What It's Like to Scout for Male Models

It's not all shirtless six packs and piercing gazes, you guys.
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Tyler McCall
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It's not all shirtless six packs and piercing gazes, you guys.
Ryland Patterson, a model Kate Krause scouted. Photo: Q Management

Ryland Patterson, a model Kate Krause scouted. Photo: Q Management

I'm in an unassuming office in Tribeca to meet Kate Krause, director of New Face Men at Q Management. While I wait for her to come downstairs, I spend time studying the very handsome faces lining the wall of the agency's men's board (my job is very hard, clearly). I can't help but be struck by the diversity: There are faces here that would look at home in a Banana Republic ad placed right alongside those begging to be cast on a Saint Laurent runway.

Krause arrives to meet me in a fluffy pink sweater and immediately offers me a cup of tea (she originally hails from the UK). She speaks a mile a minute, giving off a vibe that's equal parts cool and maternal — which, as it turns out, is pretty perfect for the job at hand. 

Krause got into the industry after quitting her studies in graphic design to intern at different places, including Select Model Management's men division. She decided she wanted to pursue a career as an agent, which she's been doing for 12 years now. Though she's scouted both men and women, she prefers the men (and who wouldn't, really?) — which is why I grilled her on what her process is like, from her opening line to grooming the men for the demanding business of modeling. It's fascinating (and the eye candy doesn't hurt, of course). 

How do you find your models?

We probably have 150-200 walk-ins per year, and out of the walk-ins we will probably only take on two, if that. So that’s why I think scouting is so important because with the knowledge a booker has — what’s in demand, what their clients want, what kind of guys are in season, what kind of look is now — you can go out and you can find that. And if you see someone and you stop them, it’s kind of gratifying doing that yourself and developing them, so I kind of prefer that. Apart from that, we do occasionally take on international [scouts], and sometimes we get boys moving from other agencies who weren’t happy and they come in to see us because they’re on the outlook for a different agency. 

Is the male modeling community smaller than the women's?

I think so, yeah. This is the only industry where men get less than women. I think the pool of magazines, clients, catalogs, is less than women because women just tend to buy more clothes, tend to read more magazines, tend to look at beauty items and that kind of creates more of a demand for women than men. I think there’s double the amount of women’s agencies in New York than there is men’s. 

Do the different agencies look for different types of guys?

Not completely, but I think every agent has their own specific taste and what angle they want to go down. I think it really depends on the agent overseeing everything and what their taste and what their direction is. But more or less you’re going to get the crossover. You’re going to get the commercial boys in the agency because they make money, and you’re going to have the editorial boys, so more or less it’s the same.

What makes the difference between a commercial male model and an editorial male model?

The client, really. You’re going to have a boy that could do great catalog stuff but is never going to be the next Calvin Klein boy, is never going to be doing Versace or Prada because they just don’t have that look. And that’s the thing — it’s more of a boy next door, softer look, very pleasing towards the eye for everybody, whereas an editorial boy is going to be more angular, higher cheek bones, stronger features. I think the editorial clients are more ready to take on a boy or use a boy that looks very different, something you haven’t seen before — I think a bit skinnier, not what we would say is the hunky, boy-next-door kind of look.

What's the scouting process like?

When I teach juniors how to scout it’s very difficult, because I can remember going out the first time I was scouting. I didn’t know what I was looking for, I just went for what I thought was good-looking, which was totally wrong. And I think that’s how many scouts start off and I think everybody has a personal taste, but when you’re in the industry a long time you really get to know what you’re looking for, and you compare to what’s out there now in the market. 

I’ve just been to a big scouting trip to Las Vegas last weekend and I scouted a few 14, 15-year-olds who were already quite tall — so that is the first thing I look for, because short guys are just a no-no anyway — and who have an interesting face. Their face is in proportion, they have a great profile, their forehead isn’t too big, their eyes aren’t too close together, they have interesting features, obviously they have to be slim-ish or have a good body. I also scout older guys. I scouted two older guys who were late twenties who had a great physique, a really good look, who could do some nice commercial work.

How do you approach these guys?

I have a one-liner I used for years, and it’s quite daunting, but I’ve gotten used to it because I’ve done it so much: I go up to them and I say “Have you ever thought about modeling?” Most of the time they’ll say no, and I’ll say “Well, I think you have a really good look and I’m from Q," and then get into the whole spiel of who we are, what we do. I tell them the perks — like traveling and you can get a lot of money from it — and that’s when they start to get interested. Then I’ll round it up by saying, "This is my card, can I take a few Polaroids of you now? You can have a little think about it, read about us on our website, let me know if you’re interested. Either I’ll contact you or you’ll contact me," and that’s how we leave it. And nine times out of 10 I get them to come into the agency.

I wondered with guys if it was different. 

It’s better with girls, because every girl in their teens wants to be a model. With guys, it’s not that manly to be a model and to stand in front of the camera. However, the younger the boy, the more interested I feel that they are, because they don’t quite know what they want to do with their career yet. So you’re approaching them at a time when they’re maybe still in school or university and still figuring out what to do. And of course I usually propose if they like it they take a year out, travel the world, do modeling see if they like it and they could always do it part time or full time.

A screenshot of Q's male board. Photo: Q Management

A screenshot of Q's male board. Photo: Q Management

Are there the same types of age restrictions for male models as female models?

There isn’t, but it’s more difficult to scout a guy in their late 20s, 30s, 40s, because they already have a career and they won’t want to drop that for modeling. I for one feel that 19 years ago it was all about the younger model, but I feel now, more clients are wanting to use older guys and they want to use edgier-looking, different-looking guys with beards, white hair, mustaches or tattoos. That’s what I feel is in demand at the moment — a guy who has a weathered look who might have been an actor at one point, who may be an artist. That’s kind of what’s intriguing a lot of clients at the moment. 

