men’s underwear these days, the depiction of men models at the packages of the corresponding products, nudeness of the models, and the purposes of using men in advertising. At this, the author uses informal language, words typical for fashion industry and cites some of the designers to support his ideas.

Works Cited

Faludi, S. Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women. Crown, 1991.

Hargrave, A.M., Livingstone, S.M. Harm and offence in media content: a review of the evidence. Intellect Books.

Jones, S.J. Fashion Design. Laurence King Publishing, 2005.

Trebay, G. “When Did Skivvies Get Rated NC-17?” Freshpair, Inc. 2009. Cultural Studies. Web.


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