Willie Nelson for John Varvatos Fall 2013 Ad Campaign

Posted on July 10, 2013

At first we were all, “Willie Nelson? For John ‘sunglasses indoors and a pinkie ring’ Varvatos?” But the results speak for themselves:


Willie Nelson appears in the John Varvatos Fall 2013 ad campaign with his sons Lukas Nelson, 24, and Micah Nelson, 23, who are also musicians; shot in Des Moines, in the historic Salisbury House museum, by photographer Danny Clinch.

He may not be a fashion icon but that is a FACE. And a face worth photographing.

The PR-speak:

“In all the iconic music ad campaigns we have shot over the last eight years, I have never been so moved as I was working with Willie Nelson and his sons. Willie is a true American icon, and it runs deep in the bloodline,” says John Varvatos.

Varvatos’ aesthetic is very masculine-focused or from the point of view of the male, so this campaign works very well on that level. It’s oddly touching and paternal, even as it sells expensive sunglasses to us.






[Photo/Video Credit: John Varvatos]

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  • Mismarker

    HO.LEE.SHIT. Work it, Willie.

  • Diego!

    Amazing campaign!!! I loved it! All of them look amazing and Willie’s shot with the sunglasses is award worthy!

  • Pennymac

    I believe this is the most awesome campaign I’ve seen in a while. Willie has a spirit that is proudly individual. His sons are quite attractive, as well.

    • Lucía Gavello

      It’s got loads of personality, which I love. His face is amazing and his sons are very handsome, they are wearing the hell out of those suits too.

    • NC_Meg

      I was wondering who their mother is because wow, I did not expect Willie Nelson’s sons to look like that. (Nothing against Willie but again…wow.)

  • gabbilevy

    Well, helLO there, Nelson boys men!

  • laurabk

    They shot this in Des Moines’ Salisbury House – my love for TLo, my hometown, and Willie have suddenly crashed into one another!

    • Mismarker

      Hahaha! My thoughts, exactly!

  • homofascist

    The “Willie Nelson First Aid” coffee mug with the marijuana leaf – I NEED that! This is awesome…

  • frannyprof

    Dayum! You should post this again on Sausage Friday. And every Sausage Friday after that forever and ever amen.

    • makeityourself

      Props to my man Randy Travis.

      • frannyprof

        I’ve had that song stuck in my head all afternoon… Poor Randy T.

  • Ashleigh


  • max mustermann

    Every time I see his name pop up somewhere I wonder, Willie? Here? And then of course, Willie! There’s nowhere this man doesn’t fit in.

  • decormaven

    Smart move by the John V group. Wilie is an icon; glad he’s getting his due.

  • Nonmercisansfacon

    In the words of Donna Meagle, “They can all get it”!

  • TSkot

    icon. legend. one of a kind.

  • random_poster

    Whomever came up with the idea of featuring these three together deserves a bonus. It’s fantastic. Never in my life would I have thought of Willie Nelson being the face of a sunglasses ad.

  • alyce1213

    This beautiful campaign makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

  • MilaXX

    The glasses are just “meh” but the ad really works.

    • Alexandra Pimenta

      Actually, I kinda love the style on the first picture. There’s a very vintage feel to it that I’ve been looking for, for quite a while. Well, I probably couldn’t afford it, but I still find it nice and cool. Lol.

  • zenobar


  • Brilliant. Is all that I can say.

  • LaSylphide

    Willie is proof you don’t have to be jazz musician to be cool.

  • Jennifer Bober

    The black and white was the perfect choice here. Wow!! Totally impressed. That first shot is absolutely spectacular.

  • formerlyAnon

    I am not surprised. Decades back when he was just coming on the scene in Texas he showed a lot of business sense (including linking up with beer distributors.)

    The black & white is very effective. Possibly that is what we should all move to when pink scarves over the light fixtures are no longer enough.

  • Anathema_Device

    Wow. Those are arresting photos. Love this so much. What a brilliant move–both for Varvatos and Nelson.

  • HeatherMcIlrath

    I want to marry a Nelson son.

  • quiltrx

    I ADORE Willie Nelson! Singing with feeling the way he does is rare these days. He’s a treasure, he looks like the most elegant version of himself, and this is a very cool campaign. I’d be willing to bet it will sell some of these $$ sunglasses to those who didn’t know they wanted them until now.

  • Adrianna Grężak

    I love that the sons were involved. I can imagine some jaded responses, but this is very beautiful compared to the usual sexualized editorials we see.

