With just one billboard, Calvin Klein Underwear changed it all. Their 1983 Time Square ad featuring Olympic athlete Tom Hintnaus revolutionized how the male physique would be seen and celebrated in mainstream advertising. The unapologetically virile image of the bronzed pole vaulter leaning against a stark white background in snug briefs struck the nation like lightening. Countless copies made their way from magazines to bedroom walls and cubicles across the country. Yet the brazenly sexy photos, shot by Bruce Weber, also sparked a storm of controversy which in turn ignited global interest in Hintnaus. In the thirty years since that first campaign, Calvin Klein Underwear ads have been instrumental in the careers of folks like Mark Wahlberg, Antonio Sabato Jr., Joel West and Michael Bergin.
Today, a stylish shot of a hot guy in cool briefs may not electrify a nation, but for the man who lands the gig it can still make a career. But it's not fame, but gratitude that occupies the star of Calvin Klein Underwear's latest campaign. Unlike those of years past this one is neither noted athlete or buzz worthy actor, but a quiet boy from a small town called Matthew Terry.
"I'm just very thankful that I'm in the position that I'm in now."
The striking Pennsylvania native started modeling just a few months ago and was recently selected as the face for Calvin Klein Underwear's new 'Bold' collection. Yet what he lacks in experience he makes up in looks. With thick dark hair, a handsome chiseled face and a perfectly sculpted body, anyone would expect him to be exactly where he's landed: posing effortlessly in Calvin Klein campaigns and strutting in the brand's catwalk shows in Milan.
Except for Terry himself.
"I actually didn't even know what the castings were for until I found out that I was picked," Terry breathlessly explains. "I got a call from my agent and he told me that it looks like I would be going to California to do a Calvin Klein Underwear campaign and I was just speechless. I didn't know what to say and didn't believe it until I was on the plane."
It had to be surreal. To date, the family-oriented boy had low key aspirations. As he tells it, up until last summer he spent his time working a list of odd jobs.
"I worked in construction -- ripping out kitchens and bathrooms, and delivering huge cabinets to houses. In the summer of 2011, I worked at a grocery store stocking dairy."
If no one else noticed his extraordinary looks hiding in plain sight, his mother did -- and decided to do something about it. Last summer she signed him up for VMan/Ford Models annual modeling contest -- and didn't tell Terry until he'd won.
"I started yelling and jumping on my bed. I really couldn't believe that I had actually won. It was a crazy moment and I just couldn't believe it."
But his surreal life was only just beginning. The win landed him, and fellow winner, Clark Cord, on the September 2011 cover of VMan in a multi-page spread styled by Nicola Formichetti. The cover caught the attention of the in-house creative team at Calvin Klein Underwear, which was prepping a campaign to highlight the Bold collection.
"If you look at Calvin Klein Underwear's portfolio over the past 30 years," explains Bob Mazzoli, chief creative officer of Calvin Klein Underwear. "you would observe that our product and the models we feature consistently represent an evolving masculine ideal. Our in-house creative studio does a fantastic job of identifying the right talent and photographer to really bring the product to life with memorable campaigns."
It's this philosophy that set the tone for Terry's selection.
"Matthew's energy, attitude and physicality are perfectly suited for this line," explains Mazzoli. "He was a natural on set. Like the models who have come before him, he brought something unique to the campaign."
Audiences agree. Since the debut, the ads and behind the scenes video -- featuring Terry in bright colored briefs -- has attracted buzz online. It's also led to several editorial spreads, including a recent one for Vogue Homme Japan. From travels to photo shoots, the small town boy still seems in awe of his new international lifestyle. As he shares some of the most surreal moments with me, he hones in on the most fulfilling one: seeing himself, alongside model Lara Stone, immortalized in an over-sized Calvin Klein billboard in Manhattan.
"When I saw it and realized that it was me, I just couldn't believe what I was seeing. I never thought that this could happen," he says. "I still to this day can't believe it."
He will have to. The Calvin Klein billboard which has broken taboos, elevated the brand, and sparked the careers of Hintnaus, Wahlberg and Bergen before him -- is about to change it all for him too.