When the media talks about looks, it’s usually about women. But men have been pressured to work that sexy physique too. When you find out how much the ideally hot male body has changed, you’ll find that — just like for women — “perfect” is in the eye of the beholder. “Hello ladies. Where can you go when your man smells like me? Close your eyes and I’ll show you.” To start, let’s take it way back — all the way to the Neolithic Era. Fat and happy From around 12,000 to 8000 BC, humans were passing on that hunter-gatherer life, and switching to agriculture.
Growing food, instead of stalking buffalo all day? Yes please. Peter Janiszewski, PhD, co-creator of Obesity Panacea, says the ideal man at the time was heavy. Agriculture allowed those with power over the land to have huge feasts and, yes, gain a few pounds. A bigger dude was seen as well off and more appealing than his skinny counterparts. Hot and Greece-y Back in 800 BC, the ancient Greeks were very particular about their bods. According to The Guardian, the ideal man was muscular and lean. So yeah — they looked a lot like the hotties in GQ. If any of those Greek statues came to life and auditioned for the next Marvel film, they’d at least get a callback. Though there were specific ratios for Greek beauty, they weren’t completely realistic. The Guardian says, “They have muscle groups that mortal men can’t ever achieve: you could go to the gym every day for a year and you wouldn’t acquire an Apollo’s belt like these statues boast.” Even now, some guys are still trying to slay those V-shaped “Apollo’s belt” abs.
Original normcore “Welcome to Medieval Times, I’ll be your serving wench, Melinda” The Ohio State Research News reported on a study done by Professor Richard Steckel about the height and health of humans around 800 AD. Studying thousands of skeletons from the past 1,200 years, he found that there was a growth spurt in the Middle Ages, with considerable shrinkage by the 1700s. According to Steckel’s study, “This decline of two-and-a-half inches substantially exceeds any height fluctuations seen during the various industrial revolutions of the 19th century.” The reason height is so important? Tall meant healthy. But was a tall body “perfect”? Certainly the days of Adonis were long gone. Art of the time depicted men as healthy-looking, average, and — sorry gals — not much more. Heavenly body In the 1400s, Leonardo Da Vinci knew “hot” when he saw it. With his drawing of the Vitruvian Man he showed exactly how the perfect Renaissance-body should look — and it’s all about those perfectly sexy proportions. Plus, that circle and square. According to Toby Lester, author of Da Vinci’s Ghost, “The circle, since ancient times, connoted, you know, things divine and cosmic.
It’s the perfect shape, that all of its points on its circumference are equidistant from the center, and it was the shape that governed all of the supposed concentric fears that made up the cosmos. And then you’ve got the human element of things, the square, where you bring things down to Earth and make sense of them, set them right.” That’s right. The Vitruvian man wasn’t just a hot bod. He was heaven and Earth. Mac-n-cheesy In the 1700s, the “Macaronis” were young Brits who went abroad, and fell in love with Italian cuisines and European style. According to historian Geri Walton, these guys would even order macaroni to show off that they recently visited Italy. They wore fashionable and slightly feminine clothes, with layers clinging to their trim figures.
Sound familiar? They should, because basically, they were the hipsters of their day. Eventually, their look became too extreme with their huge wigs, heavily made up faces, and ornate and ridiculous accessories. The style fell pretty far out of favor — hard. By 1775 the Oxford Magazine said, “There is a indeed a kind of animal, neither male nor female, a thing of the neuter gender, lately started up among us. It is called a Macaroni.” Dad-bod If you’re into “dad bod,” then the late-1800’s Gilded Age would have been your jam. Fat was back in, signifying that you were makin’ it rain, and didn’t need to work for it.
According to the book Looking Good, a big bod was so cool, they had “Fat Men’s Clubs” for guys pushing 200 pounds. There were even competitive weigh-ins to celebrate who was the biggest. Of course, fat women weren’t desired, just fat men. But, those big ol’ bellies would soon go out of style… Hollywood icon As Hollywood films blew up in the 1920s, the entertainment biz single-handedly shaped the ideal standard of beauty for everyone.
