If you want to be tight with Jesus…

… try on these jeans.  Jesus Jeans ad, 1971

Jesus Jeans, an Italian-based brand whose ad campaign shocked both church and state in the 1970s, is being relaunched in December after an almost-twenty-year hiatus.

The ad to the right is one of the originals, created by Emanuele Pirella and Oliviero Toscani.  The copy reads “He who loves me follows me.”  (Other ads in the original campaign read “Thou shalt not have any other jeans but me.”)

Ads aside, the brand name alone was controversial enough to be deemed “morally offensive to the public” by the Patent Office of the UK, which refused to register it back in 2003.  (Germany, Switzerland, China, Hungary, and Ireland did the same.)  

The clothing companies that own the brand said they do not think the name is offensive, and they appealed the decision of the UK Patent Office.  “Registering ‘Jesus’ as a trademark strikes me as the very antithesis of morally offensive,” their lawyer said.  “It is funny to think that the name of our Lord is considered immoral.”

Jesus’ name has already been appended to countless products and campaigns to help boost sales.  Many times Christians even buy into it (or worse, cash in on it).  Other times, it’s the hipster crowd.  “Jesus” sells.  Businesses know this, so they drop his name whenever they can.

I don’t really find the brand name (“Jesus Jeans”) to be all that offensive.  Honestly, I’ve become desensitized to such profit-driven perversions of the name of my Lord.  But the ads are another story:  A woman in teeny tiny shorts with both cheeks hanging out, across which is slapped a sexualized expropriation of scripture. … Now that’s offensive, and the clothing companies are fools for pretending like it wasn’t meant to be.  The Jesus Jeans marketing team knew exactly what it was doing.  Be provocative to garner media attention—it never fails.  And one of the best ways to do that is to pair sex with what the masses deem sacred.

Maurizio Vitale, the creator of the jeans, was sitting pretty after that entrepreneurial move.  Jesus Jeans transformed his company, Maglificio Calzificio Torinese, from a $7-million-a-year maker of socks and underwear to a $65-million-a-year international success.

Why does Jesus sell so well?  Why does his name attract more attention and court more controversy than any other?

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3 Responses to If you want to be tight with Jesus…

  1. Eric says:

    Another interesting note on the advertisement is the striking resemblance of the CBS logo just above the J in Jesus. A quick search on Google showed that the first launching of the brand included the symbol while newer versions of the same ad have had the characteristic “eye” logo removed. I wonder if they got in trouble with CBS when they tried to come to the US?

  2. gloria says:

    Great article Victoria! I think most people see him as an iconic figure from myths and legends like King Arthur. People have a vague idea of his heroism, his miracles and his do-gooder status – this generates mass market appeal. What people don’t see is His Holiness, His Divinity and His Glory. That’s why companies who ignore these aspects of the Lord Jesus Christ feel unabashed in using his name for their putrid marketing to the masses.

  3. Yet again. You always provide me with a new perspective.

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