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Infamous Calvin Klein Ads That Have Left A Legacy of Controversy

Picture of Dana deLaski
Updated: 6 January 2017
Calvin Klein has become both famous and infamous over the years and, when looking at its ad campaigns, it’s easy to see why. The brand has never been afraid to push the envelope, and is constantly teetering on the line between sexy and inappropriate. Calvin Klein is no stranger to controversy, and now it’s part of what makes them so known and so interesting. After 45 years of criticism and judgement, here’s a rundown of some of the brand’s most notorious ads.

Brooke Shields, 1980

In 1980, Brooke Shields appeared in a Calvin Klein Jeans ad campaign. She was only 15 years old, so the tag line “You want to know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.” was a bit too risqué for some. CBS later banned the commercial, but it still went down in history of one of Calvin Klein’s most scandalous moments.

Kate Moss, 1992

In 1992, Kate Moss and Mark Wahlberg starred in a Calvin Klein ad in which Kate Moss was topless. Though that may not seem too crazy now, Kate Moss was only 17 at the time and some thought that was just way too young. Despite the controversy, Moss was in another topless ad in 1993, so clearly audiences were still watching.

Jeans Ad, 1995

Shot by world renowned photographer Steven Meisel, this campaign may have been one of the brand’s most controversial. Models were shot in a wood-paneled room, and people criticized them for looking like amateur porn. CK faced backlash from parents, from child welfare authorities, and the American Family Association. The justice department even opened an investigation on whether or not CK had violated child pornography laws, but the case was dropped when it was confirmed that the models were adults.

Eva Mendes, 2008

In 2008, Eva Mendes starred in a super sexy commercial for the perfume line Calvin Klein Obsession. This was yet another ad that was a bit too much for the mainstream, and it was banned from television.

Justin Bieber, 2015

In the digital age of Photoshop, it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s not. And in 2015, when Justin Bieber posed for a CK editorial, a new kind of controversy arose. Some thought his chiseled body was simply too perfect, and accused CK of photoshopping to the point where the photos were no longer ‘real.’