One of the more arduous parts about covering Fashion Week is hanging out backstage with the male models. You see plenty of horsing around, like when they throw tea sandwiches at one another, and restlessness, as they sit and wish the manicurist would hurry up already. What you don't often see are muscles bursting out of shirtsleeves and rippling seductively under snug thermals, or hair spilling out from necklines or bursting forth from chins. Runway models tend to be pretty thin, pretty hairless, and pretty young. But maybe this will change? The Times says that manly models are coming back into fashion, finally, after Hedi Slimane sparked an obsession with male waifs and skinny suits a decade ago.
The Times fingers a few reasons for the shift:
• The economy, obviously. Maxim editor Joe Levy says, "Men have always been defined by their jobs — always," but now that lots of them don't have them, or are afraid of not having them, they have to define themselves in new ways. "So you fall back on old notions of what it meant to be a man or to look like one," Levy says. That would be having big, sexy muscles — maybe even hairy ones — and using them to fix fences and things.
• Jon Hamm. With a chest to rival a carpet and limbs to rival the trunks of nascent evergreens, his Don Draper character has been seducing women with remarkable success onscreen for a few years now. Plenty of viewers want to do him, too.
• Stylists who were powerful ten years ago may not be powerful now.
• Consumers, who are shopping less anyway, want to see men who more closely resemble themselves. And men with purchasing power don't tend to look 18 and wiry.
• Masculine male models are better suited to the L.L. Bean look that's so hot right now.
But also, maybe manly men are back in fashion because that's what straight chicks find hot. Women don't want a dude who's skinnier than them or at least equally concerned with that. They want men who can cut down a tree and would take any excuse to pick them up and carry them around to show how strong they are, even if it's just that a woman's shoes made her feet hurt. Besides, behind every manly man who's actually doing his own shopping, there's a woman in the changing room reassuring him that something doesn't look too gay.
From Boys to Men [NYT]