Calvin Klein and the Sexy Teen Aesthetic


Recently in my queer history of the 20th century had final presentations and this is the topic I ended up writing and presenting about. Not all my favorite fashion photography from my research went into my final presentation because I had limited time to say everything, and show every photo I found from Calvin Klein archives that would be classified as “sexy teen,” like come on its CK.

We all know the CK aesthetique but it has an interesting entrance into mainstream American fashion. Before CK ads photographed by Bruce Weber, among others, were the first fashion photographers that got away with sexualizing men the same was that western fashion sexualizes women. That alone is substantial, enough so that we have all come to know that calvins are a staple in terms of basic style underpants, for lack of better phrasing. The other half of CK’s ads had the ambiguits in gender so much so that several of the Kate Moss for CK Obsession for Men was flagged and censored in many places because Kate Moss resembled gay porn too much. Yes, her teen boy aesthetic that was photographed in such a way that had men thinking they were gay. Which is important in the ambiguity of Calvin Klein ads through the 1990’s especially. With the roll out of CK One that launched in 1994 was labeled the first unisex fragrance. Nonetheless, the gender non-performance of all the models as well as the sexualization of men, to expose masculinity as a performance is incredible. As someone who has grown up with my parents letting me get Calvin Klein at the thrift store, and a fashion historian, I find it interesting that something so controversial can sneak under the noses of nearly everyone in America. Thank you for reading, here are some fun photos.

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