New York Fashion Week: Men's made its debut this week, and obviously we were there, checking out the fashions and the man buns. The backstage area, which was blessedly empty and peaceful, was an ideal spot to chat up some male models while watching them get their faces smeared with grease. (One difference between the men's and the women's shows: Women are "dewy" and men are "sweaty.")
There's a certain mystique about male models, beyond the usual "Zoolander" trope. To get to know some of them better and to get a sense of what the male modeling market wants, we asked them: "Have you ever been told to make a change to your face, hair or body in order to be 'better'?" While several said they've never been asked to change anything, most that we spoke to had a story to tell. Here's what they said.
Adam Butcher, 28:
"My agent recommended that I get Invisalign and straighten my teeth. It takes about eight months. I didn’t have a big change to make, just fixing things up a little bit."
"I'm a very feminine-looking person. I present myself very androgynously in my day-to-day life, so it was always this big conversation of whether they wanted to make me more feminine or more masculine-looking. There's always that struggle of: they want me to grow my hair out; they want me to cut it; they want me to wear certain clothes to make me stand out, but if I stand out then I look totally different. I think now when there are a lot more collections that are exploring that line of gender, it allows us men to have a lot more freedom."
"I had to bleach my eyebrows. You can kind of still see it. With long hair, it changes a lot. A lot of the time they ask me to leave it natural; I'll wake up, have a shower, and it's fine. And then other times they'll curl it and go crazy for editorials and stuff. My first-ever editorial, they cut my hair to be the same as the girl's, so we both had hair up to here. [Gestures to just below his ears.] That was two years ago. Since then, I've never been asked to cut my hair. It's been long since I was a kid."
Andre Bona, 24:
"It happens sometimes, usually when the client is important. One time I had to shave my head. That was in 2013."
Briar Montana, 20:
"I had been scouted a few times [before I signed with an agency], but I guess the industry wasn’t ready for me at first [laughs]. I had to fill out a little bit more, and I’m still really skinny, but I was a lot skinnier then. I was like, 'What? Too skinny for fashion?' Eventually I just grew — I’m still growing. It’s weird."
Hamid Onifade, 21:
"[Modeling] has helped my self-confidence a lot, because they don’t ask me to change anything. I’ve been lucky because I’m quite tall for a model, but most of the clothes still fit."
Erin Mommsen, 19:
"No, it’s kind of the opposite. I’ve been trying to cut my hair and my agent is like, 'No, no don’t cut it!' I think he thinks that my hair is part of my 'look' so it’s kind of important to keep that."
Gabriel True, 24:
"It’s a pretty body-centric industry. With a lot of boys like me who are naturally skinny and just don't have a lot of definition, they want you to be more muscular and toned. I never worked out because I’m naturally skinny so I’m like, 'Alright, I’ll eat just grilled cheese and pizza every single day.' I’m running and doing planks and core exercise. I’m not trying to bulk up at all."
Ryan Keating, 23:
"At first [I was told to] lose weight, but now it’s to get bigger, more muscular. A lot of us have our own different slots in the industry. For right now, I think I'm stronger in the European market."
August Gonet, 21:
"The weirdest situation I had was that I was told to lose weight in my lower back. That’s what someone told me. They said, 'You’re great, but can you tone up your lower back? You need to get leaner in the back section.' I did more arch-ups." [Ed. note: See a tiny gymnast doing an arch-up here.]
Piero Mendez, 19:
"I opened Prada one year ago in Milan as an exclusive. [My hair is] always curly, but at Prada last season they straightened my hair. When I started [modeling] last year there were almost no curly boys."
Roberto Sipos, 19:
"When I started modeling, I was 15 and I was still looking like a baby — it was difficult for me to book the big jobs. You kind of have to look mature. As I get older, it just gets better and better. You never know [if they’ll tell you to bulk up]. If you watch the shows in Paris, they’re all skinny. In Milan they still use bulked-up guys. In London it’s [both] skinny and muscle guys. In New York, it’s more looking like a man."
Mitchell Slaggert, 20:
"I had to lose some muscle mass. I was a little bit too big. I had to run a lot and lose five pounds because I was too big in the shoulders for the clothes. Also, I had a buzzed head and they wanted me to grow it out a little bit so that they could style it more. "