Tom Hintnaus thought he would be remembered for being an Olympic pole vaulter, but it was a traffic-stopping billboard wearing nothing but a pair Calvin Klein briefs that really secured his place in history.
It was a sunny day in Santorini when I got to photograph the great @tomhintnaus for the 1982 @calvinklein campaign. I'm so grateful for the friendship that developed between Calvin and I on that shoot. A friendship like that you don't find too often these days. And I was so happy to share the experience with my talented friends #zackcarr, @juliebritt371 and @didiermalige. A big congratulations on the #calvinkleinbook!
The tantalizing billboard, which put the focus on his bulge, caused a firestorm of controversy when it went up in Times Square in 1982. It was part of the first wave of advertising sexualizing men the way women had been for decades: In the years to come, Antonio Sabato Jr. and Marky Mark would follow suit, but Hintnaus was Calvin’s first male underwear muse.
Shot by Bruce Weber on Santorini Island in Greece, the image shows Hintnaus leaning seductively against a white-washed chimney. In addition to the billboard, it appeared in magazines around the world, and American Photographer named it one of the “10 Pictures That Changed America” in 1989.
“One day in 1982 the world awoke to find that sex had changed,” the magazine wrote. “The message was plastered on billboards, bus stops and magazine pages in the form of an anonymous tanned hunk indiscriminately posed wearing briefs of the purest white an ad for Clavin Klein Underwear shot by Bruce Weber. it was the height, the epitome of a sexual liberation primarily for men. In this one shot… Weber made men the focal point of sexual attention. For the first time they were sold as sexual objects not bread winners or authority figures. The real impact lay in the picture’s appeal: women liked it and so did men – gays and heterosexuals alike. Forget John Wayne. In the 1980s we finally found out what comes between a man and his Calvins.”
The image now graces the cover of a new self-titled coffee table book by Klein, featuring photos shot by Weber, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon and Patrick Demarchelier, among others.
Hintnaus, now 59, has kept fit through the years and continues to compete in pole-vaulting since moving with his family to Hawaii.
He’s even hinted he plans to recreate the iconic Weber photos in celebration of his 60th birthday next February.
We hope he does: This former Olympian proves looks can kill at any age.