American Apparel, the fashion brand known for producing racy posters featuring waif-like models in provocative poses, has come out with a new, head-turning ad. But instead of the usual scantily clad girl, it shows a fully-clothed Satmar Jew.
Yoel Weisshaus, 32, is a Yiddish-speaking college student who grew up in an Orthodox community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The American Apparel ads show him posing playfully in tight-fitting, black trousers and a white shirt. The yarmulke and shtreiml are the model’s own.
“They wanted to add a bit of decoration so I brought a cheap shtreiml along to the photo shoot,” said Mr Weisshaus. He added that American Apparel hired him in order to show that they embrace diversity and because they want to attract business from Orthodox clients, although he is not one of them.
“I never wear their stuff, I can’t afford it,” he said.
The store describes Mr Weisshaus as a “peasant with chutzpah” but as far as his decision to pose for American Apparel goes, he said it was not a big deal. “The goyishe press doesn’t care about it, only Jewish reports seem to think it’s something sensational. As for my own family, they are very supportive. My grandmother told me to do it and said that if anyone has a problem with it, they can call her.”
Mr Weisshaus is used to the limelight. A lawsuit he filed against the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey received widespread attention in 2011. He felt the Port Authority’s toll hike at the time violated his constitutional right to freedom of movement. However, he cannot afford an attorney so the case is pending.
As for American Apparel, this is not the first time the brand has taken inspiration from Orthodox Jews. Earlier this year, it named a black shade in its nail polish line “Hassid”.