America's New Male Body Obsession

It's official: The male gaze has turned upon itself, and American men are focused on their physiques as never before. From Marky Mark's abs and the transformation of Marc Jacobs to the rise of Abercrombie & Fitch and the fall of Anthony Weiner, here are the 41 moments that changed the way we look in the mirror.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Look around. Everywhere you turn, the male form is being idealized, commodified, fetishized. On TV screens (the ripped vampires of True Blood), in Hollywood (Ryan Gosling's toned torso lifting Crazy, Stupid, Love to the top of the box office), and on billboards (towering images of chiseled men in briefs), laptops, and smartphones (the appendages of Weiner and Favre). Now look in the mirror. (And we know you do.) We've all become body-conscious to the core (not to mention conscious of our core). Working out more, eating better, dressing in slimmer clothes, getting the hedges trimmed (and maybe even a nip or a tuck). Because, in the end, we all want to look as good as David Beckham does in briefs. Have we entered a grand age of self-improvement? Or is it narcissism? Or homoeroticism? It's all those things, and more—41 in all. These are the moments that changed the way we see the male body.

1. Marky Mark Ushers in the Age of (Naked) Truth in Advertising

For much of 1992, a giant billboard featuring a Herb Ritts photograph of a 21-year-old rapper in Calvin Klein boxer briefs snarled traffic in Times Square. The baby-faced guy, whom we now know as Mark Wahlberg, looked like a supermarket bag boy. But each of his pecs was the size of a taxicab, his cut abs two stories tall. His boy-next-door smile sent a message to our collective subconscious: You, too, could look like this. A lineage of erotic male-underwear ads was established (see: Messrs. Ronaldo, Beckham, and Nadal), but these days you can find naked or barely clothed men in fragrance ads (D&G's Anthology), deodorant commercials (AXE), and sitcom promos (Two and a Half Men). The selling power of the male form is now a given.

Photo: The Advertising Archives

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