Unintentionally Gay Ads-Does He or Doesn’t He?

Gay Johnnie Walker ad illustration

Oh Johnnie, Oh! Vintage Johnnie Walker Ad 1951

How’s your mid-century gaydar?

Fans are buzzing about the Mad Men moment when mystery man Bob Benson slyly touched his knee against sourpuss Petes, setting tongues wagging about Bob’s possible homosexuality.

Whether or not Bob’s 1968 unrefined gaydar was accurate is another question. But it’s about time someone came out of their Madison Avenue closet.

Unintentionally Gay Ads

homoerotic vintage illustration ad 1940s

Wilson Wear no-belt pajamas WWII ad 1944 “Stays up without pressure….or hands”

The real Mad Men of mid-century Madison Avenue produced some pretty homoerotic ads, albeit in a mid-century repressed manner.

Take these unintentionally gay ads that ran in major magazines from the 1940s through the late 1950s , featuring men frolicking in underwear in their bedrooms, cruising locker rooms, or ogling one another by the pool.

gay illustration fashion ad 1940s

Cruising the locker room at the beach. Vintage Celanese Fabrics Ad 1946

 Mens fashion homoerotic llustration 1940s

Cruising the locker room. Vintage ad Jayson Sportswear

Boxers, bedrooms and pajamas were a natural setting for a romp among “roomates

homoerotic illustration 2 men 1940s

Roomates? Vintage Ad -Wilson Wear pajamas and shorts 1944

mens fashion illustration pajamas

Who doesn’t discuss travel plans in pjs with your best bud? Vintage Ad Reliance Pajamas 1943

vintage illustration men in underwear ad

Good natures hi jinxs in boxers. Vintage Reliance boxer shorts 1946

vintage ad coffee men in aprons 1940s

Oh, you Dick! Vintage ad A&P Eight O’clock Coffee 1940


men and women drinking coffee 1940s

Jack comes out to the gang. Vintage Ad A&P Eight O’Clock Coffee

I Was Bi-Curious

One of the most famous homo-erotic advertising campaign was put out by the beer that made Milwaukee famous Schlitz Beer with their series “I Was curious.”

Whether the theme was lake side picnic, ski lodge or a visit among friends, by the third panel in all these ads there is nary a woman to be found.

illustration I was curious beer ad

Vintage Ad Schlitz Beer 1946 I was Curious

beer schlitz ad illustration men gay themed

Vintage Ad Schlitz Beer 1948 “I Was Curious”

No one was safe..even in the suburbs

vintage beer ad illustration men in suburbs I was curious ad

Vintage Ad Schlitz Beer 1948 “I Was Curious”

beer shlitz ad I was curious illustration

I was curious …ho.. ho… ho! Vintage Ad Schlitz Beer 1949 “I was Curious”

Ski Lodges were a favorite meeting place

illustration ski lodge Beer Ad I was Curious Schlitz Beer Ad

Vintage Ad Schlitz Beer 1949 “I was Curious”

illustration men skiers 1950

Vintage Ad Schlitz Beer 1950 “I was Curious”

Does your gaydar go off viewing these ads?

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  1. With some of them it’s even hard seeing them targeted at heterosexual men. Some look completely gay. I mean why would three men be in their underwear in a bedroom. Uhm, hello? But it’s funny looking into the ‘encrypted’ (althought some are hardly) messages of the mid-twenties.

    Liked by 1 person

    • As more brands are now targeting gay audiences there will be less “coding” as the walls of the corporate closet are falling one by one. Movies have long been filled with gay subtext. Long before his son Michael camped it up as Liberace, Kirk Douglas starred in one of the all time classic gay subtext movies-Spartacus. I suppose one could watch with a straight face as Tony Curtis as a half naked slave gives Laurence Olivier a sponge bath!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Homer

    Isn’t it homophobic to think that two COMPLETELY STRAIGHT males can’t be in their underwear in the same room??? It makes sense if they’re roommates. I think it’s too bad that everyone thinks anything where two guys show even the smallest amount of friendship is gay.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Marketers have long used ambiguity as a way to tap the gay audience without alienating others. The term in adverting circles is “gay vague” -ads in mainstream media with subtle gay context that heterosexuals tend not to register and steer clear of any backlash.
    Nowadays advertising and marketers are moving beyond “gay vague” to specific gay imagery even as they aim at the wider gay supportive audience.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Abercrombie & Fitch made a fortune out of “gay vague” (and still does!) with Bruce Weber’s photography which in itself is a textbook copy of Leni Riefenstahl’s movies for the record.

    Liked by 1 person

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