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Saturday, April 20, 2024

The days of the bronzed, buff beefcake as the male body ideal may be over.

At least that's the way it looked at this year's New York Fashion Week. Male models who hit the runway looked like malnourished, scrawny-chested waifs, much the way their female counterparts have looked since the "heroin chic" era.

The male body ideal has become increasingly lean since the 1980s, said Maggie Labre, a former UF graduate student who did her doctoral dissertation on images in men's fitness magazines.

Originally, the muscular male body image only appeared on bodybuilding magazines, Labre said, but after the '80s those images were targeting regular men as well. That's when the changes in muscularity among male body images in the media began, she said.

This year, casting agents' ideal male model was 6 feet tall, weighed 145 pounds and had a 28-inch waist, a recent New York Times article found.

Labre believes one of the reasons for this change may be due to the recent trend toward more androgynous clothing.

"I think it has to do with the designers," she said. "They want to sell the same products to men as they do to women, so maybe that's why they're de-emphasizing the muscles on men."

She said that when designers change the clothes, they also change the bodies. More men are using Botox and coloring their hair - things they didn't used to do, perhaps because they are feeling pressures women feel about their looks, she said.

If the "men's skinny look" catches on and becomes a long-lasting trend, it seems likely that it will have an influence on the male body ideal, said Kim Walsh-Childers, a UF journalism professor who has done research on male body image in the media. She has serious doubts that it will though.

Generally, a man with six-pack abs, well-defined shoulder muscles and protruding pectoral muscles define the coveted "Men's Health look," which has been the male body ideal for the past 30 years, Walsh-Childers said.

Also, she said women may not find the skinny look as attractive.

She said the trend toward skinnier male models is interesting because the male body ideal has become more muscular in recent years, not scrawnier.

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But it remains that more and more male models are on the slender side, which could potentially lead to self-image problems among men, she said.

But Labre thinks it's more complicated than that.

"We're all exposed to this ideal, so why do some people develop eating disorders and some do not?" she said. "There are so many factors that determine how one person is affected."

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