The XX Factor

Justin Bieber’s New Underwear Ads Are Part of the #MyCalvins Social Media Phenomenon

Justin Bieber on the red carpet in Cannes last November, thinking ahead to the time when he would model for Calvin Klein.

Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images

Calvin Klein’s spring campaign asks stars, with Mad Libs–ian glee, what they do in #theircalvins. Or #mycalvins. The hashtag-centered ads refuse to be hemmed in by things as trivial as the rules of possessive pronouns.

In photographs and short clips, personalities like Kendall Jenner, FKA Twigs, Fetty Wap, and more complete the statement “I _____ in #mycalvins” with action words and phrases like stand tall, excel, and am a star. Justin Bieber, who headlined last year’s ads for the brand, is back, and his accompanying verbs include flaunt, dream, and glow.

In the flaunt photo, which surely would not pass muster for the president of Iran, Bieber, a fine art expert of sorts, wears boxer briefs and stands with his legs in George-Washington-crossing-the-Delaware position, one foot on the ground, the other perched on a platform holding a nude Greek-style statue of a woman. (“Justin Bieber Flaunts His Ripped Body In His Calvins Next To Sexy Older Woman,” the website Hollywood Life cheekily headlined the photo.) His arms are in a self-conscious “model” pose, one on his hip, one bent behind his head. Then in the dream one, he’s lying in bed with his eyes closed, again just in boxer briefs, but obviously also one hand is on his crotch. In the glow photo, he is somewhat more clothed, but still his chest, abs, and platinum hair glisten. The photos are good encapsulations of Bieber’s image: playful, provocative, slightly lacking in self-awareness, and likely to make anyone who remembers his moptop days uncomfortable, which is probably intentional.

Why do so many stars want to model for a brand anyway? In October, Racked reported on the success of Calvin Klein’s #mycalvins campaign, pointing out the brand’s skillful use of social media—its follower count went up 3.6 million across platforms since it launched in 2014. According to Racked, Bieber courted Calvin Klein aggressively. “I have been wearing Calvin Klein underwear for years in hopes of getting to model for the brand one day,” he said last year. Historically, Bieber hasn’t cared about seeming like a tryhard or a sellout, an attitude he seems to share with the rest of the artists and “influencers” featured in the campaign.

Perhaps Calvin Klein sweetened the deal by letting each star pick their verb themselves. Flaunt and dream—so blunt and uncreative—seem so perfectly Bieber. Kendall Jenner also chose dream, and no one bothered telling the stars they weren’t allowed to overlap. And doesn’t Bieber know that flaunting is just a giant joke perpetuated by Us Weekly? Daniel Hivner (a model, apparently) is pictured with the verb go see, as in, “I go see in #mycalvins,” which does not make a whole lot of sense to the layperson. Whereas someone like Kendrick Lamar, with reflect, is a little more, well, reflective in his choice. But what do I know? I blog in #myoldnavy.