The skinny on male models

By Contributing Writer

by: Madeline Eckart, Contributing Writer

Emaciated men have graced the runways and fashion magazine pages for years. The pit of despair that strikes after eating an extra piece of pizza or the mentality behind buying a pair of pants one size too small burdens all of us from day to day, regardless of gender. Well, men, now’s the time. Go on and finish that pizza or even order another one, guilt-free.

Eat up, put off shaving for a few more days and trade that skateboard for a business suit and resume. The “man’s man” is back. For our generation, all we’ve known is the male model who has barely hit puberty. The scrawny figure with nonexistent body hair whose jean size is smaller than his girlfriend’s and has the doll-eyed, “I pretend to be tough, but write poetry and read comic books” look is on the way out. The public would like to trade its abundance of skinny Seth Cohens for a few brawny Paul Bunyans.

If a more realistic, attainable men’s figure and positive view of aging and maturity is being embraced, I’m all for it. How about this for women too? The industry reflecting real human attributes in a positive light supplies it with depth it has always missed.

Speculation is that the switch has a lot to do with the economy.

“Suddenly the notion of having a job or career is in doubt,” said Joe Levy, editor-in-chief of Maxim, in an interview with The New York Times. “So you fall back on old notions of what it meant to be a man or look like one.”

The concept of a strong man in a suit and tie, normally older and more matured, is an unobvious comfort because it lifts some type of societal pressure. It’s OK to age, have corporate ambition and have a more developed physique than a 14-year-old boy. It’s all right to be an average Joe.

Dior started the boyish fad in the fashion industry almost a decade ago when then designer of menswear, Hedi Slimane, began an aesthetic shift away from the traditional male figure and created a revolutionary new image. Since then, season after season, editors, designers and photographers have all shared the same taste in scrawny men.

The pressure for males to fit into unreasonable sizes has been just as prevalent for women but often overlooked in the media. In 2009, Olympic fencer Jason Rogers flew to Paris to model for the Louis Vuitton men’s show. But he was nowhere to be found on the day of the show. Why? It turns out he couldn’t fit into the apparel. Rogers has only 5 percent body fat.

According to the American Council on Exercise, men’s body fat should be between 6 and 25 percent. Men require at least 4 percent body fat to be healthy.

But from observing current men’s magazine covers and recent fashion weeks across the globe, Dior’s trademarked look is fading.

French Vogue’s latest issue titled “The Prime of Life” features popular ’80s model Matt Norklun on the cover. Realities of life, such as aging and looking like a normal person, suddenly have value in the fashion business. Imagine that.

It isn’t just fashion, it’s all media. From movies to advertisements to television, media everywhere are starting to embrace a new type of man. One who actually has a figure, is aged and looks like he could fix your sink if you needed him to.  A man who is, well, real.

Whether this transition represents a need for comfort in hard economic and social times, is another fleeting trend in entertainment or is a precursor for a cloning frenzy of George Clooney, I am comforted. Not that the world of entertainment is interested in the “real” man, because what is a “real” man anyway? But the industry is finally interested in marketing and showcasing someone relatable. That’s comfort food on its own, whether you’ll continue to watch your carbs or not, fellas.