How Michael Jordan's Hitler Moustache Boosted Sales at Hanes

Until recently, no one paid any attention to Michael Jordan's commercials for Hanes, but the underwear company may have stumbled onto a way to reverse that: In Jordan's new ads he's wearing a Hitler moustache. Jordan's facial hair is actually irrelevant to the action in the spots. (They all revolve around Jordan being accosted by annoying members of the public who are preternaturally enthusiastic about Hanes' underwear.) But it's unbelievably distracting.

Jordan camouflages the moustache to a small extent with a corresponding "soul patch" under his bottom lip. But the lip-beard appears to be exactly that: a beard, trying to disguise its Teutonic neighbor upstairs.

I'm not the only person who's done a double-take at the commercials. Ashton Kutcher, Jay Mohr and Charles Barkley have all called him out on it. Type the words "Michael Jordan ..." into Google and one of the searches it offers automatically is "Michael Jordan Hitler moustache." And there's no way 101,000 people who have taken the trouble to view one of the ads on YouTube if consumers weren't thinking, "That's surely not a Hitler moustache on Michael Jordan, is it?" The 'tache is its own phenomenon.

Vanity Fair writer Richard Cohen once spent time growing a Hitler moustache, and found it's impossible to wear one without causing a scene:

In the street, some people looked at me, but most looked away. A few people said things after I passed. One man gave me a kind of Heil, but it was lackadaisical, and I am fairly certain he was being ironic. ... But it turns out, when you shave like Hitler, you follow the same rule you follow with bees: They're more scared of you than you are of them. Because either you really are Hitler, or you're a nut.
Which is all good news for Hanes, of course. HanesBrands' (HBI) Q2 sales are up. So there's your business lesson: Want to sell boxers and T-shirts? Hitler moustache.

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