Rob is shirtless in front of a waterfall. Kyle is shirtless doing his morning Mysore practice. Dirk is shirtless in shorts sitting on a wicker chair. Almog is all scruffy in bed, looking up from his pillow. Almog is caressing his six pack at the beach. Almog’s hat is on sideways and he’s sticking out his tongue: shirtless, shirtless, shirtless.
These are the gorgeous gay studs of Instagram. Some of them have tattoos, some are carpeted with perfect chest hair, many are Israeli or Brazilian, and all apparently have lots of time to travel and pose half naked across the beaches of planet Earth. Winter doesn’t seem to exist for them, but they are especially present in summer. There are a lot of them, and they have tens of thousands of followers. Some gain nearly a hundred new fans daily.
“If you look at my life you’ll see what I see!” says Chris Jimenez in his Instagram bio: What you see are photos of his toppling, smooth, muscular upper bod in little boxer swimsuits in Tel Aviv, East Hampton, and Mykonos, often arm-in-arm with other strapping men. Ammon Carver looks like an eighties prime-time soap-opera star, and pairs photos of himself dressed handsomely in eveningwear at fancy banquets with tantalizing shots of his bare-chested, stacked gym body. Gabi González lives in Madrid and is so breathtaking and angelic that in group photos, other people look thrilled and dumbfounded that they are even standing next to him. Eddie Granger posts photos of himself shirtless and with his arms around various shirtless friends. The sea of nipples could make you dizzy, but the handsome guy peppers his shots with thoughtful quote-photos like, “I live in a world of fantasy so keep your reality away from me” and “WE SEE WHAT WE WANT.” He has 16,408 followers and follows 87. He is probably not following you.
The #Instastuds are different than your average hot selfie-taking guy or women on Instagram — the ones who will occasionally post a photo of a sunset, their cat, or a casual lingerie shot in their apartment. These men are more relentless and artful: They pose gorgeously in photo after photo, channeling their inner Steven Meisel, their images as well-selected, aspirational, and powerfully seductive as an underwear or fragrance ad campaign.
Flaunting themselves on Instagram, they are also all proudly and openly gay ... But at the same time, they all look fairly heteronormative: hunky, sporty, the kind of guy who would call himself “masc & musc” in a hook-up app and would never take a photo of himself at Drag Brunch. And all are careful to avoid appearing like they are doing this just to get laid. By showing that, they would be revealing that they are vulnerable and have needs, and an #Instastud can never look unsatisfied with his life.
Beautiful, unattainable male gazelles like these — with perfect jaws and bodies and hard handshakes — have been catalogued since the invention of the camera, from Thomas Eakins to George Platt Lynes to the outsides of Abercrombie and Fitch shopping bags. Perhaps the classic gay stud was never more dreamily captured than in the era of the Polaroid, as evidenced by Tom Bianchi’s recently published collection “Fire Island Pines, Polaroids 1975 to 1983,” which evokes the essence of gay culture’s so-called “golden age” in every color-drenched shot. The photos were literally too sexy to get published 30 years ago.
In those days, finding the stud was more difficult. You would only see them in exclusive places: the basement of Studio 54, Liberace’s poolside, David Geffen’s house in the Pines, Barry Diller’s yacht. Observing their beauty required a VIP pass. Occasionally, you may spot them behind the bar at Splash (RIP), or in calendars and coffee-table books with titles like The Men of Ibiza, Guys and Dogs, or simply, Buns. The hot gay studs were beholden to someone else to find them, capture them, give them a platform on which to be worshipped.
But now these men are doin’ it for themselves, proudly displaying their hot bods on a global scale, so that we can pine after them from the comfort of our smartphones. It’s the same kind of democratization of beauty that digital culture has brought to the professional modeling industry. The most popular and successful young models these days — Cara Delevingne, Kate Upton, Karlie Kloss, Coco Rocha — have built an audience through social media, snapping selfies and posting them on Instagram and Twitter, garnering thousands of followers before gracing the cover of Vogue or hosting MTV’s updated House of Style. Like these new, shrewd supermodels, the Instastuds are also harnessing the gaze directed at them, becoming producers of their own eroticism.
“I think it's important to be present with who is around me. That's why most of my pictures are selfies taken with a timer on my phone with a camera app,” says Kyle Krieger, a hairstylist in Weho with high hair, a gorgeously inked body, and 18,886 followers (“Namaste bitches!” his profile says). Like most of those the Cut spoke with, Kreiger seems self-aware ("I'm insecure just like the rest of us") and explains his original goal was to highlight his career.
Despite their chiseled bodies and next-to-nothing wardrobe, many of these men have more mainstream, creative-leaning jobs that benefit from a little display of eye candy. (Gabi works in “PR, comunicación, eventos y marketing.”) Some guys are models or party promoters. Eliad Cohen is an event planner who produces an international dance party called Papa. Saville and his boyfriend “Diogocg” are both models; they even posed with the king of the gay-male gaze, Bruce Weber, who used to be the one discovering and promoting these boys in Ralph Lauren and A&F ads, not cameoing in their shots. Almog Gabay is a personal trainer (“It’s definitely good publicity,” he explains by e-mail), as well as a“photographer, copywriter, graphic designer,” and one can imagine it’s smart business to display how hairy, built, and hot he is. Others are professionals who are perfectly justified to highlight their looks for their career. Even Dan Savage’s husband Terry Miller is an #Instastud. He poses often in tiny striped speedos. In one photo, he is suspended above blue water in a strikingly Christ-like pose. By doing so, he elevates his and his husband’s profile as poster boys of gay couplehood.
Often the guys provide access to their Facebook accounts or websites on their profiles. Still, some studs choose to be more elusive, as distant and untouchable as the longing they produce in you. “Robmsully” seems to be everywhere shirtless — in front of waterfalls and beaches and mountains and altars — though sometimes he takes photos in a cozy, huggable boyfriend sweater.
The comments on his photos read like soul cries to his beauty, by followers who have crashed their ships on his rocky shores:
Where did you get that tattoo? thailand?
Is that your house?
@robmsully why is everybody saying good bye to you? Where did you go to?
Rob! Stop it! Your beauty hurts! :))
He never replies. It may be better that he doesn’t.
Following the Instastuds can get addictive. One leads to the other like some really erotic version of telephone. Soon you will find out that Saville and his boyfriend were just in the Hamptons at the same time that Chris was there. Garrett found doe-eyed Kris Haigh on the beaches of Brazil, and shared coconut drinks. They may now be dating, too. Levi may be sort of friends with Kyle, and Chris and hot blond beauty Jason Lord were on a big, hot, half-naked trip to Mykonos with other hot half-naked guys. They all look like they are having the time of their lives.
All of it can make your heart hurt, but it’s hard to look away. See for yourself. Be sure to “like” their photos — they will be happy you did. You can click on each one and watch your little heart icon appear over their bodies. We see what we want.
Click ahead for an assortment of 30 popular #Instastuds, as culled (admittedly randomly) from Instagram.