#1547 Are skinny boys on the out?

The old VS the new. Photo: NYTimes

There was a moment – about six years ago – when it became not just acceptable, but desirable to be a skinny boy. It was a size-mic shift, ushered in by Hedi Slimane at Dior Homme. All of a sudden (here in Auckland, at least), the boyfriends-of-choice were no longer burly bad boy gangstas in their XXL basketball jerseys and enormous jeans; rather, they had been replaced by runty little indie rockers in vintage leather jackets and pointy winkle pickers. I had long teetered on the edge of both worlds – I wore my basketball jerseys with skinny jeans and Nike Vandals. For us post-teen boys, it was quite literally an effortless ideal. There was nothing challenging about maintaining our size. We could eat what we liked, never exercise a day and still stay thin. We had a good run.

But apparently, the times they are a-changin’.

According to the New York Times, another shift is afoot. Your Jon Hamms and Javier Bardems are replacing the super-skinny, super-young runway and campaign models as the male beauty ideal.

“You lose the T-shirt and the skateboard. You buy an interview suit and a package of Gillette Mach 3 blades. You grow up, in other words. Suddenly evidence of a new phase in the cycle of evolving masculine imagery was all over the catwalks in the runway season that recently ended. Just as suddenly it can be seen splashed across the covers of magazines, where the boys of recent memory have been transformed overnight into men. “

What prompted this return to the man’s man? That old ubiquitous scapegoat, the economy. Apparently when times are tough, we want to rely on men who can do what men are supposed to be able to do – you know, build fires and houses and chop wood and carry our women across the threshold without breaking our backs.

But here’s the thing: I was at the shows last season, and the skinny boys still had a firm foothold in the market. Sure, there was the odd muscled man and a few guest appearances by 80s stars like Tony Ward, but they were at Dolce and Gabbana, Armani and Louis Vuitton – companies who always use older, buffer guys in their fragrance campaigns and the rest.

There’s no doubt that the magazines are trending towards more mature men, and that American workwear is oh so hot right now. But the return of the original male supermodels follows a similar pattern to their female counterparts – how many designers’ campaigns feature Helena, Kate and Christy right now? So many. No doubt that can be related to the economy too… right?

But with every influential designer from Prada and Raf Simons to Lanvin and Marc Jacobs still using the same skinny boys, it’s a pretty big call to say that skinny is finished. We’re three months out from another show season – perhaps everything will be different come January. It remains to be seen.

So here’s my question to you: What do you prefer? ‘Real’ men with chest hair and biceps like Don Draper or super-skinny models with porcelain skin and delicate wrists? And gentlemen, who would you rather look like?

Answers below…


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  1. gaz says

    A bit of muscle and tone is good without being “beefcake”. I think that perhaps the new look is related to health and the new focus on eating well and looking after yourself. Skinny can look amazing but it doesnt really portray an idea of longevity and good health , Females dont wanna breed with a scrawny guy who will probably die young and get osteoporosis.

  2. Lizzy says

    it should have room for both body types. Most skinny male models are still in their teens, they should be allowed to grow up and develop muscles and become an adult without being dismissed from work. If they allow adult male body types, the kids won’t need to quit so soon, won’t need to use drugs to keep thin and stuff.

  3. Emma Gleason says

    i don’t think “man” has to be synonymous with “beefcake” as there can definitely be an inbetween. That whole assumption reminds my of the current debate with female models between Skinny and PlusSize/Curvy. What’s wrong with a healthy, relatively athletic median in both genders? Not ripped, not painfully thin, not SJP/madonna arms, not curvy but naked because we have no samples that fit you.

  4. isaaclikes says

    Also interesting to note is that Hollywood blockbusters have had the same kinds of guys in leading roles forever.

  5. Lottie says

    I agree with Sophie, skinny, good hair, TALL.
    But I love Don Draper too. I don’t associate him with being a ‘beefcake’ though. He’s just way too dapper and psychologically troubled for that.

  6. Djinous Rowling says

    ‘I’d rather be skinny than a beefcake’- isaaaaac

    there IS a healthy medium! don draper is by no means a beefcake.

  7. Nicholas Harmer says

    Yeah the boy’s boy is making a come back. Pretty cool I think. A lot of campaigning and eds have “active boy”… hero as an example. Boys doing boy things…. outdoors, rough and tumble etc. It kinda goes with the lumberjack, outdoor adventure way that fashion is leaning these days…


  8. says

    I think there is still a market for both, but personally I think mid-skinny boys represent elegance, tough/rough men are meant to target older audiences, mature men whom are the most likely to be able to afford expensive clothes or whatever items.

    I think it won’t happen all of a sudden, it might take some seasons to see a big change in the way male models look. But as you said, let’s wait until January and see what the trend happens to be!

  9. Mark says

    Good read mate and valid points,The toned ripped boxer physique is making a big comeback,You wont find many skinny indie kids making money in the Melbourne market anymore

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