Let’s Hear It for the Boys
Tim Blanks makes a case for the age of the male supermodel
LEGEND HAS IT that it was Liz Tilberis who gave Gianni Versace the idea to use the same models on his catwalk and in his advertising, thus spawning the supermodel phenomenon. As editor of British Vogue, Tilberis was also attached to another iconic watershed in those heady years: the January 1990 issue of the magazine featured a black-and-white Peter Lindbergh cover of the Big Five: Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, Cindy Crawford and Tatjana Patitz. They all went on to star in George Michael’s video for “Freedom! ‘90,” an early warning signal that these sisters were doing it for themselves.
This season, the original supermodels are everywhere again, in editorials, advertisements and news stories. And Evangelista is once again starring in the multipage extravaganzas photographed by Steven Meisel for Italian Vogue that were high points of the super-phenom nearly 20 years ago. August’s issue, for example, featured Evangelista, Karen Elson and Guinevere van Seenus giving their fabulous—all in a drama-drenched, monochro-matic funeral scenario. But, this time round, I was as intrigued by the men in the pictures. It’s been a while since we saw Mark Vanderloo and Johnny Zander modelling. Meisel’s impeccable instincts have deemed this the moment to bring back familiar male faces.
And the moment I write that, I wonder who, exactly, will they be familiar to. The simple fact is male models never had a Liz Tilberis. There was never a moment when an editor could corral a posse of guys together who rang the same I-know-that-face bell as the girls. Compare the 14 anonymous men on the cover of L’Uomo Vogue’s 30th-anniversary issue in 1998 with the 13 models on American Vogue’s millennium cover in 1999—every single one of them, from Lauren Hutton to Gisele Bündchen, a known and nameable quantity.