And I have no qualms about taking on a guy who’s 40 or 50 or 60, taking him from nothing and developing him. I think that’s quite an interesting project and I have done that before. So whether it be younger or older, I would take on any age that I thought was interesting or might be interesting for my clients.

You said you went to Las Vegas -- how do you determine where you go for these trips?

I think you have to really pigeonhole where you’re going to get a lot of people — a lot of boys and a lot of younger boys. And it is normally festivals, shopping centers, music events. That’s kind of where you’re going to get a lot of younger boys and girls.

Do male models get into any more trouble than female models because they’re a little bit older? 

I think for the younger boys, when they come to New York, it’s like bright lights, big city. And when they first start modeling, they’re not really aware of how beautiful and good-looking they are — I always see a change in the first few months when they begin to be aware of how good-looking they are. Obviously a lot of photographers tell them, they go on castings, they start to book jobs, they get a female following on Instagram with the pictures that they post and it kind of spirals a little bit and they become more aware, and I think they grow up quite a lot as well. 

I always think it’s very, very important to keep their feet on the ground because I think that this career can be long-lived, but it also can be short-lived, and it’s so important to be grounded and to also realize there’s a lot of other models out there that you’re competing with and clients like a down-to-earth boy. They don’t like a boy that’s going to start acting like Naomi Campbell and throw their weight around and not show up for a job. That kind of day is gone, really, and unless you’re a supermodel, that’s just not going to work. It’s a small industry — everybody knows each other, everybody talks, so I always see that change in them. It affects [some] more than other boys, but I always try and keep them grounded.

Ryland Patterson. Photo: Q Management

Ryland Patterson. Photo: Q Management

Do male models have the same restrictions in their contracts, like keeping their hair a certain length, or not being able to shave if they have a beard?

They do to a certain extent. Obviously when they have a certain look, we build a portfolio around that look. So if they change that look it’s kind of like starting from scratch, and what the clients see on the website is what they want to book. If the look’s not working we’ll go change it, but generally they’ll keep it the same.

And you mentioned now people are more open to hiring models with tattoos and things like that. How have you seen that change in the past 12 years? 

It’s a big change. When I first started it was very much like this heroin chic, boys who are very skinny, Dior-type boys. Now it’s gotten to a point where it’s slightly muscular, slightly more manly. We go through looks every five years, I would say, so I’m kind of really interested to see what the next look is going to be. I think tattoos and beards are going to have their time span and then we’re going to move onto something else.

One of the things that I think is interesting to watch in women’s modeling is the rise of models who gain so much popularity through social media. Is that happening for men?

It certainly is. I’ve had more and more clients ask me, 'How many Instagram followers do they have?’ And I think that it’s a lot of free publicity for the client, especially when a model posts a picture backstage at their show or behind the scenes at this catalog shoot or advertising shoot. I think there’s a lot of free advertising going there. The boys are more and more aware of how many followers they have, hashtagging everything, posting things up — it really is going crazy with Twitter and Instagram.

Has that presented any challenges for you guys? Are you finding you have to police some of that?

We do because a lot of clients don’t want their shoot to be talked about until it comes out, and the boys are so excited that they want to Instagram it, especially if it’s with a really good photographer or it’s a really good campaign. It does cause a few problems — we find out if you’ve gone partying and you’re not turning up to a job, because more or less you’ve been posting stuff on Instagram the night before of going out. In modeling terms, yeah, we’ve had to reign them in a bit. But it’s also been good for us because I find that Instagram is another way of me scouting for models, which we’ve used at Q quite a bit.

How does that work? Is there like a hashtag?

Well, I don’t want to give my tips away here [laughs] but we do little competitions and we hashtag certain words that help us get new faces interested in us and so that’s worked quite well.

What advice would you give to somebody who wanted to go into scouting, specifically male model scouting?

You have to keep with the times — that’s first and foremost, you have to know what agencies are looking for. You have to see outside the box, so don’t go generally with what you think is attractive. You have to really look around and see and adapt your eye to what’s going on in the fashion world at the moment. You also have to be prepared to be walking around aimlessly for eight, nine hours a day on your own looking for people, and it’s hard and it’s quite lonely at times, really — when you don’t find anyone, it’s quite frustrating. But if you do it and you find people, it’s really rewarding. 

Right now in the fashion industry in general, it feels like menswear is really having a moment. I’m just curious if that’s trickling into the male modeling industry -- where do you see it going in the next five years?

Men are becoming more and more aware of style, of grooming, and there’s so many more companies that are breaking out or are appealing to guys like with beards, beard oil you know — we’ve got different ways of styling, to cut your hair, whereas 20 years ago we never had as much advertising [for that]. I’m not sure about the rates, but I think that in terms of becoming more accessible to men, we’re going to have more companies that are trying to break through, and therefore I think it’s growing.

Do you think male models get the credit that they deserve?

I think that a male model is a male model and I think when you become a model you have to just accept that, unless you are a supermodel, you’re not going to be a household name.

I think the conception that for male models it’s just about having a fit body and showing up.

Well that’s kind of changing, that whole feel. And it’s kind of nice that it is, because I think people’s idea is of a muscle-y guy who stares at the mirror 24 hours a day and does press-ups and pull-ups and wears tighty-whities. But that’s sort of changing, which I’m happy about, because I think on a whole what society used to put in the magazines is how people felt they should look. I think it’s very interesting — curvier girls are more accepted, guys who look a bit strange are more accepted, you know, it’s really cool now for an older guy to look distinguished and to have a weathered beard and nice glasses, so I think it’s very interesting at the moment. I’m kind of glad that the fashion industry is steering into that direction.

This interview has been edited and condensed.