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Nineties Icons: Herb Ritts & Calvin Klein

With Calvin Klein’s new ‘Modern Classic’ men’s underwear collection dropping this week, we wanted to look back at those vintage “Marky” Mark Wahlberg ads from 1992 (that’s 20 years ago if you do the math), shot by legendary LA photographer Herb Ritts.

Thing is, it’s not physically possible to google ‘Herb Ritts’ without getting distracted, if not totally awestruck, by his full body of work.

A self-taught photographer, Ritts (1952–2002) forged a distinct vision of beauty that came to define the late ’80s and early ’90s—marking an unprecedented crossover between fine art and commerce, and launching the careers of countless, now-iconic models and actors. His style exalted the human form in a mode reminiscent of classical Greek sculpture—and utilized California’s sand, surf, and late-afternoon sun to full effect, lending warmth and softness to his statuesque compositions.

Scroll down for info on the new Calvin Klein underwear we mentioned—but first take a moment to soak up some of our favorite Herb Ritts photos.

Stephanie, Cindy, Christy, Tatjana, Naomi, Hollywood, 1989 (via)
This painterly rendering of the supermodel pantheon was shot on Ritts’ own patio. Christy Turlington (in back) wasn’t initially part of the shot; she stopped by to visit and was coaxed to join.

{Top}: Ritts introduced Cindy Crawford to his longtime friend Richard Gere at a barbecue at his mother’s house. This particular shot appeared on a July 1988 magazine cover. (via)

Madonna, Hollywood, 1986 (via)
A version of this image graced the cover of Madonna’s third album, True Blue.
Ritts was one of the first fashion photographers to transition to music video director, masterminding clips for Madonna and more.

Tony Black Torso, Los Angeles, 1986 (via)

Tatjana Patitz, from the two-book boxed set Men/Women by Herb Ritts, 1989 (via)

Tony in White, Hollywood, 1988 (via)

Versace Veiled Dress, El Mirage, 1990. (via)
That’s Naomi Campbell under there, if you couldn’t tell.

Djimon with Octopus, Hollywood, 1989 (via)
An explicit example of Ritts incorporating nature into his work.
(And of his subjects, like actor/model Djimon Hounsou, being good sports.)

Christy Turlington, Hollywood, 1988 (via)


One of the aforementioned Calvin Klein ads, co-starring Kate Moss, from 1992. (via)
Ritts’ photography has held up better than Wahlberg’s early-’90s slang—but if you insist,
you can view one of the Ritts-directed, Marky-scripted television spots here.

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As for the new ‘Modern Classic’ collection, it’s inspired by the ones Wahlberg wore, but features an updated fit with lower rise and shorter legs (on the boxer briefs). Also available in trunks and briefs—all with the signature ‘Calvin Klein’ logo on the waistband. Shop all men’s underwear (including the new CK collection).

Further Viewing: The Herb Ritts exhibit at LA’s J. Paul Getty Museum has been extended through September 2. And for photography geeks only: Watch a 12-minute mini-documentary on Ritts and his work here.


[Photos by Herb Ritts, ©The Herb Ritts Foundation. Individuals pictured do not endorse Nordstrom.]