Pretty Thin Men

thinmen3.jpg 

Apparently the models above represent the new ideal male model.  And what do they say?  Incipient annorexia.

Should mothers start worrying about their sons?  Sisters about the brothers?  Lovers about their beloveds?

The question “Why not” might lead us to consider whether it is elements in our culture that link fashion models to women’s desirability, but not men’s.  Largely disregarding cultural influence, evolutionary psychology tends to connect men’s desirability to signs of power and women’s to signs of fertility.  On such a view, annorexia is presumably fertile youthfulness badly misconstrued, which for men would create the clearly unattractive appearance of powerlessness.    

So perhaps the new look in male models will give us a test of the origins of annorexia; can culture lead men to starve themselves?

For my self, having found supermarkets sometimes problematized by the recent presence of male agression in the aisles, I am not looking forward to battling men over fashion magazines at the hair dressers’.   Somehow I don’t think that’s where this is going.

What’s more, I noted on accidently looking in at the new “aesthetics center” when I visited my doctor at the Women’s Health Care Center (!) that there was not a man in sight.  (Do prostate specialists partner with aesthetic clinics?)  I can report depressingly that just glancing through the list of what they could do rattled my self image.

40 thoughts on “Pretty Thin Men

  1. Actually, I just remembered that the evol.psych story about men has recently gotten a lot more complicated. During some times of a woman’s cycle power is attractive, but at other times dependability seems more so, it is now said.

  2. There are already men with eating disorders, and some of your readers may already be worried about their fathers, sons, or lovers. Although the majority of anorexia and bulimia patients are female, not all of them are. And not surprisingly, men are at higher risk for eating disorders when you put them under a lot of pressure to be thin (e.g., because they’re in a sport that requires them to maintain a really low body weight, or because they’re gay and in an environment that places a lot of emphasis on their physical attractiveness).

    Some info on men and eating disorders is available here, here, and here (that last one’s a .doc file).

  3. Thank you, P.Burke, for the links and information.

    I was actually aware that some men have eating disorders, but didn’t/don’t think it has the kinds of links to the media that has been such a worry with young girls.

    Despite my tone and predictions, I think we should leave it an open question about whether men will be affected. Still, I think that there would have to be other pretty deep shifts before that happenedl

  4. Note that the male ideal is a sports model, while the female ideal is a fashion model.
    Should the male fashion model ever become the cultural ideal, I suppose that men will attempt to fulfill it.

  5. This new idolizing of an extremely thin and slight male body type strikes me as sexualizing boys around 12-14 years old or so. I don’t like it.

  6. That’s a really important point. I wish I had gotten it right away.

    I wonder, though, about the direction of explanation here. Is the ‘fashion’ going to create interest in 12 year old boys, or is it the product of an interest in them? If the first, perhaps it is a way of experimenting with sexual images that in this case could encourage a pretty awful taste and behavior.

  7. I think it is both, JJ. I think it is a product of some sexual interest in 12 year old boys, and it can serve to encourage or magnify an interest in them.

  8. Oddly enough, pq, I was talking to a young friend in New York City about this yesterday. I wish I had thought of your first comment then. But still, given what he said, I’d guess that there are a number of factors behind the fashion, which apparently is definitely a fashion in NYC. One is sheer competitiveness, since the look is not easy to get and/or keep. (I remember Philippa Foot on competitive examples; it is certainly possible to acquire a taste for something that has no good outside of being a winning one.) A second is the capitalist “new tastes mean more buying.” He had just bought some jeans ‘of the fashion’ at Barney’s outlet and said they are definitely cut differently; since this fashion may well not last – men tend not to do what women will do for fashion – one can imagine the fun designers are having in selling clothes that will soon need to be replaced. A third is Asian; youngish Asian men seem more successful in wearing the fashion, he says, since they tend to be slighter than the white guys. There may be an element of Asian-imitation, certainly not for the first time.

    None of this says pedophilia isn’t in the mix, but I’d think it is definitely a mix of factors.

  9. I’m a gay guy who’s both fashion concious and very skinny. Im actually very proud of the way I look. I freely admit that I’ve purposfully decided to cultivate this body shape. Ive adopted it becouse i think it makes me look and feel good. Not because not trying to imitate a 12 year old boy with an ‘androdynous look’ (I sport a goatee). I think skinny as a ‘look’ stands on its own merits. Irrespective of what others may or may not find sexually attractive. Skinny a perfectly acceptable and valid chic for a man.

  10. Kelvin, thanks for your comment. You remind me that there can be quite a gap between what motivates an industry to produce something and what motivates an individual to buy it.

