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From the archives: legs, camera, action

24 January 2018

What happened when David Bailey shot an ad for Barclaycard? We look back through the archives to the day a Barclays marketing man with “the most ugly looking” legs in the room became a model for the legendary fashion photographer.

“Actually, my legs appeared in an advertisement once” are not the sort of words you expect to hear from a member of the Barclaycard marketing team – but John Lawson said just that in a 2001 interview looking back on his career.

In 1969, John found himself on a shoot for a Barclaycard print advert with legendary British fashion photographer David Bailey. “David wasn’t that famous then, he was just an up and coming photographer the agency was using,” said John.

We had this super, hunky model and they told him to strip off. David simply looked at his legs, and said: ‘Sorry, it's not going to work. This guy hasn't got the legs of the average man in the street. We want a more normal pair of legs.

John Lawson on the David Bailey photoshoot 

John, a Senior Marketing Manager who had joined the bank in 1954, was on site to ensure everything ran smoothly and that the creative aims were fulfilled. “It was my responsibility to make sure that it all went to plan – because once you’ve done it, you can’t do it again.” 

The idea for the advert – to be used in newspapers – was to feature an unknown man’s bare legs, with the line: “Know the easiest way to make your legs more attractive? Wrap them in trousers you’ve bought with your Barclaycard.” 

In the interview for a Barclays oral history project ten years after John’s retirement, he remembered: “We had this super, hunky model and they told him to strip off. David simply looked at his legs, and said: ‘Sorry, it's not going to work. This guy hasn't got the legs of the average man in the street. We want a more normal pair of legs.’” 

This instigated a frantic search of the set for more “normal” legs, with several of the photography assistants and agency professionals, including John, baring their own. After some back and forth it was decided that John was the most appropriate candidate. And so continued one of the strangest days of his career at Barclays.

Looking back, John laughed that he must have had “the most ugly looking” pair of legs in the room.

The experience didn’t end there. “The most embarrassing thing I had,” said John, who died in 2009, “was sitting on the train going to work when I noticed someone sitting opposite was reading a colour supplement from the Sunday newspaper – looking at this advert of my legs!

“So there we are, as a member of the team you get involved in all sorts of things.”