Shirtless and oiled up, Pita Taufatofua — Tonga’s first athlete to compete in the Olympics — made an entrance that went viral at the 2016 Rio Games Opening Ceremony.
The martial artist became a social media star overnight when he waved his country’s flag wearing only a ta’ovala — a traditional skirt of the Polynesian sovereign state — and a pair of simple black flip-flops.
Now, he’s been tapped as the model for Pair of Thieves’ underwear and socks campaign that rolled out this month.
The athlete appears in the basics brand’s “chores in drawers” campaign that was shot at co-founder Cash Warren’s home in Los Angeles. Taufatofua wears the label’s wares while completing real-life errands around the home Warren shares with his wife, Jessica Alba, and their two daughters.
“I said, ‘You’re always portrayed as a hunky badass with jujitsu,’ but I thought it would be fun to redefine masculinity,” Warren recalled of the concept during a meeting with Taufatofua. “We do chores and housework. We had him come to my house and had him fold laundry, dust and do dishes and all that stuff.”
When Taufatofua made his big impression in Rio, Warren took notice. Warren said he met Taufatofua in L.A. after the Olympics, and they remained in touch. “I thought what everyone else did – who is that beast of a specimen? There was something charming and endearing. You could tell he was living his dream at this moment and you rooted for him,” Warren said.
In the campaign Taufatofua wears the blackout/whiteout sock collection, which helps supply homeless people with socks. For every pack purchased, Pair of Thieves donates three pairs.
“Socks are the most requested item at shelters across the country,” Warren said. “People don’t feel like donating socks because they don’t feel it’s of value. But it’s something we want to support, and this year we will donate probably over a million new socks across the country.”
The collection is available for $20 on Pairofthieves.com.