The Infamous Superman “Sex” Cover!


We’ve always prided ourselves on being a fairly wholesome, All-American type company. Quality, honesty, good service, Mom, apple pie, cheese curds and suchlike.

So imagine our surprise when we unintentionally stirred up a sexual hornet’s nest in 1996.

It all started when we came out with a tribute to the Super-T Shirt in our April 1996 catalog, with a cover taking off on the famous Superman movie poster.

“Quick, Find a Phone Booth!” we urged our customers, so they could order one of our limited-edition, Superman emblem Super-T’s. We even had the guys at DC Comics do an original comic strip, weaving our Super-T into a short adventure featuring the heroic Man of Steel.


(Not to toot our own horn, but it was the kind of fun, unexpected approach no one had done before or since in a catalog. We can say that kind of thing, since it’s our anniversary year.)

Anyway, the catalog was a smash, and we sold the heck out of those Superman t-shirts.

But then we started getting some very strange letters and phone calls.

“There is a subliminal message on your cover, and it is SEX!” asserted a customer from Nebraska.

Several other customers from different parts of the country said the same thing – Lands’ End was promoting sex on its catalog cover.

Now, how did these customers come to the conclusion that our Superman cover was promoting sex? We’ll let you take a look, and see if you can figure it out. Take your time – we’ll go grab a cup of coffee, because writing stories like this can be extremely taxing.

Okay, we’re back. Got it yet? We didn’t think you would. We’ll take you through it, step by step.


The S is the S in the Superman emblem. That’s the easy part.

The E is backwards – it’s the lines between the fingers of our cover model’s right hand.

And the X is those veins next to his ring finger.


That makes S-E-X, right there on our cover.

We know what you’re thinking: “You gotta’ be kidding!” Or maybe,

“Some people have way too much spare time!” But that’s where the Superman “Sex” cover incident originated.

It still gives us a chuckle, thinking about it. But it also reminds us how carefully people read our catalogs, and look at our website. So we do our best to craft everything as meticulously and considerately as we can. And we’re always interested in what our customers have to say, even if what they say takes us completely by surprise.

By the way, we don’t believe in subliminal messages. We believe in pretty straightforward ones. It’s a Midwestern thing.

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