Lands’ End Handles Topless GQ Cover Controversy with Class

Lands' End recently learned the hard way that not everyone loves getting free stuff in the mail when conservative customers were none too pleased with the GQ cover they recently received as a complimentary thank-you gift from the company.

The free magazine was part of a deal Lands' End struck with Condé Nast to provide select customers with copies of magazines highlighting fashion and lifestyle topics. In the past, customers have received free issues of Self, Vogue, and Glamour.

The GQ cover features model Emily Ratajkowski topless on a beach, covered in sand with a flower lei strategically covering her nipples. Ratajkowski is a model and dancer best known for her appearance in Robin Thicke's controversial "Blurred Lines" music video. There are two versions of the video, with the racier version featuring Ratajkowski dancing topless. The topless video was briefly banned from YouTube in response to complaints about it violating the site's terms of service.

Shortly after the magazines with the Ratajkowski GQ cover started arriving, customers began flooding the Lands' End Facebook page with angry comments.

"My 14-year-old son brought in the mail today & was quite disturbed & fascinated by a 'gift' Lands' End sent us — a copy of GQ magazine with an absolutely OBSCENE cover!!! I am appalled that Lands' End — which I have always thought of as a 'wholesome,' family-oriented company — would be the one to expose my son to pornography."

"Shame on you Lands' End. Sending pornography to your shoppers and clients."

"I'm pretty disgusted about the 'free gift' for men you've been sending out. I'll be boycotting Lands' End until I have reasonable belief the magazine is under control."

GQ (formerly known as Gentleman's Quarterly) covers fashion, style, culture, sports, fitness, sex, travel, food, movies, music, technology, and books. Although GQ covers do occasionally feature beautiful women in skimpy outfits, the magazine has also ran covers featuring Ben Affleck, Andre Agassi, Troy Aikman, Woody Allen, Tom Brady, and Nicholas Cage.

GQ is not widely considered pornographic in nature, although one must question the wisdom of sending a magazine targeting metrosexual men with an excess of disposable income to customers of a company best known for peddling school uniforms for children and cardigans for women to wear to their next church social. Even if the customers had received an issue of GQ with a less suggestive cover, the magazine itself is a poor fit for the Lands' End market.

In response to the controversy surrounding the GQ cover, Land's End has issued a formal apology from the company CEO and taken the time to individually address many of the customers posting complaints via social media. An announcement has also been made that Condé Nast Traveler will be their new pick for the complementary customer magazines. The luxury travel and lifestyle magazine is the winner of 25 National Magazine Awards and targets a conservative, upper-income demographic that seems to be a much better fit with the Lands' End customer base.

[Photo courtesy of GQ]