Men's Underwear Ads Want You to Know Men Aren't Just 'Pieces of Meat'

Remember earlier this week when we said that shirtless hunks in ads are the new hot chicks in ads? Apparently there's one advertising arena in which that's not the case: the arena of men's underwear.

According to the New York Times, some men's underwear companies are beginning to react against the notion that male underwear models should look like they're chiseled from stone. In the words of designer Jason Scarlatti, “We are going for something a little more statuesque, and a little less steroid-y.” Also on the agenda? Giving the underwear models identity, "so they are not just a piece of meat," according to PR executive James LaForce. Also, taking the emphasis off of the crotch shot. Fare thee well, crotch shot. You will be missed.

Underwear companies hope to appeal to a larger demographic by employing "less intimidating" and "more relatable" male models, showcased in a more "lifestyle" context, as is perhaps epitomized in this Mack Weldon "behind the scenes" video featured on their website:

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(Hot tip on how to be relatable: hop around reading the newspaper in a loosened bow tie. Don't even feel ashamed that your very chiseled ads aren't UNBELIEVABLY chiseled. Shrug boyishly, as if to say, "Oh, these abs? Whatever. I'm just a guy.")

It's good to see a shift away from the muscle-bound, super-jacked male body imperative. Men have body issues, too, and men are negatively affected by ads that promote hypermasculinity. However, the turn away from objectification employs a bit of "no homo" rhetoric that's a little troubling:

Things have become so raunchy now that the marketing for a sizable niche of underwear brands bears a marked resemblance to gay pornography...

At 2(x)ist, and elsewhere in the underwear market, there was a growing sentiment that the models were getting to be, well, too sexy, at least to be relatable to a new breed of fashion customer: the average heterosexual man.

Thus, the change in campaign direction, which shows models (still attractive, shirtless and depilated, mind you) in lifestyle situations like exercising on a beach, often turned slightly away from the camera.

It's great that underwear companies are promoting healthy standards of male attractiveness and employing models who are closer to being average-looking. It's not-so-great that a large impetus for avoiding objectification is rooted in stereotypical heterosexual male discomfort with perceived homoeroticism.

It looks like we have a long ways to go before we, as a society, are entirely ABS-olved (HA) of our lingering issues with the male body.

"Less Ab, More Flab" [NYT]

Image via CURAphotography/Shutterstock.