    My NYC friend says it is a very hard fashion to wear, so it’s great you are able to pull it off!

  11. The common opinion is that fashion has forced this ‘unhealthy’ and ‘extreme’ ideal onto men, (as it does onto women), but how is that any different when compared to the old ‘muscular, Big-jawed’ ideal? wasn’t that one also forced onto men? didn’t it also make skinny guys feel bad? fashion always imposes impossible to have (and often unhealthy) ideals. Taking steroids is just as unhealthy as eating too little.

  12. I dont exactly know what your talking about here, sorry. Im only 16, and Im not the smartest person in the world! (Big words in here).
    But Im also not dumb. I am really tried of seeing these Feminist things all over the internet. I’m not saying that its right that men leave women out, and its also not right when women leave men out. When was the last time you saw a man wearing a skirt? How ’bout a woman wearing pants?
    Men are frowned upon if they wear a skirt, but not women if they wear pants.
    They same goes for makeup, the liking of fashion, making themseleves look good, etc.
    I am a male, and I wear makeup, and clothes that are marketed towards women.
    But I always get wierd looks.
    But women never get wierd looks when they go out without makeup, or wearing there boyfriends shirt and sweatpants.
    Thats why I am partly Masculinist.
    Im not sure if any of this has to do with this post, and quite frankly, I dont care. I just want you people to take some time to think about the opposite sex for once. Think about what they dont have, not what you dont have. I do that all the time, and I do everything in my power to bring equality.

    *Also, did you ever think that if woman had the same rights as men, then responsibily comes to. If the draft was brought back, then women would be drafted into wars along with men. Women have the choice, men dont. THAT is not fair.

  13. I’m a 22 year old heterosexual male and I’m just as thin as the model in the picture. I don’t have an eating disorder nor do I want to look like a 12 year old boy or an Asian. I find it a little disturbing that those topics even came up. For my friends and I, being thin is the result of a balanced lifestyle involving moderate exercise and a healthy diet. Sadly, the average American lifestyle has changed drastically over the past few decades for the worst. The visual rhetoric in this look you speak of is that of responsibility, intelligence, and modernity, all sexy in my opinion. I hate when people are accused of having anorexia just because they cut out trans fats, refined sugars, and meat from their diets.

  14. My boyfriend is a thin man. Most of the men I know are fairly thin in compared to the current western “norm” of what a man does (or should) look like. None of them have eating disorders; they all just eat foods that are more or less healthful and get regular amounts of exercise.
    What is said in that this is some sort of sexualising of 12 to 14 year old boys is ludicrous. Especially considering the example given are men who are runway models. Runway models are always at least 10% thinner than print models. I mean, have you ever /looked/ at a female runway model? Most of them have little to no breast and 33″ hips. They are built like giant pre-adolescents (giant because they are usually over 5’9″ tall). Are you then going so far as to say these models are sexualising 10 to 13 year old girls?
    If anything, I am happy that thin is becoming a la mode de homme. If anything it might motivate some fat western males to get off their butts so they can fit into something that’s been made in the last 5 years while giving my thin male friends a much needed self-esteem boost for not being giant muscle bound steroid machines.

  15. Here’s what the NY Times article linked to above says:

    Where the masculine ideal of as recently as 2000 was a buff 6-footer with six-pack abs, the man of the moment is an urchin, a wraith or an underfed runt.

    Nowhere was this more clear than at the recent men’s wear shows in Milan and Paris, where even those inured to the new look were flabbergasted at the sheer quantity of guys who looked chicken-chested, hollow-cheeked and undernourished.

    I phoned my friend in New York City after reading the article, because his thinness has been a long time worry for him. E.g., he got a Hickey Freeman jacket from a model friend after a show and had to have it narrowed. I thought he might at least be amused at finding himself in fashion, but he says that he’s not prepared to do the constant dieting that’s required for the new look,

    The fashion people at the NY Times and my friend may, of course, still be wrong but it is hard to decide without more definite figures (either numerical or human).

  16. Fashion designers are known to go through interesting faze’s, such as the early nineties near-death look. It is a fad that will probably pass considering most men like to be fit but aren’t willing to go to the length’s necessary to match up with designers and model’s. Not all skinny men have annorexia, but may just have a fast metabolism. I’m 6’2″ and 165 lbs, and currently eat about 4 pounds of food a day at an average of 3,500-4,000 calories (way too much math), and I have lost ten pounds and have gotten a narrower waist line since quitting the gym. So if you feel concerned than ask, but don’t assume.

