A very serious issue has been brought to my attention. The upper echelons of the menswear fashion industry are quickly and quietly changing and no longer can this seismic shift go unnoticed. It is a difficult topic, I know. One that requires some very serious research, hours and hours spent on men.style.com looking at the changing physique of male models. Seeking out the new model ideal towards a toned and muscular body. It is hard work, but someone has to do it.
The constant and ever elusive male model has gone through quite the change the past few seasons. While the press has been focusing on the size of models in the womenswear industry, a far more interesting and dynamic change has begun concerning the look of our male models.
During the early 00’s Hedi Slimane came, saw, and conquered men’s fashion. His reign as both head designer and creative director at Dior Homme, between the years 2000 and 2007, saw him introduce not just a new slimmer silhouette but also influencing men’s body shapes in the process. For the first time in fashion history men were looking to shed pounds in order to fit in a pair of skinny trousers. Slimane consistently used pin-thin models in his runway shows and it wasn’t long before the rest of the industry followed suit. Everywhere one looked it was deathly thin young boys parading down a catwalk. The power of this look was undeniable. Karl Lagerfeld himself famously shed 92lbs in just thirteen months, reportedly just to fit into a pair of skinny Dior Homme jeans. Quickly males all over the world, both gay and straight, began adopting restrictive diets. In a notorious 2006 interview, Hedi Slimane revealed to the Daily Telegraph’s Celia Walden that “[his] diet consists of baby food. [Hedi] doesn’t like to do much digesting, so it’s the obvious option”. What followed was a mad rush by fashion loving boys everywhere to the nearest Whole Foods adopting what came to be known as ‘The Baby Food Diet’. Fashion was officially taken over by skinny boys in skinny jeans.
Like all trends in fashion this one too is about to change. For Spring/Summer 2008 Dior Homme not only adopted a new designer with Kris Van Assche but also a drastically different aesthetic for its’ male models. The models no longer appeared to be on deaths door. A much healthier look was prominent – still thin, but more athletically honed; these models were a drastic change compared the physiques of seasons passed. Looking at more recent seasons for 2009 this shift has not only continued but also spread. Calvin Klein, Thome Browne, and Lanvin are just some of the big brands to have adopted this more athletic male model. “With the casting for the show, I was looking for really healthy, fit, and masculine guys that had a sexy edge to them,” said Italo Zucchelli, creative director of the Calvin Klein Collection for men, in an article by Liz Hancock in the autumn issue of 10 Men magazine. “I like to reference […] a provocative yet sophisticated element that speaks to the season. Essentially, I really wanted the look to be more masculine and less boyish”.
But what drives such a change in not only fashion but also concerning overall greater views on masculinity? The industry seems to be saying no to the modern urban dandy that has become so prevalent. To use a clichéd term, this ‘Meterosexual Male’ has become so démodé and bourgeois that even the most suburban male has wholeheartedly adopted the lifestyle. The reaction to this commonality is a return to the stronger, more dependable male. Do not be mistaken; this is not a return the bulging biceps and over developed pecks of the 1980’s. The increasingly modern male model is defined by his thin yet toned physique and his vaguely athletic body. He doesn’t live at the gym but that doesn’t mean he has never seen the inside of one.
The impact of this physical change in male models is not one to be scoffed at. Boys everywhere adopted drastic diets to fit into the lean silhouettes of seasons past and this new change, while admittedly more evolutionary than revolutionary, is one that surely will affect the bodies of males everywhere. The new muscular model is here to stay and soon he will be taking over the rest of the collections. Finally, take my advice the next time you happen to be looking at barely dressed male models strutting down a runway; be sure to study their changing athletic physiques, as it is clearly a very important reflection on our changing ideals of masculinity.