The Changing Face Of The Male Model

In this weekend’s Sunday Styles, Guy Trebay investigates the evolving look of that enigmatic creature known as the male model. We’ve long held the belief that male models, well, looked a lot like female models. For as long as we can remember, designers have opted to use young, skinny boys in their shows and campaigns — and while we love a little adrogyny, it’s nice to see some variety come into play.

Trebay is not so kind in his treatment of the look he deems “skinny skate-rat,” calling a “jailbait” model who conforms to that aesthetic “a juvenile with pipe-cleaner proportions.” Of course, the man responsible for the ubiquitous male model look was none other than Dior‘s Hedi Slimane. But it appears as though many are growing tired of the pubescent look, and are starting to redefine the fashion world’s masculine ideal:

“The twink thing seems over,” said Jim Nelson, the editor of GQ. “When people open GQ, I don’t want them to feel like they’re looking at clothes on 16-year-olds.” It is not merely a matter of body type, Mr. Nelson noted. “When we cast, we want a model with some heft to him and a few years on him,” he said. “Someone who has aged a little bit and who feels like he’s a man.”

So why is the change happening now? Because of the economy!

“Men have always been defined by their jobs — always,” said Joe Levy, the editor in chief of Maxim. When the economy was flush, consumers were content to indulge designer subversions of age and gender expectations, he added. That was before the recession lodged in the landscape like an errant iceberg taking its own time to thaw. “Suddenly the notion of having a job or a career is in doubt,” Mr. Levy said. “So you fall back on old notions of what it meant to be a man or to look like one.”

This argument actually makes a lot of sense (and reminds us of this thing we learned in Psych 101 about the correlation between beauty ideals and the economy). And it’s not just publications like GQ and Maxim who are feeling this trend. High fashion is taking note, as evidenced by V Man‘s latest cover featuring a weathered Josh Brolin. Says V Man editor Stephan Gan:

“As soon as I got [to Paris], Carine handed me her new issue,” Mr. Gan added, referring to Carine Roitfeld, the taste-setting editor of French Vogue and Vogue Hommes International. The theme of her latest men’s-wear issue, whose cover features Matt Norklun, a star model of the ’80s, is titled, appropriately, “The Prime of Life.”

This new manly renaissance harkens back to the look of Jeff Aquilon, considered to be the first male supermodel. Trebay certainly digs his look, as does Jason Kanner, the president of the men’s division of Major Model Management.

Any sane man, of course, would be ecstatic to see Mr. Aquilon’s features reflected when he gazed into the glass. Yet for a long time, Mr. Kanner said, models of that type were out of favor with a business that sought beauty instead in a goofy-looking androgynous version of Peter Pan. “I’m a big believer that classic beauty never dies,” Mr. Kanner added, although until recently his was a minority voice.

“For a long time it was just those skinny guys, those boyish Prada types,” he said, referring to men like Cole Mohr — a model with jug ears and the body of a teenager — long a favorite at labels like Prada and Louis Vuitton. “I hate to use the word waif, but what else can you call all these skinny young hairless guys?”

And because everything makes more sense with visuals, check out our handy slideshow below!

[via NYT]

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