By Chelsea Harrison
When you think of modeling, what comes to mind? Victoria’s Secret Angels, flawless faces painted with cosmetics, sky-high stiletto-strapped feet. What do all of these have in common? They are meant for women.
But wait, don’t forget the six pack-clad, broad-shouldered men.
The world of modeling is changing. Today modeling is an arena where genders are beginning to see more equal representation.
Pick up any edition of GQ or Esquire. Yes, of course there are male models inside, men whom other men strive to look like. Sound familiar, girls? Then pick up this month’s Elle or Vogue. There are just as many perfectly built, shirtless males within the pages. After all, there is little difference between the buying inspiration derived from wanting to look like a model and wanting to find a mate who looks like the model’s partner. We are beginning to see these buff male models as often as their female counterparts. And their appearance is bringing about the same positive response.
We’ve all heard “sex sells,” and that is a theory on which advertisers have heavily relied, and still do. In the past, male consumers had the advantage. They were the breadwinners, so the magazines were full to the brim with classically gorgeous women with large bust-to-waist ratios, telling them to buy the best new product. As women became more powerful consumers in the 1970s and ’80s, the advertising focus changed. Just as men respond to images of beautiful women, rugged, statuesque men can motivate females to spend. Male modeling gained an opportunity, and since this shift, there has been a slow evening of the industry playing field.
Jan Strimple of Jan Strimple Productions is a fashion producer and model trainer. She says that the industry today has very specific requirements for a male model. Regardless of his age, the model’s height must be around 6 foot 1. He must have a 31-inch to 32-inch waist and a 32-inch to 33-inch inseam and wear a size 40 jacket, a tighter fit than earlier generations of male models.
Strimple says, “The silhouette of menswear is closer to the body than it used to be, a trend which we adopted from Europe.”
There’s an exception to every rule. In modeling, however, a young man must be truly exceptional to succeed if he deviates at all from industry standards, says James Williford, an agent with the Kim Dawson Agency.
“If a man is under 6 feet tall, he has to have something special: an amazing body, a wonderful face, something extraordinary that overcomes his height disadvantage.”
Unlike female models, male models have good career longevity. Agencies can embrace an aging male’s features “as long as he stays fit,” says Strimple. A 30-something male model can portray a sporty, mature bachelor as well as a handsome, family-oriented businessman. Female models’ careers, on the other hand, tend to peak in their early 20s.
Venus Versus Mars
There’s an obvious assumption today that the majority of models are female. Female models are, in fact, still the prevailing gender. Once a model herself, Strimple estimates that today about 70 percent of models nationwide are female and 30 percent are male, a larger gender gap than in the past. Williford cites the ratio at Dallas’ Kim Dawson Agency as two female models for every one male.
The fact is that females simply have more job opportunities in the industry. The cosmetics and lingerie markets are exclusively female — and even secure a higher rate. Men must find their niche. Although Dallas is a female-heavy market for models, Strimple recognizes markets where males thrive.
“When you think of fine menswear, what comes to mind? Seville row, fine Italian sportswear, Spanish leather,” she says. “That [European] market is made for men.”
Strimple says that internationally, male models have huge potential. The equestrian styles and strong leather pieces many European countries, for instance, produce are very masculine and require a display to match. Men have to fill this niche — a small but important advantage.
Discovery is an extremely familiar word in modeling. An agency will “discover” a model, either inadvertently or actively. James Williford says that often this is simply a matter of luck.
“You can find good candidates anywhere from the grocery store to a baseball game, but it is a matter of what catches your eye.”
Of course, beyond certain size requirements, the characteristics that make someone a “good candidate” are generally opinion-based. Most agencies have a certain agreed-upon “look” they favor or are known for. This is then used as a main factor in determining which modeling prospects they will follow through with.
“Just because I like someone, doesn’t mean everyone will,” says Williford.
Orchestrated model “searches,” of course, provide many new faces. But the stories that hold our interest are organic “sighting” stories, tales that continue to give hope to aspiring models everywhere. Mark Huntley, a senior at Southern Methodist University and former Abercrombie and Fitch model, tells about the day he caught a modeling scout’s eye at a crew competition.
“I was just warming up with my team and these two scouts approached me. I still remember their names. They said, ‘Hey, you kinda’ got the look we’re looking for.’”
This is a classic story about the making of a male model: Unlike females, who often seek out modeling opportunities, modeling opportunities often find young men. These boys are found for the look, and scouts know where to find that and how to spot it.
Most male models may be found by scouts on the street, but some seek fame on their own. Myles Crosby, a Calvin Klein model and incoming SMU freshman, is a case of this success in Dallas. Crosby came to the Kim Dawson Agency with known potential and a strong drive.
“His photographer took his portfolio back to New York, Calvin Klein picked Myles out of the pictures, and just like that, he got the campaign,” James Williford remembers.
This type of situation is quite rare. Even when male models secure an important campaign, like Calvin Klein, they must keep attending castings and push for their career, but “people just started calling for Myles and booking him,” Williford adds.
However, Crosby still did not follow the typical path of a newly successful model. He is dedicated to his role as a football player and puts it before modeling. When he started with Calvin Klein, Steven Klein, the brand’s lead photographer, requested a meeting in New York, an invitation most new models would jump at. Crosby, however, turned down the invitation because he had an existing football commitment.
“I’ve committed to this team. If this ruins the chance of getting the job, so be it,” was Crosby’s response.
Williford notes that this is typical Crosby behavior. “It speaks volumes of the type of person he is,” Williford says. “He is an example of someone who overrides people’s preconceived notions of how models are.”
Crosby intends to keep football a priority and play for SMU in the upcoming season.