Sure, women have long been fat-shamed in Hollywood, but the same thing happened to men. According to Looking Good, people appeared about 20 pounds heavier on film, so directors preferred leaner actors. Plus, movies back then had men riding horses, sword fighting, and doing a number of physically intense stunts, so men had to be in shape to do their jobs. As more people watched the movies, the standard for men’s appearance was raised to match.
Old-fashioned fitspo Slim was in, but in the 1930s, the world’s first fitness guru, Charles Atlas, was bulking guys back up. Smithsonian Magazine profiles Atlas as a 97-pound weakling, as Atlas described himself, who got tired of getting bullied. So, he hit the gym, came up with isometric exercises he called “Dynamic Tension,” and eventually Hulked-out. “And Hulk… smash” Harvey Green, author of Fit for America: Health, Fitness, Sport and American Society, told the Smithsonian that Atlas’ solution to the Depression and World War II was, “be bigger than everybody else.
Then nobody would mess with you.” This launched the fitness movement and began the trend towards men wanting to build up their physiques. Exec bod In the late ’50s, men were slightly less concerned with “strong,” and more focused on “big.” Enter the “Executive look,” where men aimed for large, imposing figures. Suit jackets and overcoats had large boxy shoulders and a much looser fit than we’d see today. Sure they wanted a trim waist. But broad shoulders on a tall bod was even better. Bond guys In the ’60s, suave, stylish men were en vogue. As GQ confirmed, the look was clean, and the suits fit close. It was a corporate guy who maintained this buttoned-up style, while rock stars and younger men went more bohemian.
The ideal body? Basically, 007. He was trim, but didn’t have a lot of muscle, and did have a lot of chest hair. Men had broad shoulders and a flat stomach, but shredded biceps and a six-pack were definitely not required. Staches and androgyny In the late ’60s and ’70s, androgyny was the rage, especially for rock stars like David Bowie and Mick Jagger, who according to The Guardian enjoyed playing with looks that were both masculine and feminine. Professor Jo Paoletti said in her book Sex and Unisex, “Part of the appeal of adult unisex fashion was the sexy contrast between the wearer and the clothes, which actually called attention to the male or female body.” Muscles and glam rock In the ’80s, men’s style totally diverged. First, there were the hard-bodied action heroes, like Schwarzenegger and Stallone.
In her book Hard Bodies, Susan Jeffords wrote that action films of the time, mixed with Reagan’s “return to values” perfectly defined the masculine ideal of the ’80s. And on the complete other side of the spectrum? “She’s my cherry pie, cool drink of water such a sweet surprise.” Hair metal songs like “Talk Dirty to Me” and “Unskinny Bop” might not seem to challenge gender roles. But the fact that these hyper-masculine bands dressed in a very feminine way was brand new and totally ’80s. Smokin’ These days, anybody who plays a “hot guy” in movie has to be cut. Just being thin or athletic isn’t good enough. Ever since the ’90s, that smokin hot look has only become more extreme. The Telegraph even suggests action figures, and the unrealistic proportions they reinforce, may be giving boys body image issues. And Alpha Magazine that found that men were more anxious about their bodies in 2015 than they were five years before. The Boston Globe reported that male body-shaming is on the rise with sites like TMZ dedicating whole sections to “Livin Large,” showcasing bad shots of famous people who’ve gained weight.
Though this is something women are beyond familiar with, men are now receiving near equal media pressure to attain un-attainable bodies. The perfect man What’s been considered to be the “perfect male body” has so drastically changed over the years, it only goes to prove that trying to live up to any ideal is a total waste of time. To all the fellas, take it from the ladies: here’s hoping one day “perfect” will be whatever body you rock. Thanks for watching! Click the List icon to subscribe to our YouTube channel. Plus, check out this other cool stuff we know you’ll love too!.
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