  17. Being super thin does not always mean unhealthy. In fact in many cases it can mean the exact opposite! I am a 6′ 140 lbs male who does no exercise (but I do have a manual labor job) yet have the vitals of an olympic athlete! Along with being a great deal healthier then most I would also like to point out that my body ages at a, roughly, 30% slower rate then normal. The secret is not magic but the Calorie Restriction Optimal Nutrition (CRON) diet (Do a Google check on it for more information and scientific studies verifying its results.). It’s unfortunate that the super models don’t stay that thin with the CRON diet because then they could be shining examples for others. Even with all this in mind I doubt that women will find thin men attractive any time soon. It’s pretty hard fighting a few hundred thousand years of evolution. Though a man can make up for being thin by being rich and/or powerful! ;)

  18. I am dreading the fallout from new wave of male anorexia. I am 6′-1″ and 135 pounds. Believe it or not it has taken the last 10 years of stuffing myself to get that last 10 pounds on. I am hoping to hit 150 before I retire. It is bad enough that people I have never met feel free to walk up and discuss my body and offer their moronic advice, now they are going to be worried about anorexia (as if a crusty 42 year old engineer is really going to be pursuing a fashion trend:) I really do wish people would loosen up–most of the people being told by the media and doctors that they are too fat actually look just fine, so do the skinny ones–why are we so convinced that everyone must be exactly the same? If you feel good, eat right, and are able to exercise you are A-OK in my book!

  19. ThinMan, I totally agree. It is odd how certain differences can seem to move our bodies into public space, a fit topic for strangers to comment on.

    What I find as a woman is that not only can my body be such a topic, but it always seems to be ‘my doing.’ E.g., an inept haircut gets treated as something I must have planned.

  20. Actually I like the look , I think that slim male models are very attractive. I don’t like big butch hairy brutes. I find the androgynous look is hot for both genders. My boobs look ugly to me. I wish everyone looked like a slim and curve-less mannequin. Then you sexist feminazis wouldn’t have anything to complain about.

  21. As a woman who always found Fred Astaire (5’9″, 135 lbs.) sexy, I like the slim look in men, too. I want them to look fit and not scrawny, but I don’t make an automatic assumption that a svelte guy is anorexic, any more than I think Audrey Hepburn was.

  22. The men here are not pretty. They look like average men to me. I’m going out on a limb here, I say it has more to do with a man’s facial characteristics than anything else. Why are some women gay? Answer, 99% of men are UGLY! There are a VERY select few that have enough beautiful features to be considered beautiful. There are no male celebrities out there that can truly fit this description I’m aiming for either, except for me, and yes I am super hot.

  23. Well, I’m a 21 year old, heterosexual male with no eating disorder (in fact I eat pretty good) and I’m about as skinny as the guys in this picture. It’s probably because of my fast metabolism and my somewhat active lifestyle. I’m normally the skinniest guy in the room wherever I go but I wouldn’t say I was “scary” thin or anything like that. I guess my question is, where do I go to be a male model? lol. Seriously though. I want to be a model since I apparently have the body to be one. Someone help me out. :)

  24. i am very skinny and have spent my teenage and adult years feeling self concious, it is not boyish or andrgene to to be skinny especially if thats your natural build, we all come in different shapes and sizes, perhaps my wanting to put on weight is just a silly as a healthy woman trying to lose weight to fit a body standard, i am about the same as fred astaire (funny enough) and think he was no less a man than other!

  25. I find this line of inquiry very interesting. The posting, at least at first glance, seems quite judgmental and anti-feminist. One of the previous commentators had an interesting point. These men are being celebrated for traditionally feminine characteristics. While these characteristics are not clothing or makeup, they represent something far more fundamental. The posting ridicules them for a body type. First, “skinny” is a natural body shape for many men. Our culture isn’t known for its healthy eating and natural slim proportions, first off. While some models will strive to look like this (and perhaps assume eating disorders to do so), there is still an element of celebrating “male femininity” through a natural body type in the skinny male model fascination!

    I’m not saying that the ideal, feminine type of waifish and elegant is good. This stereotype can be detrimental in many ways, both to men and women. However, it IS a shift in traditional gender roles and presentation! Would you ridicule big-boned women for being recognized as beautiful, too? The skinny, male model symbolizes a new type of body celebration. This one happens to be different than the dominant, ultra-muscular fratboy type. Forgive me if I don’t think that recognizing new body types as acceptable is horrid.

    Instead, what I feel is a castigation of men who do not fit traditional gender roles. They don’t look like what we think men should look like, so it must be bad. In fact, they look like women… what could be worse? This line of assertion isn’t very helpful, nor is it appealing. Despite the science one invokes (at least as a geneticist and historian of evolutionary theories), “nature” doesn’t impose the same social constraints that we do. I, for one, stand behind the newer celebration of the female form in men, despite its many faults.

