There Won’t Be Any More Michael Jordan Hanes Ads, “Hitler Mustache” or Otherwise

The longtime partnership between the clothing company and Hall of Famer reportedly ended in 2021 without fanfare

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - MARCH 03: Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan looks on during their game against the Orlando Magic at Spectrum Center on March 03, 2023 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
Michael Jordan wore a Hitler Mustache for probably just one day — oddly while on the set of multiple Hanes commercials
Photo by Jacob Kupferman / Getty Images

In 2010, the New York Times ran a feature about the latest Hanes commercials featuring longtime pitch man Michael Jordan. What made the ads newsy as far as the Times was concerned was that the underwear company had dropped Charlie Sheen as Jordan’s costar after the actor was arrested a few months earlier for domestic violence.

Sidney Falken, then senior vice president for Hanes, told the Times that by that point in their 21-year partnership Jordan was “like family” to the brand — and by family, I guess we’re talking about the weird uncle who still rocks a Hitler mustache, the way Jordan bizarrely did in those commercials, which went completely unmentioned by the Times.

We won’t have the pleasure of seeing any more Hanes commercials with Michael Jordan, though, with a full or partial brush above his lip. News broke yesterday that the Hanes and Jordan partnership “quietly” ended in 2021.

“Hanes and Jordan teamed up when the apparel brand was part of Chicago-based Sara Lee Corp., and MJ was starring for the Bulls,” wrote Sportico. “Hanes and Jordan were also both products of North Carolina, with the brand founded in Winston-Salem at the turn of the 20th century.”

The endorsement deal helped make Michael Jordan the highest-paid athlete of all time, and by a wide margin. As Sportico noted, there was no formal announcement about the end of the partnership, so the reasons behind it remain a mystery. It definitely didn’t have anything to do with Jordan’s strange facial hair decision, though. The company almost seemed to embrace it. In 2019, Hanes partnered with the Fleer trading card company to launch a set of cards depicting 30 years of Jordan underwear commercials. Incredibly, they printed one of the Hitler stache!

Hanes has struggled financially since parting ways with its so-called family member, Jordan. Sportico reported sales were down 8% in 2022, the first year of its post-Jordan era.

“In February [2023], the stock plummeted 28% when the company announced fourth-quarter earnings and eliminated the quarterly cash dividend,” Sportico wrote. The outlet cites CEO Steve Bratspies, who explained, “We shifted our capital allocation strategy, eliminating the dividend as we commit to reducing debt.”

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Maybe Hanes should try and bring Jordan back into the fold and get him to wear a handlebar mustache.

“The five-time NBA MVP still resonates with audiences two decades after he hung up his high-tops for good,” Sportico wrote. “Jordan’s Q Score of 26 is tied for No. 1 among all athletes, and only Tiger Woods has a higher awareness level in the U.S. than Jordan’s 77%.”

What has a decidedly low Q Score, a consumer appeal rating, is the Hitler mustache, but that wasn’t always the case.

“Historians regularly refer to Hitler’s famous mustache as a ‘toothbrush mustache,’ which was a fashionable form of facial hair in the early 20th century, particularly in Northern Europe,” wrote Slate in 2013, after JCPenney inadvertently sold a tea kettle that bore a resemblance to Der Führer. “The trimmed-down style was a modernist departure from the thick, sweeping whiskers that had been popular in Kaiser Wilhelm II’s Germany.”

In 1908, Slate added, a popular German race car driver wore the toothbrush and a Times article that year said it was “characteristic of his class.” And one pretty famous American also chose the toothbrush: Charlie Chaplin.

That was before Adolf assumed ownership over it though. That new framing didn’t stop Donald Trump’s dad from going with the two-finger, as it’s also called, in the 1950s. But sporting a toothbrush stache anytime after WWII is going to raise eyebrows, as it did 13 years ago when the Hanes ads aired, without Charlie Sheen, but with Jordan and his mustache.

A friend of His Airness, Charles Barkley, told Conan O’Brien at the time that he couldn’t believe Jordan “got away with it” because of the attention to detail paid on commercial film sets.

But as one YouTube user noted underneath one of the Hanes ad posts, “that stash = when you’re at the top of the food chain you can pull off anything.” Sir Charles needed to win a few championships to get that kind of respect.

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