THE NEW YORK TIMES
From Boys to Men
By GUY TREBAY
Published: October 15, 2010
In an article in the new V Man titled "The World's First Male Supermodel," an interviewer remarks to the model Jeff Aquilon that early photographs of him by Bruce Weber prompted a thousand academic reconsiderations of contemporary masculinity. Like any ordinary lug unaffected by his own godlike aspect, Mr. Aquilon responds with modesty. "People were laying a lot of money on the line," when paying him fat sums to appear in his skivvies for ads of the era, he said. His ambitions then were simple, Real Man goals: stay in shape and show up on time.
"Maybe it's that the stylists that were in power 10 years ago are not so powerful anymore," Jason Kanner, the president of the men's division of Major Model Management, said of the latest development in masculine ideals. "Maybe it's that as consumers are getting older, they want to see something that reflects what they look like in the mirror."
Any sane man, of course, would be ecstatic to see Mr. Aquilon's features reflected when he gazed into the glass. Yet for a long time, Mr. Kanner said, models of that type were out of favor with a business that sought beauty instead in a goofy-looking androgynous version of Peter Pan. "I'm a big believer that classic beauty never dies," Mr. Kanner added, although until recently his was a minority voice.
"For a long time it was just those skinny guys, those boyish Prada types," he said, referring to men like Cole Mohr -- a model with jug ears and the body of a teenager -- long a favorite at labels like Prada and Louis Vuitton. "I hate to use the word waif, but what else can you call all these skinny young hairless guys?"
Even Prada and Louis Vuitton embraced the new imagery in the recent runway season, casting what Mr. Kanner termed "masculine, manly men" for their shows. "The guys now look like models again," he said. "They look like throwbacks to the days of Herb Ritts."
Is it entirely a coincidence that Mr. Ritts himself is enjoying a posthumous revival? A new volume from Rizzoli celebrates his work as a photographer and equally the Amazons and Olympians he memorialized in his career. The sort of ripe beauty Mr. Ritts tended to celebrate owed a great deal to the ideals of old Hollywood; lavish, irresistible and lush, it also held none of the dangers that irresistible male beauty would come to symbolize after the appearance of AIDS.