  26. Seraph, it might help to understand the post if you read the linked article. I do understand that photographs of figures can look all sorts of ways to different people. However, the actual facts about models with this look are pretty alarming; they do count as very seriously underweight, much as too many young women models do. It’s very worrying when an industry promotes an artificial and quite unhealthy look. Or so I think.

    Really, the point of the article was then to raise the question of whether young men would be as influenced by this look as young women seem to be by the corresponding look for female models.

    I thought it was very interesting that you think they look feminine. Honestly, looking at them they seemed to me to have the book of boys just getting started on puberty; the secondary sex characteristics are pretty evident – or so I thought. (My son was in a boys’ choir school, and since puberty tends to temporarily disrupt vocal control, we parents got a bit sensitize to the changes. How many more months could he perform, one wondered.) Still, these differences in views are interesting, and I’m glad you’ve shared your perspective.

  27. I’m waif-thin (5’7”, 130 lbs=168cm,59kg), but extremely fit for my age (53) – I’ve been this way since I was a teenager and jokingly say that I’m the envy of all women (I can eat as much as I like and never put on weight.) and the butt of many a man’s joke (How many feathers do you think that guy could lift? Ha-ha.) My achievements so far include being a reasonably successful sportsman as a youngster, holding more than ten exhibitions as an artist, setting up a foreign language school as a teacher, bringing up two fine children as a parent, providing fresh organic produce for the family as a gardener and having peace of mind as a philosopher… and the list goes on.
    My simple message to you all is that we shouldn’t become obsessed with superficialities in life; what we do and think are much more important than what we look like. What the world needs nowadays is such virtues as strength of character, vision, imagination, determination and understanding, not physical strength or so-called good-looks.

  28. NOt everyone who is skinny is anorexic and people need to get over that because the boys are getting thin that its the ensd of the world. And since when is being thin “powerless”? So people with muscles have power? Androgyynous, thin models are the most beautiful and people need to get over that they don’t exist just because they look in the mirror and see mountain trolls or swamp monsters

  29. There are fashion models and fitness models. The male ”ideal” which we have seen in the past has been based around the fitness model.. bulky and toned.
    Since the dawn of the ever popular metrosexual it has become clear that men are becoming increasingly more conscious of what they wear and how they wear it. This is no less masculine, as masculinty is a behaviour. Masculinty is being confident in yourself, and comfortable in any situation.

    These ”anorexic” models that you have shown here are fashion models.. the focus being on the clothing and not the body. These men look young and healthy. A healthy 6 foot male will weigh anywhere between 150 and 170lb with a body fat below 14%. Everyone has a different body type and varying metabolisms, to simply state that this generation of models are anorexic is pure ignorance.

    Today we see Josh Beech, Ash Stymest and the like creating beautiful photoshoots exploring fashion through many looks. Something even the best fitness model cannot accomplish. The idea of fashion modelling is not to sexualise the form but to advertise the look (the look being the clothes, the attitude etc). Fitness models with the bodies you prefer are still out there but to put it simply adidas is out, very out.. and roberto cavalli is in.

    Whose to say which ”ideal” is right and wrong. Whose to say a skinnier man is any less masculine. I myself used to be 130lb at 6 foot 1, and it angers me to hear people claim such a form is ”scary”. I am now 21, 170lb due to an immense change in lifestyle. I will always stand up for those of a smaller frame because i understand the fight these people have to be taken seriously as a man, greatly due to the number ignorant people out there.
    Bottom line, everyone is different, if another body frame is being given the chance to be hailed as beautiful, don’t hate.. congratulate.

    peace x

  30. Yeah, like Kelvin above, I’ve given up on trying to look like the “ideal male” and drinking protein shakes, etc. I’ve accepted that I’m of a smaller frame (although I’m 6′ tall) and I joke about the fact that my body type is more likened to that of Sandra Bullock rather than, say, Vin Diesel. However, I am also gay and I think many of us think similarly to feminists by way of rejecting what popular men’s magazines say men, in general, should look like (as feminists often do with women’s magazines). I’m also attracted to men who look “normal” and who don’t appear as if they spend more time doing bench presses than anything else. Especially in the gay community, there is so much focus on outward appearance that it’s nice to find other attractive men like myself who are comfortable with their real, un-enhanced bodies. Now if I can only learn to live with my Streisand nose…ha, ha.

  31. Does anybody know who these models are? I stumbled across this photo while looking for references for my art but when i clicked on this site there was no mention of names. Can anyone who knows kindly help me out?

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