It has become increasingly prevalent in entertainment, media, and advertising in recent years to focus on the beauty of the “ideal” male form. Although studies have shown that women continue to report higher numbers in regards to negative body image, the percentage of men admitting to body dissatisfaction is, shockingly, growing at a much faster rate.
It must be stated that this is nothing new to gay and bisexual men who, when compared to their straight counterparts, have historically reported higher percentages of eating disorders and generally experience more cultural and sexual pressure to come to terms with their body image, whether it be issues of weight, racial objectification and preference, or masculinity.
These concerns surrounding the “ideal” traits that make a man physically attractive, in no small part thanks to the mass media, are beginning to affect men everywhere, especially young boys. The male beauty market has reacted with exponential statistics: The number of men’s beauty products increased by more than 70% worldwide between 2012 and 2014. As of 2013, men’s skin care alone was a $3.3 billion global industry.
In the simplest of conclusions, men, at least to the general public, are starting to care more about how they look and how that affects their perception of self, and it inspires a vast array of controversial discussions. This video and its accompanying study aim to put contemporary “ideal” male specimens under scrutiny, front and center, as physical representations of a massive survey, both theoretical and empirical in nature. We hope to spark a more open and important dialogue regarding men’s relationships with their bodies, ethnicity, masculinity, and personal expression of beauty.
2. We gathered information from professional publications, entertainment, and social media to determine: how have popular culture and media shaped our views on ideal male beauty?
We focused our research on the following 12 countries: the United States, Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, Nigeria, Turkey, Italy, the U.K., India, South Korea, the Philippines, and Australia.
3. We also conducted our own independent study and asked for personal insight from the most important authority on men’s relationships with beauty and fashion: you.
4. 1) USA
• “Hottest” male celebrities (as determined by our Facebook audience’s responses and online popularity): Chris Evans, Channing Tatum, Chris Pratt
• Internationally, white celebrities from America were the most cited out of any country when discussing foreign influence on the male beauty ideal.
• A study from San Francisco State University found that where women struggle with media pressure to be thin, men face media pressure to be muscular.
• An American ideal male body type has a broad upper body, including shoulders, biceps, and pectoral muscles. “V-shaped” seems to be a key term.
• In recent years, the bearded, plaid-shirt-wearing look has become so popular among American (read: white) men that they have earned the nickname “lumbersexual.”
• According to the 2015 Hollywood Diversity Report, 83.3% of all lead actors in films released in 2013 were white.
• Since People magazine began naming an annual Sexiest Man Alive, only one nonwhite man has won the title: Denzel Washington, in 1996.
• The U.S. and Canada account for 9% of the global men’s skin care industry.
• According to market data firm Euromonitor International, American spending on men’s grooming products has increased from $2.4 billion in 1997 to $4.8 billion in 2009.
• According to market research firm Mintel, the U.S. market for men’s personal care products earned $4.1 billion in 2014.
5. 2) Mexico
• “Hottest” male celebrities: David Zepeda, Erick Elías, Gael García Bernal
• Latin America comprises only 2% of worldwide sales in men’s skin care.
• Being “macho” or “machismo” is an important aspect of Mexican masculinity. Studies have found that men who identify with traditional Mexican culture value more “macho” behavior.
• A contradicting aspect of Mexican masculinity is “caballerismo,” which is that of the gentlemanly family man.
• Mexican men finished second in a 2000 study of the most vain men in the world, behind Venezuela.
6. 3) Brazil
• “Hottest” male celebrities: Rodrigo Santoro, Bruno Gagliasso, Cauã Reymond
• Brazil is considered one of the most diverse societies in the world. According to the 2010 Brazilian census, 47.7% of the population identifies as white, 7.6% of the population identifies as black, and 43.1% identifies as mixed race.
• There is a large disparity between the rich and the poor in Brazil. White men are considered to be more important than black men, and having straight, fair hair is part of their ideal of beauty.
