Dire times call for change. Recession has not failed to take a toll on the fashion industry, which, just like any other segment, has been affected in unforeseen ways by the economic downturn. From the Italian fashion industry, arguably the strongest of the lot, seeking governmental assistance
to pull through, to designers bringing back trends that focus on functionality and practicality, fashion has started to change to adapt. And so has the demand for male models, as a piece in the Daily Mail
According to Tanya Gold, writing for the aforementioned publication, as the times turn sour, fashion is bringing back the muscular male model, turning its back on the androgynous, scrawny, lean man that walked the catwalks until not long ago. The explanation is simple: in the period of affluence before the recession hit, beefcake men simply had no place (literally), and the fashion industry was a clear reflection of that.
“The ‘rise of the drip’ was clearly an expression of our collective affluence. In the last boom, we had computers, call centers and automation – and money, so much money, to do everything for us. We lived in a highly sophisticated, fantastical, touch-screen culture where beefcake man was surplus to requirements. (OK, you might occasionally see one in a garage, stuck under a car, wielding a spanner, but it was rare.) Beefcake was nowhere. Because you don’t need a beefcake if you live in a penthouse with blinds that go up and down at the touch of a button. Beefcake looks weird in such a setting. Beefcake looks sad. Beefcake has nothing to do. He doesn’t belong and he knows it.” Gold says of the type of man that ruled the fashion industry until not long.
Before the recession, male models were tall and slim, with hollow cheeks, plump lips and big, bewildered eyes. They had perfect hair and perfect everything, up to the point of being close to be mistaken for women. In fact, this was precisely the type of ambiguity that the fashion industry promoted and looked for in every newcomer. Models like the Russian Stas Svetlichnyy, who was considered the epitome of masculinity a couple of years back, were everywhere – or, like Gold says, as we got richer and everything in our life gained proportions, the models got smaller and leaner.
Now, with fashion still struggling to come up with ways to survive the recession, the muscular model is making a comeback. It’s as if the industry is looking for strong arms and wide chests in the men it puts on the catwalk as an assurance of sorts that this too shall pass. And, if it doesn’t, at least we can find comfort in those strong arms, the author further says.
In this sense, David Gandy, the Dolce & Gabbana model, looks like “a Mexican bandit on steroids,” yet, at the same time, he also creates the impression that he could lift any damsel in distress on his arm and deliver her to safety. Moreover, if need be, he could also rip off the fancy designer clothes, put on overalls, and wiggle under the sink to fix a drip. As consumers feel they are no longer able to afford things they thought they needed until recently, the muscular male model – now back on the catwalk – is supposed to inspire confidence and offer a certain sense of security, even if not financial.