Written by Daen Palma Huse
Is the ‘beefcake’ back? From skinny, androgynous models to the ultra-masculine ideal?
Entire generations seem to drool over muscular men, with social media doing its part; we could see snaps of the Tommy Hilfiger presentation all over the internet for last seasons’ London Collections: Men, just to name one brand. Bare-chested, six-packed, glossy men were sporting Hilfiger underwear – amongst them our model Dan Hyman, who recently has been on the runway for Versace, CK, Roberto Cavalli, Moschino and Givenchy, proving a case in point.
Male models on recent runway shows are reminiscent of Gianni Versace’s iconic models of the 1980s. The 1980s was the era in which the term ‘supermodel’ was invented. With extraordinary models like Christy Turlington and Linda Evangelista famously proclaiming ‘I don't get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day’, supermodels were born and rates skyrocketed like never before.
Not only female supermodels were made famous by big designer names like Versace, Valentino, Armani or Gaultier. Photographed by Bruce Weber, Richard Avedon and other great photographers of the time, male supermodels like Marcus Schenkenberg appeared showing a unique look. Stylist Ray Petri created the Buffalo Boy: a strong and powerful look with men being brawny and athletic but yet with a beautiful boyish face. A look that reflects the Greco-Roman ideal of male beauty.
While throughout the 1980s almost exclusively athletic, sculpted male models were on top of their game, it was thin and skinny ‘boys’ that conquered the runway from the early 1990s onwards. Now, the ‘masculine man’ is back in fashion. By no means does that mean that skinny men are absent from fashion shows and brands like Yves Saint Laurent, Dior or new London designer Joshua Kane that tend to use the slender type, but there arguably has been a revival of muscular models.
It has become more commercially viable to have a trained and very muscular physique in the male model industry. Not only the face but the body sells a brand, that has been evident for years, but supposedly it has not always been acceptable or possible to have a very muscular physique; the contrary seemed to be true when models would be told not ‘to bulk up too much’.
In the age of Instagram and quick snaps there is a high demand for images that catch the eye at the split of a second, hence that are ‘sexy, cheerful and bold’. Who thinks a man ‘sexy’ that appears famished and frail? Not everyone might find a sculpted muscle-body attractive either, but somewhere in between sex definitely sells. What made Calvin Klein sell was sex from day one. Brooke Shields would ‘wear nothing but Calvin Klein’s’ – a unique selling point. Advertisements with sexy models, female and male, made Calvin Klein famous as a brand.
David Gandy has been a pioneer and inspiration for several years and perhaps can be called a ‘modern’ Marcus Schenkenberg. With a distinctive look like a film star, a characteristic face and a great body, David Gandy is as far from being an ordinary model. What previously might have been the Buffalo Boy is now the Stallion (as the name for a shoot with David Gandy for Shortlist Mode suggested a couple of years back): a powerful, muscular but groomed and elegant male creature.