Male Models

While  the  profession of the  male  fashion and  underwear model  is a relatively recent invention, men  have  served  as models for centuries, primarily  in artists’ studios and  academies. In  the  18th  and  19th  centuries, formally  trained artists regularly  conducted studies of  frequently nude, living  models, both male  and female.  Artistic  institutions, in  this  period, especially  in  European capitals  like Paris and London, employed physically  attractive models to teach  students in life classes  about the  intricacies and  aesthetic appeal  of the  human body.  Generally humble in status and  origins, many  male models in these  studios and  academies held  other jobs as soldiers, street  boxers,  or casual  laborers.

Men  In Advertising

The male model became increasingly important in the late 19th and early 20th centuries  with the rise of two distinctive developments: the emergence of photography and  the  growth of a print  advertising industry that  came  to rely, increasingly, on images  of celebrities and  attractive figures  to sell products and  produce consumer desires. With  the  rise of the  print  advertisement as a new  form  of visual  culture came the emergence of new kinds of male celebrities noted for their physical beauty and their appeal to—especially—female consumers. This was nowhere more apparent than in the case of the Arrow Man,  an advertising gimmick first introduced in 1905 by Cluett, Peobody, and Company, the manufacturer of the Arrow detachable shirt  collar. The  model  for this advertisement, the lover of illustrator Joseph  Christian Leyendecker, created a state  of near  mania  when,  during one  month alone  in the  1920s,  he received  some  17,000 fan letters  containing marriage proposals, offers of sex, and even suicide  threats.

Physique And Underwear Models

Another development in male modeling during this period came from a very different source—the fitness craze inaugurated by physical culture experts like Eugen Sandow (1867–1925) and Bernarr Adolphus Macfadden (1868–1955). Some men, naturally endowed with  fine physiques and  attractive faces and  followers  of the movement, were able to build careers for themselves as physical culture models and fitness experts. Among  the most prominent of these men was the New York-based Tony  Sansone who had a modeling and personal fitness career that spanned from

1923 until  the 1960s. Born in 1905 to Sicilian immigrants, Sansone was a convert to physical  culture by the  age of 14 when  he began  to run  in Brooklyn parks,  do countless chin-ups, and practice acrobatics. By the 1920s,  Sansone was posing  as a model  for sculptors connected to Gertrude Whitney Vanderbilt and  posing  for physical   culture  magazines and   books. Known for his classical and statuesque beauty, Sansone quickly  became a sensation,  inspiring rhapsodic celebrations by Charles Atlas, himself  a specimen of supreme  physical  fitness,  who  labeled  him the  most  beautiful man  in  America.  By the  latter  years  of the  decade, Sansone’s success as a physical  culturist led to his appearance in plays and  films and  to the sale of his image in popular magazines.

The  1930s  and  1940s  brought about several  important shifts  that   had  a  direct  bearing on  the  experiences of male models.  With   the   growing    popularity of magazines like Esquire (f. 1933),  marketed  directly  to men,  new opportunities for male models began  to emerge. While some men began to earn decent incomes, in  this   period, as  professional  models, many advertisers relied on images  of soldiers, as an idealized version  of masculinity first celebrated in propaganda posters and   advertisements  for   products  like Ivory soap  during World  War I, and  Hollywood actors  to peddle  a broad  range  of American goods.

In the  1950s,  a staple  of the  modern male modeling industry—the underwear model—began to appear  with  some  regularity in print  advertisements. Spurred, in part, by the development of swimwear-inspired men’s  briefs, underwear companies  like Cooper and Sons  and Jockey International began  to rely on images of men,  stripped down  to their  underclothes, to sell these  new products. While  advertisements for underwear in the  1950s  remained largely sanitized and  asexual and  most  male  models continued to wear  conservative suits  and  sportswear in magazines, catalogues, and  newspapers, this  emphasis on  the  scantily-clad male body  led to new  possibilities for those  men  interested in pursuing a career  before  the  camera. By the  1960s  and  the  1970s,  the  eroticization and  commercialization of the  nearly  nude male  body  presented opportunities for emerging modeling stars  like Tony  Sanchez and  Jack Scalia. This  decade  also witnessed a dramatic rise in the  significance of a new kind  of modeling agency  that  dictated the  terms  of modeling contracts more  specifically  and  began  to  represent men with much greater  frequency. According to one estimate, the growing  importance of male modeling led, by 1978, to several top agencies in New York reporting that their  men’s divisions  were now  responsible for up  to one-third of their  annual income.

Recent Developments

Men’s  modeling was revolutionized in the 1980s  as several companies, including Calvin  Klein,  began  to  rely  on  appealing images  of well-developed and  well-endowed men to sell products to both women and increasingly powerful gay male consumers. In 1983,  at the  very moment when  Jockey International had  revolutionized men’s  underwear sales by relying on revealing  photographs of Baltimore Orioles pitcher Jim Palmer in skimpy (and often quite colorful) briefs, Calvin Klein plastered New York City buildings and buses  with a Bruce Weber  image of Olympic pole-vaulter Tom Hintinauss in white  briefs. Since  this  campaign and  others selling,  most  notably, male  fragrances, male  models have figured  prominently in American culture as a new, and highly erotic,  form of celebrity.

This  celebration of the male body and face as a prominent feature of consumer culture in the  United States  continued in an  unabated fashion in the  1990s  as magazines like GQ (f. 1957) and Men’s Health (f. 1987) celebrated the male form, relied  on partially  clothed images  of men  to sell products and  increase subscriptions,  and  contributed further to  the  male  model’s  meteoric rise. As their  stars rose in the final decade  of the 20th  century, new male modeling icons  emerged in magazines, in television advertisements, and on runways, including Mark Vanderloo and Marcus Schenkenberg. The popularity of male models has continued into the  21st  century, fueled  by the  reality television craze, which  has offered  viewers titillating images  of the male model  in popular shows  like Manhunt: The Search for America’s Most Gorgeous Male Model (2004) and Make Me a Supermodel (2008).

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