New clothes, same bodies: deconstructing the standard number of the male body

The very first Calvin Klein Underwear campaign, shot by Bruce Weber in the fall of 1982, featured model and Olympic pole vaulter Tom Hintnaus leaning against a large (slightly phallic) white sculpture in Santorini, Greece. The image is one of the most recognizable to come out of Klein’s portfolio, and it’s been a number for male objectification since its debut. Indeed, the standard set by Hintnaus’ Adonis abs and the campaigns it spawned proved more timeless than much of the menswear they advertised.

The Calvin Klein Underwear fall 1982 campaign featuring Tom Hintnaus on a billboard


Earlier this year, vogue Company covered the lack of male body diversity on the catwalks, reporting that only seven out of 77 brands during the fall 2022 menswear season featured plus-size models. This spring 2023 season, the story is more or less the same. Of the 97 collections vogue Runway reviewed this season, only 12 featured models outside of the established norm (although it’s hard to call most of these “plus” size models).

It is now a habit to wonder why models in women’s and men’s catwalks are skinny without waiting for an answer. While the issue revolves around fashion’s knack for resisting change and its slowness to embrace diversity, it has just as much to do with the trend cycle and what the industry chooses to fixate on season after season.

After all, the model makes the look, and the looks that designers are currently seeking rely on thinness. Take a look at our spring 2023 menswear trend report. The vibe du jour is bare-chested: shirtless suits, crop tops, no tops, all low rise. This stems from both the Y2K push we saw during the Spring 2022 womenswear season and the current fashion interest in reinventing menswear through the prism of queerness. (For some reason I don’t understand the search for homosexuality is either naked or extremely flamboyant, but that’s another try.)

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10 spring 2023 trends that define menswear today

When it comes to homosexuality, gender fluidity is also in vogue. While mainstream brands have chosen to embrace fluidity as a style (and sometimes casting) choice for their runways, they often subscribe to the widely accepted idea of ​​fluidity, which tends to be thin and waify and the more often white. (Think of the ’90s grunge trend and the imagery associated with the rise of unisex fragrances that set a pattern for thin people with sharp bones.)

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