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Abercrombie & Fitch ad that is raising eyebrows. GAY OVERTONES SEEN IN ABERCROMBIE ADS THE DUKE'S DESCENDANTS STAR IN 8-PAGER SHOT BY BRUCE WEBER

By Published on .

A series of ads for Abercrombie & Fitch, one featuring the son and grandson of actor John Wayne, are drawing attention for presenting the models in ways interpreted by some as a portrayal of a gay relationship.

The eight-page ad, featuring b&w photos of Patrick and Anthony Wayne in various playful and intimate poses aboard a boat, appears in the September issue of Vanity Fair. It's part of a campaign whose other executions are running in the gay magazine Out and feature beefy, shirtless men.

All of the ads were shot by fashion photographer Bruce Weber, known for his male nudes.

`NORMAN ROCKWELL AMERICA'

"It's sexy and romantic in a funny way," said former Calvin Klein creative executive Sam Shahid, president of Shahid & Co., New York, creator of the ads. "I've heard that people thought it looked like they were a couple, but it was never meant to be that way. The campaign is very Norman Rockwell America, using American icons."

Dave Mulryan, president of gay agency Mulryan/Nash, New York, said of the Waynes ad, "People are talking about it and noticing it. For something to stand out in [Vanity Fair], the creative people have done their job."

Mr. Mulryan pointed to a growing trend of the appearance of father-son relationships in advertising, including actor Blair Underwood and his dad in Timberland Co. ads, created in-house.

GAY-SPECIFIC CREATIVE

While Abercrombie is the latest fashion brand making its way into the gay press with creative that doesn't appear in mainstream media, Mr. Shahid said an Out execution of two men lying next to each other-one revealing his underwear-was not intended to imply a particular sexuality. "It's about camaraderie between men. They're buddies," he said.

Nonetheless, such ads coming from a brand that used to be more staid and reserved has turned some heads.

"Tradition is moving on, and we're very aware of ourselves physically now," Mr. Shahid said. "When I grew up, guys didn't take their shirts off outside while playing football."

Abercrombie, now a unit of The Limited, has been undergoing a rapid expansion recently and plans to go public by this winter. Abercrombie went from 67 stores in 1994 to its current 114 and plans another 15 by year end.

The brand, with a 42% sales increase in 1995 to $235 million, received under $1 million in media support in 1995, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

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