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Southern Style: Fashion musings and schmoozing

10/25/2010
By:

Steve Miller

Opinions Editor

There’s a new man in fashion. You can see him hitting the runways, ad campaigns and magazine editorials. He’s tall, rugged, of-age and unlike anyone the fashion industry has seen in years.

This season marks a recent trend and new definition of what it is to be a male model. In seasons past, the desired look was a young, skinny, prepubescent rocker kid who didn’t look old enough to have a driver’s permit let alone be up to the task of embodying society’s masculine ideal.

A decade ago, Hedi Slimane, former creative director of Dior introduced the “boy-look” to the fashion world changing the image of the modern male fashion model. He was rebellious, under-developed and eternally young. Slimane’s influence was so strong the jail bait look became normal. But a recent article by The New York Times cites the economy for bringing back the old image of what it is to be a man.

“Men have always been defined by their jobs — always,” said Joe Levy, the editor in chief of Maxim in the article. In a prospering economy, people contently accepted the designer model aesthetic but now during the recession the necessity to revert back to previous male identities is stronger than ever. “Suddenly the notion of having a job or a career is in doubt,” Levy said. “So you fall back on old notions of what it meant to be a man or to look like one.”

In times of hardship, we look at the past to guide us through the present. During the Great Depression society prized a strong man able to overcome economic hardship to keep a job and support a family. In the 1950’s the man armed with his crisp suit and briefcase was the king of the household, bringing home the bills and keeping food on the table. In the U.S. we remember what it is to be an American: to work hard, get your hands dirty and wear your grease and grim proudly.

“At a time of underemployment and digitized labor that doesn’t have real products at the end of the process people want to be reminded” through images from pop culture Jim Nelson editor of GQ said, “that we as men do work, we do labor, we do still make things.”

But is this recent trend just that? One designer or editor showcases a traditional rugged man and the whole industry jumps on board?

“It’s not just models, it’s actors, it’s advertising, it’s the movies,” said Sam Shahid, creative director of Shahid & Company responsible for numerous successful Calvin Klein advertising campaigns. “It’s trendy to do this, and everyone’s suddenly jumping on it,” Mr. Shahid said.

It’s almost refreshing to see this new image of the comfortable man, who acts his age and doesn’t pretend to be any younger than he is—almost. The problem is there is no absolute definition of a “man.” The traditional man’s man may by what we’re used to, but society creates this ideal which often doesn’t reflect real men at all, it just further idealizes another unhealthy concept of modern masculinity. Whether we admire a working rugged 30-year-old or a young, slim skater the obsession is still there and the media is still telling
men and women how to look, act and feel.

Ultimately it has to do with public interest. Consumers fancy a particular look and fashion responds.

Whether this new rugged man has staying power is unsure but for the time being this new man is here to
stay.

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