Sunday, 27 June 2010

Thin is in: in search of the perfect male body

The most successful male model in the world currently is David Gandy, a ridiculously muscular Essex boy who made his name frolicking semi-naked in a rowing boat for a 2007 Dolce & Gabbana perfume ad. A year ago I interviewed David Gandy about his career. He told me he had no idea why he was suddenly successful – he'd struggled for a long time to get jobs in a fashion climate that favoured Slimane's skinny boys. "No one was using me, and my mum was going: 'I don't understand why! You're so handsome!' But I was like: 'Mum. There is a reason.' No one wanted the big guys. It was all the skinny, androgynous look. People would look at me very, very strangely when I went to castings."
Other people seemed to know why Gandy's look had started doing swift business. Model bookers, advertising execs and fashion editors agreed that a more robust physical ideal resonates culturally during recessions and times of political uncertainty; the times when we instinctively place more value on men who look like they could take care of themselves. "We saw exactly this in the last recession – and we also saw it directly after 9/11 . Clients stop wanting to take risks. They revert back to basics, to classic ideas of what's handsome," said model booker Heidi Beattie of Select, the agency that represents Gandy.
So we're left with two polarised ideals on masculine beauty. Hedi Slimane-endorsed skinniness via Homme Nouveau and Davo; and a strong, muscular, austerity-resistant Gandy-esque form. These ideals are somehow coexisting, pulling men in two different directions and filling their heads with a general sense that they are nothing if not completely physically imperfect. Cue eating disorders, a general sense of inadequacy, a new, horrible degree of self-consciousness…

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