In April 2001, French Connection began branding their clothes "fcuk". Apparently they first discovered the acronym when a fax was sent from their Hong Kong store, entitled "FCHK to FCUK". Though they insisted it was an acronym for French Connection United Kingdom, its similarity to the word "fuck" caused controversy.
French Connection exploited the controversy of the name, producing an extremely popular range of t-shirts with messages such as "fcuk fashion", "fcuk this", "hot as fcuk", "mile high fcuk", "too busy to fcuk", "fcuk football", "lucky fcuk", "Fun Comes Usually Kneeling", "fcuk on the beach", "Cool as fcuk", etc. There were also a number of regionally specific messages, such as "fondle constantly until knackered" (in the UK), "fcuk in hull" ,"no fcukin worries" (in Australia) and "fcuk off". "Chugging the fcuk" and "Munching on fcuk" were popular shirt titles but were later found as inappropriate.
In 2001, during the introduction of French Connection in San Francisco, big banners hung on the front of the newly opened store saying "San Francisco's first fcuk."
French Connection launched a trademark infringement case in the London High Court challenging the owner of "First Consultants UK Ltd", a computer company, over its use of the fcuk acronym. It was proven in the case the Internet Domain fcuk.com was registered prior to French Connection applying for the UK Trademark and its claim for passing off was dismissed. Mr Justice Rattee, refused to grant an injunction, describing French Connection's use of it as "a tasteless and obnoxious campaign."
The company also threatened legal action against the political youth organisation Conservative Future, which had briefly adopted the spoof abbreviation "cfuk" (short for "Conservative Future UK").
Another judge reportedly expelled a potential juror from his courtroom for wearing one of the fcuk range of T-shirts, saying that the "mis-spelt Anglo Saxon word" was a distraction and did not dignify the court proceedings.
Following years of complaints, the UK's Advertising Standards Authority banned a number of advertisements and ordered the company to submit all posters for approval before running them.
The fcuk brand has also been controversial in the United States, with the mayor of Boston, Massachusetts, Thomas Menino telling French Connection to remove their ads from billboards throughout the city, according to the Boston Metro. The American Family Association has urged a boycott of fcuk products.
In February 2006, French Connection launched the Fashion vs Style campaign that replaced the previous fcuk advertising. The first advertisement in the campaign was directed by Duncan Jones, son of David Bowie, and featured girls in the roles of Fashion and Style fighting.
It was reported in the national press that this advert received between 121 and 127 complaints in the first week of being broadcast and may become as controversial as the previous fcuk campaign.