In 1980, Brooke Shields was catapulted to the global fame (and controversy) when she appeared in the infamous Calvin Klein Jeans campaign at 15 years-old. She was wearing a shirt, heeled boots and a pair of the brand’s indigo blue denim jeans. She recited the line, “You want to know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.”
While nowadays it wouldn’t garner the same controversy, the young model was berated and over-sexualised by the media. In an appearance on Dax Shepard’s Armchair Expert podcast, Shields recalled participating in a number of interviews following the campaign in a bid to mitigate the backlash. One was with journalist Barbara Walters. The model and actress recalled being asked a series of invasive personal questions about her sexual history.
Shepard described it as “maddening”. “It’s practically criminal,” Shields replied. “It’s not journalism.”
In an October interview, Shields reflected on the release of the campaign and her experience thereafter.
“I was away when they all came out, and then started hearing, ‘Oh, the commercials have been banned here, and Canada won’t play them.’ And paparazzi and people screaming at me and screaming at my mother, ‘How could you?’ It just struck me as so ridiculous, the whole thing,” Shields said.
She admitted that her age meant she didn’t understand the context surrounding the lines she was mean to recite. And with anything that garners that much press, it turned out to be an overwhelming success for the American brand.
“They take the one commercial, which is a rhetorical question. I was naive, I didn’t think anything of it. I didn’t think it had to do with underwear, I didn’t think it was sexual in nature,” she explained. “I would say it about my sister, ‘Nobody can come between me and my sister.'”
She continued, “I feel like the controversy backfired. The campaign was extremely successful. And then, I think the underwear sort of overtook the jeans, and they understood what sells and how to push the envelope. There’s an appeal to it that is so undeniable, and they tapped right into it. They knew exactly what they were doing, and I think it did set the tone for decades.”
Calvin Klein just released its latest clever campaign this week with Pete Davidson taking over the brand’s Instagram account.