What does “the perfect man” look like now?
What does “the perfect man” look like now?
(Image credit: Getty Images)
From plus size to silver fox, the accepted ideal of male beauty is constantly evolving. Myra Ali explores the world of the very, very beautiful.
What makes a man handsome – or handsome? For the past few decades, the most famous icons of Western male beauty have been a rather small cohort – one thinks of blue-eyed stars of the big screen like Brad Pitt or Leonardo DiCaprio. But the idea of what the “perfect” man looks like is evolving as the worlds of film and fashion embrace greater diversity and the importance of representation is understood by global brands.
More like this:
– The fluid gender look fans love
– The ultimate Indian fashion statement?
– The Gen Z and Millennials style battle
Around the world, the idealized standard of the sculpted male form has rarely reflected the body of the average man. However, social media apps like TikTok are helping to change the standards of male beauty by featuring men who previously wouldn’t have had a platform. British model, body positive activist and TikTok star Ben james changes the way we think about taller men. In 2019, as a plus-size model, he participated in an advertising campaign for clothing brand Simply Be, appearing alongside other miscellaneous models, and worked with Ted Baker and Asos. James tells BBC Cuture that his work “gives comfort and confidence to boys and men alike, he tells them that they are wanted and worth it”.
While plus size female stars such as Lizzo and model Ashley Graham have been widely celebrated, their male counterparts have been less in the limelight. However, recently Rihanna’s lingerie brand Savage Fenty has helped standardize and provide a platform for taller men. Is this the sign of a growing democratization of male beauty? As Ben James says, “I would like the industry to improve by using different body shapes in new ways. Why can’t we have a “father’s body” in a fragrance campaign, or a lead role in a movie? The focus needs to be shifted from those unnatural-obtained physics that even the actors themselves cannot support.
K-Pop group BTS embody a new softer take on male beauty that’s popular with Gen Z (Credit: Getty Images)
University of Edinburgh anthropology professor Alexander Edmonds told BBC Culture: “Due to the legacy of slavery and colonialism [Western] the pictures of the handsome man have always been very white, and in the past there were fewer obstacles for that to change, but it can happen now. ”Black models like Tyson Beckford and Alton Mason regularly cover the cover of GQ and other magazines, and the fashion world gradually becomes more diverse, perhaps in part because global social changes such as the Black Lives Matter movement have led brands to recognize the need for diversity.
“Aesthetics and stereotypical male behaviors are changing,” Edmonds says. “It is no longer ideal for the youngest, generation Z champion of androgyny. It happens a lot in East Asia, especially in South Korean pop culture.” In South Korea, the ideal has become more feminine, with the rise of K-Pop groups such as BTS, known for their vibrant hairstyles and makeup. This type of beauty would be considered unorthodox by traditional Western standards – but is now widely sought after and very influential in the mainstream media.
American model Tyson Beckford was the face of Ralph Lauren (Credit: Alamy)
And as with all ethnicities, East Asian beauty standards are diverse as well. Korean-American model Dae Na said, “When I started there were a handful of Asian models, but now you see several. Exponentially, this sort of increased as the industry shifted more towards Asian buyers or [the] Asian Market. ”With a large population of high net worth individuals in Asia, brands want to make models like Dae the face of their campaigns, to connect with consumers.
And it seems that male models are gradually catching up with the success and earning power of their female counterparts in recent years. American model Tyson Beckford was recruited by Ralph Lauren to be the face of the brand and has since become the most famous black model of all time. Model Sean O’Pry, meanwhile, has carved out a career spanning more than 15 years, making him one of the richest male models in the world. Originally from a small town in Georgia, USA, he arrived in New York City at the age of 17 with just $ 150 in his pocket – and then landed exclusive contracts with big brands.
O’Pry rose to prominence on the world stage when he was chosen by Taylor Swift to play the role of her sweetheart for her 2014 Blank Space video. “This is the most famous moment of my career”, O’Pry told BBC Culture. “My career took a different path after that. It opened up more doors for me. I’m very grateful because I was able to be a part of it.” Having adorned many magazine covers over the years, it has maintained great notoriety. How did he get there? “You have to keep the humility in the industry. I fight people who are all in a cast – black hair, blue eyes. I fight guys who look exactly like me and you have to be able to separate. of who you are on set and the way you act and present yourself. I haven’t tried to make my face look a certain way. This work kind of fell on my knees. “
Actor Michele Morrone played a smoldering mob boss in the movie 365 Days (Credit: Getty Images)
And the conventional notion of the Mediterranean type “tall, brown and beautiful” is still in demand, despite increasing diversity. The phrase was first used in Europe in the early 1900s and then was commonly used in Hollywood in the 1920s to describe Italian star Rudolph Valentino. It has remained a frequently used idiom, although the exact meaning and inference of “tall black and handsome“is examined more closely and debated. Anthropologist Shafee Hassan told BBC Culture:” Mediterranean men have a huge advantage in having dark eyebrows and dark facial hair. You can grow a full beard… black hair is associated with manhood. ”Italian actor Michele Morrone is gorgeous by these standards. Originally from Puglia, southern Italy, he worked until the year last as a gardener in Rome and auditioning for acting roles changed overnight when he was cast to star in the Netflix movie 365 Days, which became one of the most watched films on the platform in 2020. He plays Massimo, the boss of the smoldering mafia, a figure of fantasy for his many fans.
Morrone told BBC Culture: “I can’t deny that my looks helped me get the part because I fit Massimo’s characteristics exactly; he’s tall with brown hair. But if they chose another actor , would it be the same? You can have the look but if you can’t dance… “According to Morrone, he initially struggled to find acting work because of the way he looked. “It’s very difficult for a good looking guy to find a job as a serious actor because people think that being an actor shouldn’t be that good. I don’t know why they have this concept. had a casting every week for 10 years, I didn’t have the roles. “
Ron Jack Foley is one of many older male models who are increasingly visible in fashion and on social media (Credit: Twitter / @RJackFoley)
Yet despite the continued success of traditional beauty, the norm of male beauty standard is opening up. Older models have seen a significant increase in their popularity. Of course, we are used to beautiful “silver foxes” such as Pierce Brosnan and George Clooney adorning our screens, but now older male models are frequently used in advertising campaigns and on catwalks, among which Anthony Varrecchia, Wang Deshun (who has become known as “China’s sexiest grandfather”), Ron Jack Foley and Lono Brazil. Model René Glémarec, 87, appeared with his wife Marie-Louise, 86, at Paris Fashion Week wearing non-sexist clothes made by his grandson Florentin Glémarec.
The male model Orlando hobechi recently told The Guardian: “About four years ago I noticed an increase in the use of older models. Suddenly there was an interest in the stories of the elderly. Longer lifespans made the difference, according to Hobechi. “Age isn’t what it used to be. Over the past 30 years we’ve seen cool young people getting older – you can be older now and still cool and relevant… People want to see people who are getting old. look like depicted. “
And if you liked this story, subscribe to the weekly newsletter on bbc.com features, called The Essential List. A handpicked selection of stories from BBC Future, Culture, Worklife and Travel, delivered to your inbox every Friday.