    • marlie

      Instead of “Sex, Sex, SEX,” this campaign gives us “family and legacy and music that speaks to your soul.” LOVE.

      • oohsparkley!

        I happen to think Willie Nelson is SEXY.

        • marlie

          He may be sexy, but the ad doesn’t throw sex (in a more literal sense) in your face, a la scantily-clad models, lots of skin, “intimate” poses, etc.

          • oohsparkley!

            I knew what you meant. I just took the opportunity to declare my & my loins’ love for his authenticity.

  • Jacqueline Wessel

    The reflections on the lens of the sunglasses are a nice detail. They show you what the eyes behind the glasses are looking at and they visually break up the blackness of the lens. Plus they are the smallest shapes in the composition and create a strong black/white contrast which helps the viewer really see the glasses which are what they’re selling. Nice.

  • Alexandra Pimenta

    Advertising has become so formulaic, that it’s quite hard to shake it off the cynicism and get a real feeling of wonder. This is a true gem.

  • MemHey

    Well done, you!

  • marlie

    He looks great. I love how the photographer embraced the wrinkles on his face; you can tell that he has some interesting stories to tell from his lifetime.

  • sk8tfan

    My first thought was “Willie Nelson, sunglasses? There’s a reason they haven’t done that before.” My second thought was “Willie Nelson, sunglasses! Why haven’t they done that before?”

  • travelingcat

    Willie! Love these. Wow, Carmen in all her fabulousity yesterday and Willie owning it today. Thank you TLo for sharing.

  • ankali

    A little weird to see him hawking sunglasses, but as my husband says, “Weed’s not free.”

    He really does look great, though. Awesome photos.

  • TLJezebel

    So sorry, but I am not familiar with Mr. Varvatos, I don’t care. i love these pics. I will buy everything. Mr.Clinch is a genius!

  • WittyCism

    Loved it!

  • mmebam

    Welp, time for me to scrape together all my pennies and buy some shades for mbam.

    Varatos 1, mmebam 0

  • Nicole Little

    LOVE the video. He really is the genuine article, isn’t he?

  • KayEmWhy

    Love it! WERQ!

  • ashtangajunkie

    Brilliant. I absolutely love this, especially that first shot.

  • Michelle Wilson

    My first concert experience was a Willie Nelson outdoor show in the late 70’s. I was just a kid dragged there by my mother and grandmother but the topless women swinging their bandana’s up front and the good ole’ boys trying to pass my grandmother a roach clip left lasting impressions on me, as did hearing The Red Headed Stranger from start to finish most Sunday mornings for several years during that same time. I don’t remember a time when Willie wasn’t part of my life and I love how he continues to embody Americana and sweet, sweet rebellion.

    • meowing

      Hey, we might have been at the same concerts! However, I was more your Mom’s age, probably. He’s a treasure.

  • Lisa M. (ReVoir) Kramp

    I wish all ad campaign were this classy.

  • hmariec19

    This is just too fantastic for words.

  • Much living in his face and hair. I commend John Varvatos for this campaign.

    • MoHub

      John Varvatos is a very wise man.

  • appliquer

    Awesome video!

  • MoHub

    Willie can do no wrong in my book.

  • DTLAFamilies

    When I first saw this I thought, wow, Willie really holds his own with those models, and then I read the caption. Willie produces gorgeous boys (no doubt with help from gorgeous women).

  • Jaeda Laurez

    Great photos- they’ve got character and life behind them.

  • crash1212

    Great face. Fine looking family.

  • Danielle L


  • CurbGirl

    Thanks TLo for posting this breath of fresh air!

  • NoveltyRocker

    That non-logo is dragging this down. Nice photos though.

  • Hildegerd Haugen

    Wow, the man still got it.

  • Just Me

    These photos look like the print ad for a tv show I would watch the HELL out of, for real. Dad and sons take on all comers in the wild west or big city that just seems like the wild west.

  • akprincess72

    Totally unexpected & totally awesome.

  • Silly Grrl

    I saw Iggy Pop in a Varvatos special edition of some car. Crazy stuff, but I like his choices!

  • lesmaha


  • Kawena

    Wow. I rarely watch the videos of these shoots, but I am very glad I watched this one. That scarred guitar is amazing, and it took me a couple of seconds to see Willie was actually playing it. Plus, the shot of his hands was beautiful.

  • PeaceBang

    DANG, that is the essence of total cool. I want a framed copy. Absolutely fantastic campaign. The shoes! The room! The chairs! The MENS!

  • lilyvonschtupp

    Willie, my man. The only person allowed to smoke weed in Texas!