Dudes Are Not Immune To Body Fads

It seems that in these lean times, the fashion industry likes its guys a little meatier than in seasons past — you know, "real men." Where have we heard this before?

In the Times, Guy Trebay writes that the skinny lads of Hedi Slimane's heyday are out (does this mean I can have their clothes?) — now, says GQ editor Jim Nelson, "When we cast, we want a model with some heft to him and a few years on him. Someone who has aged a little bit and who feels like he's a man." This new ethos includes — gasp — wrinkles: writes Trebay, "the new V Man features on its cover no skinny kid model but Josh Brolin who, with his weather-beaten face and crow's-feet, looks every minute of 44." Trebay links this vogue for the marginally more bearish with the economic downturn — he quotes Nelson, who says, "At a time of underemployment and digitized labor that doesn't have real products at the end of the process people want to be reminded [...] that we as men do work, we do labor, we do still make things." With big, hairy, wrinkly hands.

Of course, the idea of the recession changing our aesthetics is nothing new. A study that made the rounds last year found that Playboy models tended to be older and heavier during tough economic times. And, more generally, women's bodies have always been subject to fad — from this year's tentative (and, as many have pointed out, rather limited) embrace of plus-size models to the perennial and reductive statement that "real women have curves."

But nobody says "real women have wrinkles" — or body hair, for that matter — and though fortysomething women do grace magazine covers, they rarely look "every minute" of their age. The shift from "skinny skate-rat" to man of substance may show that men too are susceptible to the changing winds of fashion, but these winds continue to buffet them somewhat less strongly — for all the talk of curves, for instance, it's still not hip for women to have a gut. Still, the recessionary "real man" is a good illustration of how far fashion "reality" is from most people's lives — when Details went looking for a "relatable" guy, they came up with Gabriel Aubry.

From Boys To Men [NYT]