• “Germanic features” combined with a tan are thought of as an aspect of Brazil’s idea of beauty in both men and women.
• Men’s grooming and beauty products are seen as a growing market in Brazil.
• Cosmetic surgery for men is becoming normalized in Brazil.
• Many Facebook replies from Brazil focused on men’s bodies, in particular the appeal of being muscular.
7. 4) South Africa
• “Hottest” male celebrities: Dean Geyer, Devin Paisley
• According to the 2011 South African census, black Africans made up 79.6% of the population of almost 52 million. White people made up 8.9% of the population.
• Much of representation in media is directly related to who holds the power. The average annual income for a white household was about 365,000 rand, while the average annual income for a black household was just 60,600 rand.
• Over 77% of Men’s Health South Africa and GQ South Africa covers in 2014 featured white models.
• A preliminary Google Image search of “hot South African men” primarily features white South African celebrities. On IMDb’s STARmeter for the most popular South African entertainers, the top 14 are white.
• A 2011 study from the University of St. Andrews measured the ideal African body type according to the media, finding that in a sample of both African and Caucasian South African models, the African ideal was markedly slimmer than the Caucasian ideal.
• A 2014 study from the journal PLOS ONE showed that Western body ideals of thinness and muscularity were increasingly accepted in South African black and mixed-race adolescent men.
• Skin lightening cream is very popular for both sexes.
8. 5) Nigeria
• “Hottest” male celebrities: D’banj, David Agbodiji, Iyanya
• The Nigerian entertainment industry, or Nollywood, is hugely influential in West Africa and produces the second highest number of films per year in the world after India’s Bollywood.
• Nigerian male music stars in particular are idolized by teenagers.
• Traditional Nigerian culture views sturdiness and strength as the male body ideal.
• A small study from the University of Nigeria published in 2007 found that Nigerians in their early twenties viewed masculinity as “culturally superior” to femininity.
• Those surveyed said that important elements of masculinity in Nigerian culture include physical strength, bravery, protectiveness, assertiveness, virility, and lack of emotion.
9. 6) Turkey
• “Hottest” male celebrities: Tolgahan Sayisman, Kıvanç Tatlıtuğ, Burak Özçivit
• Turkish soap operas are a recent, growing phenomenon that draw millions of viewers across the Arab world.
• The soap operas are the first to mix lavish Western influences with a traditional Islamic setting.
• Portrayals of traditional masculinity are beginning to to shift to more romantic, sensitive leading men.
• Among the most fashionable grooming services for Turkish men is body hair removal.
• According to a study published in the science journal Archives of Sexual Behavior, Turkish women prefer men with hairless chests.
• Still, the Middle East and Africa combined only account for 1% of global skin care sales.
10. 7) Italy
• “Hottest” male celebrities: Raoul Bova, Claudio Marchisio, Giulio Berruti
• Italy is widely considered the pinnacle of men’s fashion.
• Italian men are accustomed to wearing well-tailored suits and clothing. Styles like loafers without socks and pocket squares are common. Graphic tees are not.
• Italian men are generally not afraid to wear color, even colors that are traditionally considered feminine, like pinks and purples.
• “Sprezzatura,” meaning to have an air of studied nonchalance, is a quality often associated with ideal male attractiveness.
• Italian men are comfortable with grooming, including shaping their eyebrows.
• Western Europe comprises of 21% of men’s skin care sales worldwide.
11. 8) U.K.
• “Hottest” male celebrities: David Beckham, Jamie Dornan, Robert Pattinson
• Models and professional British football players are often held as the ideal male bodies in the U.K.
• Facial hair has also been popular in recent years in the U.K. and other Western European countries.
• Grooming, including “manscaping,” has also become very popular among British men.
• In recent years, British masculinity has evolved from the recent division between metrosexuals and lads. Metrosexuals cared deeply about grooming and appearance, while lads were rowdy adolescent types. The new British man in the media age cares about health and culture.
