Media Monday: Toothpick and Matchstick

Elizabeth Mishler

I first came across J. Crew’s Toothpick and Matchstick denim lines when I was out shopping earlier this week. Their names and the implications they made about body shape quickly caught my attention and I went home and looked them up online, only to find that that both were sported by extraordinarily thin models.

The target audience for these J. Crew denim lines is young women in their late 20’s early 30’s. It is difficult to find either denim line appealing due to the implied body shape that is associated by the names of the jeans and due to the tall, frighteningly thin models used in their online promotion. While there is individual variation, biologically speaking, women were not and are not constructed to have rail-thin bodies. However, popular culture, in particular the media, has deemed that “thin is in” regardless of whether it is healthy or not. This standard is the fuel for a wide array of fad diets and misleading nutrition advice.  Consumers are always looking for the best new diet that will get them looking like a supermodel in less than three weeks.

J. Crew is trying to convey the message that thin, be it toothpick-thin or matchstick-thin, is beautiful. When I saw the jeans in store, I was initially put off by the names only to become further repulsed once I saw how they were modeled online. In no way does this convince me that I need to purchase a pair of these pants or that I should strive to obtain “beautiful” toothpick-thin hips and legs. I do not regularly shop at J. Crew, and after seeing how these denim lines were named, I turned around and walked out the door. I do not care to support a company that reinforces the “thin” standard in both name and picture. We, as a culture, are highly influenced by media and advertising. This is especially true with impressionable adolescents and teenagers. They see these models and are lead to believe that in order to be popular, have friends, and look good, they should look just like these models. Advertising, such as that used by J. Crew, is not socially responsible because it not only leaves the initial impression that beauty necessitates thinness, it also perpetuates the desire to achieve an unrealistic appearance out of fear of being seen as fat or unstylish. We should be encouraging women and young girls (and for that matter, men) that they should love their bodies, for whatever shape or size they are, because everyone is unique. I would encourage J. Crew along with other companies to reconsider not only how they name their product lines to avoid insinuating the necessity for a particular body shape but also to use models with a wide variety of body shapes and sizes, because we are beautiful for who we are.

From: J. Crew