Fashion

Let’s Hear It for the Boys

Tim Blanks makes a case for the age of the male supermodel



 

Tim Blanks


 
Tim Blanks

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.

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Mark Vanderloo


 
Mark Vanderloo

Vanderloo, the only guy to get his own FLARE cover

In the mid-’90s, the Dutch model Mark Vanderloo reportedly briefly earned more than a $1,000,000 a year, thus encouraging journalists to believe the Age of the Male Supermodel might finally be upon us. It wasn’t to be. Modelling remained a woman’s world. And economics and simple psychology have conspired to keep it so. Women feel much more comfortable looking at pictures of other beautiful women than men do looking at pictures of handsome men. Men respond more to achievement (athletes and actors) than good looks—or they prefer the regular guy.

But even if there was never a Liz for the boys, that doesn’t mean I can’t play my own version of fashion fantasy football and field a team for a Lindbergh-style men’s cover. Vanderloo is there (he’s my Tatjana). Tyson Beckford stands in for Naomi (he was always called “the male Naomi,” anyway). Cindy? I’m plumping for Marcus Schenkenberg. Discovered while Rollerblading in Venice Beach, Calif., in 1989, his pneumatic physicality is the perfect complement to hers. Christy is tougher because she’s a paradox: cerebral and sensual, intimate but faraway. Mathias Lauridsen, the blue-eyed boy from Gucci’s current fragrance ads, reminds me of her.

The fifth of Lindbergh’s women—and the greatest challenge—is, of course, Linda Evangelista. In 1978, the photographer Bruce Weber discovered Jeff Aquilon playing water polo at Pepperdine University in California. Their work together—like Evangelista’s work with Meisel—unleashed a potent new strain of narcissism in the pop media. So Jeff is my Linda. They are the 21st century’s Adam and Eve, their immaculately fetishized beauty a wordless embodiment of the cult of celebrity.

Let’s put these five guys on a cover for January 2010, get Lindbergh to take the picture and see how—or even if—times have changed. Nice eye candy for the newsstand at least.

EDITOR, ELIO IANNACCI

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