Jake Sinclair was standing in line at his local American Apparel shop, waiting to buy underwear, when inspiration struck. The producer-composer had 14 pairs of the brand's signature briefs in tow. "I just thought, 'Oh, it'd be cool if my girlfriend wore these,' " says Sinclair, acknowledging that the in-store ads featuring women sporting the shorts may have had their desired effect. "The brain," adds Sinclair, "is a weird place."
Sinclair's shopping spree prompted a lyric, which found a home in a hit song that has helped make the Australian boy band 5 Seconds of Summer a pop sensation. But "She Looks So Perfect" is more than a smash single, with nine weeks and counting on the Billboard Hot 100. It also is a piece of unplanned product placement ("You look so perfect standing there/In my American Apparel underwear") that seems to be helping sell skivvies.
"I have no idea if it's attributed to the 5 Seconds of Summer song, but there was a 10 percent increase in U.S. sales of our men's underwear outside of the typical seasonal increase we see in this style in the spring," wrote American Apparel spokeswoman Iris Alonzo in an email. "Pretty interesting!"
It is difficult to credit any one factor for a bump in sales. But an unscientific survey of American Apparel managers around the country suggests the song is having an impact.
"It's more younger types, who would listen to kids' music like that, who weren't very familiar with our brand before," says Amber Joyner, a merchandiser at the Charleston, S.C., store, describing the new audience she has noticed.
The company, whose stock has fallen 49.2 percent since the start of 2014, donated 40 pairs of briefs for the video, in which the clothes of excited couples young and old go flying. Director Frank Borin says he wanted to use American Apparel exclusively, but was hindered by actor physiques, and by MTV standards. "On some people it was too small, or too risque," he says. "American Apparel isn't for every body type."