• 1 in every 5 British adults has a tattoo, making it one of the most tattooed countries in the world.
12. 9) India
• “Hottest” male celebrities: Siddharth Malhotra, Ranbir Kapoor, Varun Dhawan
• The largest demographic of men’s skin care consumers, and by a significant amount, is the Asia Pacific region, making up 65% of worldwide sales.
• Indian cinema, or Bollywood, is the largest film industry in the world and highly influential throughout the Indian subcontinent.
• Contemporary Hindu masculinity, even in direct relation to what is shown in cinema, is designed to strengthen Indian men’s confidence but also assert their power over others and women.
• Skin lightening creams are growing in popularity in the male beauty market and are even being endorsed by major Bollywood stars and cricket players. As of 2011, 61% of skin products for sale in India contained skin lightening elements.
13. 10) South Korea
• “Hottest” male celebrities: Won Bin, G-Dragon, members of EXO
• South Korean pop culture, or Hallyu (the Korean Wave), including music, movies, and TV, has spread across the world, but it dominates entertainment in Asia.
• South Korea overwhelmingly had the most responses in our Facebook poll from viewers who were not from the country they were commenting on, meaning many non-Koreans were intimately familiar with Korean male beauty standards.
• K-pop stars mix hard, muscular bodies with soft features and are highly stylized.
• K-pop stars often wear fashion-forward clothing and makeup.
• South Korea spent $635 million on men’s skin care in 2013. Skin lightening creams are a popular product.
• Plastic surgery, a subject of constant viral fascination, is increasingly popular with South Korean men.
• Features they are looking for with plastic surgery include bigger eyes, double eyelids, and a more pronounced nose with a high bridge.
14. 11) Philippines
• “Hottest” male celebrities: James Reid, Daniel Padilla, Piolo Pascual
• Contemporary Filipino masculinity is a result of mixing local attitudes with those of Spanish and U.S. colonization.
• In traditional Filipino masculinity, important qualities are supporting the family, sexual virility, and being in control.
• In recent years, the “macho ideal” has given way to a booming male beauty market as men embrace “metrosexuality.”
• In a 2004 marketing survey, 84% of men in Manila agreed to the sentiment that “looks are everything.”
• Many Facebook respondents noted that foreign influence for ideal looks and style traditionally came from the country’s Spanish and American ties but is now heavily influenced by Korean pop culture.
15. 12) Australia
• “Hottest” male celebrities: Hugh Jackman, Ryan Kwanten, the Hemsworth brothers
• According to various studies, when Australian men wish to look differently than they currently look, they wish to be bigger, more muscular, and thinner.
• As of 2011-2012, the average adult Australian man was about 5 feet 9 inches tall and 189 pounds.
• The six most popular plastic surgeries for Australian males are nose jobs, eyelid lifts, penile enlargements, ear corrections, face-lifts, and liposuction.
• Australian men were voted sexiest in the world in a 2013 survey from travel dating website MissTravel.com.
• Similarly, in our Facebook poll, the Hemsworth brothers — especially Chris Hemsworth — were most cited as the individual hottest male celebrities from viewers around the world.
16. In the near future…
Beauty ideals, even for men, are constantly evolving:
• More than 40% of millennials in the U.S. are nonwhite.
• A 2010 study found that between white, black, and mixed-race faces, millennials considered mixed-race people to be the most attractive.
• A 2014 study found that women found men with feminine features more attractive than those with traditionally masculine features. Women in urban areas tended to prefer masculine subjects while women in rural areas did not, which challenges a common anthropological theory that attraction towards masculine-looking men is evolutionary.
• Though it’s imperative that we recognize that the growing conversation about men’s standards of beauty and their negative personal effects is critical, the recent boom of objectification of men in mass media, as this video has dissected, does not directly equate to the continued objectification of women.
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