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Thursday, February 7, 2008

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The Skinny?



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CREDIT Hedi Slimane or blame him. The type of men Mr. Slimane promoted when he first came aboard at Dior Homme some years back (he has since left) were thin to the point of resembling stick figures; the clothes he designed were correspondingly lean. The effects of his designs on the men’s wear industry were radical and surprisingly persuasive. Within a couple of seasons, the sleekness of Dior Homme suits made everyone else’s designs look boxy and passé, and so designers everywhere started reducing their silhouettes.

Then a funny thing happened. The models were also downsized. Where the masculine ideal of as recently as 2000 was a buff 6-footer with six-pack abs, the man of the moment is an urchin, a wraith or an underfed runt.

Nowhere was this more clear than at the recent men’s wear shows in Milan and Paris, where even those inured to the new look were flabbergasted at the sheer quantity of guys who looked chicken-chested, hollow-cheeked and undernourished. Not altogether surprisingly, the trend has followed the fashion pack back to New York

Wasn’t it just a short time ago that the industry was up in arms about skinny models? Little over a year ago, in Spain, designers were commanded to choose models based on a healthy body mass index; physicians were installed at Italian casting calls; Diane von Furstenberg, the president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, and Anna Wintour, the editor of Vogue, called a conference to ventilate the issue of unhealthy body imagery and eating disorders among models.

The models in question were women, and it’s safe to say that they remain as waiflike as ever. But something occurred while no one was looking. Somebody shrunk the men.

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