Tuesday, March 25, 2008


I was thinking the other day about the objectification of the male form, and how we never used to see men’s bodies used in advertising the way we do today. Twenty or thirty years ago ad models were almost all women, with long Farrah hair and glossy lips. It was’t until the ‘90s, I think, when companies like Abercrombie & Fitch discovered a gold mine of advertising potential in attractive young men.

I mean, there was always the Marlboro man, but male models were usually like him -- dignified, rugged and clothed. I’m not sure whether seeing more male skin represents social progress or regression, but we’re definitely seeing more of it today.

Remember the Chippendales? When I was in high school, they were about the only guys I knew of who took their clothes off for commercial purposes. (For those of you unacquainted with the Chippendales, they’re a cheezy dance troupe of muscly male strippers.)

Funny story: When I was a high school senior, my girlfriend went to Spencer Gifts at University Square Mall and bought a deck of cards showing the Chippendales in various states of undress. I remember thinking they weren’t that attractive, all oiled and kind of greasy-looking, but I still wanted a deck of those cards myself. (I’m not sure what was going on in my tangled-up psyche at the time -- girlfriend, Chippendales cards -- but whatever.)

I went in to Spencer’s, picked up the cards and bravely approached the cashier, a woman.

“I think these are the cards my girlfriend wants,” I said, uncertainly. The cashier gave me a knowing look (her brain was saying, “Gay!”) and rang them up.

I kept those cards for a year or two, but like I said, I didn’t really think any of the guys were all that great. Oily men in bow ties and thongs just don’t do it for me. Call me crazy.

(Photo: East Village, March 2008)


  1. What a great post!

    I forgot all about the Chippendales. How funny to remember. I bet they would seem so quaint now.

  2. just think if you had held on to those cards they might now be collector's items. who knows the cards might have helped pay for a lovely little vacation home in florida. oh wait, you're from floria probably don't need a vaction home there. and maybe they aren't worth that much. perhaps you could treat yourself to a slice of cheesecake...

  3. The Chippendales remind me of the Chris Farley routine that he did with Patrick Swazye on Saturday Night Live.

  4. The routine Merle speaks of is so priceless! Both guys were so earnest and adorable!

    your story is sweet and everyone has a memory of a story like this. We're just human!

  5. Frankly? oily any body - male or female - made to look like a trussed-up chicken just doesn't work for me. Interesting point about men in advertising. It used to be all about ties and jackets, briar pipes and Captain Morgan. And Then Calvin Klein Created Man.

  6. Lee, you are so right. I mentioned Abercrombie, but it was indeed Calvin Klein who's responsible for that sea change. That famous 1984 ad of the underwear model changed everything.

  7. Steve - what a great post! I'm with ya on the whole greased-up muscle man thing - no thanks. I'm glad someone mentioned CK, because he truly did start it all, baby. Calvin's ads were ground breakers, and certainly exemplified the beauty of the male form for public consumption - and I did want to consume it.

  8. love Kimy's comment-Made me laugh so hard!

  9. me too, i'm laughing at kimy's comment
    (though aren't the chippendales still around?)

    (must admit to thinking "eBay?")

    david beckham is everywhere over here at the moment, in a state of undress - pretty substantial demographic there i think.

  10. I love the image of the woman at the counter giving you a knowing look as you acted all macho (for lack of a better word). We have a very similar sense of humor I suspect.