Home / Celebrity Style / Justin Bieber for Calvin Klein – but who would buy his pants?

Justin Bieber for Calvin Klein – but who would buy his pants?

After several days of drip-fed teasers, last night saw the unveiling of Calvin Klein’s newest underwear model: singer Justin Bieber.

The black and white campaign, shot by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott, features the topless 20-year-old in various poses, staring with his familiar “who me?” look of bemusement alongside Calvin Klein model Lara Stone. Tanned, heavily-tattooed and clearly no stranger to planking, Bieber’s casting makes aesthetic sense. There’s just one issue: if the aim of the campaign is to boost sales, who is it aimed at?

We know that Bieber’s audience is primarily pre-teen and teenage girls. This suggests that the adverts are aimed either at girls with both a disposable income and a desire to turn their boyfriends into Biebers, or boys who either want to look like Bieber (unlikely) and/or please their girlfriends. This might seem sad or misguided: historically, Calvin Klein’s underwear models scream cool, whereas last year, Forbes declared Bieber one of the most overexposed celebrities in the world. But as with Kim Kardashian and her ilk, we know there’s no link between saturation point and selling power.

Bieber’s immeasurable popularity, born on YouTube and nurtured at an impressive rate by social media, has seen him become more of a brand than a singer. Short of selling tampons, Bieber has successfully endorsed everything, from bags and dolls to shower curtains and acne cream, earning an estimated $58m last year. In 2012, his Girlfriend fragrance was the best-selling celebrity licensed perfume. He is a cash cow first, artist second.

With Lara Stone.
Photograph: Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott/Calvin Klein

The main issues with his casting is not his target market; rather it’s how the rest of the world sees him. In the past, Calvin Klein have cast their underwear models from one of two pools: relative obscurity or celebrities with edge. To wit, former models Antonio Sabàto Jr, Australian Travis Fimmel (who reportedly became the first male model to earn six figures for a single campaign) and Jamie Dornan pre-The Fall, alongside rapper Marky Mark (Mark Wahlberg, who appeared with Kate Moss), actor Djimon Hounsou and footballer Freddie Ljungberg, the latter appearing in one of the brand’s most successful campaigns to date.

Extremely famous and deeply uncool, Bieber is in neither camp. His recent dance with controversy, which saw him charged with assault and dangerous driving, might neatly echo the narrative of proto-Bieber, Mark Wahlberg, who had several drug and assault offences to his name by the time he appeared in his Calvin Klein boxers in 1992, but that’s where the similarity ends. Furthermore, it’s unlikely the brand would actively choose to be seen promoting or courting controversy.

In his defence, Bieber is a longtime fan of the low-rise jean, wearing logoed Calvin Kleins with shameless visibility for several years, for once suggesting this is case of product following placement. It’s just whether you’d buy underwear from a man who sings: “Stay in my backpack for ever, stay in my backpack for ever/ You know I gotta find my spaceship, my planet’s outside there waiting”, six pack or not.

About Fashion Brief