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What was the first male beauty standard anyway?

The male form, and the beauty standards that come with it, has certainly changed over the years. For example, high heels were created for men in the 15th century, helping them get into stirrups. In today’s world, high heels serve an entirely different purpose, being a sign of beauty and wealth, and used primarily by women, so how did the male form change so drastically over the years?

Going back to the Neolithic Era, (~12,000 B.C-~8,000 B.C) which is where we see the change from a society that follows hunter/gatherers rules, to one based around agriculture, and farming, which made things much easier in terms of lifestyle and daily work. This made the ideal man heavy, as those with more food ate more, and also had more money, making them the societal elite.

Going over to the ancient Greeks, however, changes things. Ancient Greeks held great value in the arts, and due to this, the ideal male form was much more muscular and lean than heavyset and stocky. There were even specific ratios that ancient Greeks used to measure the body, and if a body didn’t meet certain criteria, it wasn’t considered beautiful. It’s also the origin of the Apollo’s Belt, which is the abdominal V muscle right below the pant line.

When people think the Middle Ages, they typically think of men being shorter, however, it’s found by studying skeletons that this wasn’t necessarily the case. Skeletons that were studied from the Middle Ages show that men during this time had a great growth spurt and then declined by 2 ½ inches by the 1700s. What’s more interesting, however, is the absence of men in art at all during this time, as art was mainly preserved for religious settings. However, the men that were drawn were very average, and nothing special, leading us to believe that perhaps they weren’t as short as once thought?

Leonardo da Vinci, a famous renaissance man, who created what is now known as the Vitruvian Man, in which da Vinci lays out how the male form should look. This improved on the ancient Greeks version, by making proportions and depictions much more realistic and achievable.

During the Golden Years of Hollywood, there occurred a sort of mass re-invention of the male form, and with it, a mass re-invention of the way men should act. Men needed to be leaner, more muscular, have a short, conservative haircut, and have manners and act like a gentleman. These were but a few of the many unspoken rules that men had to follow to be accepted into mainstream society. Of course, the rules were even more stringent for women, but men had their fair share of work to do on their appearance as well during this time. At this time the male form became, for the first time, commercialized. The “look” of your favorite Hollywood star could be sold in hairsprays, creams, diet pills, hand lotion, and even food!

In all, we can see that the male form has had its changes in the past. From a large, hunter in the Neolithic Era, to a lean and muscular Chris Evans, the “ideal male form” has gone through some major reinventions, making its history very rich and interesting.

It’s in examining past and present trends of what it is to ‘be a man’ we realize that trends come and go, and both men and women alike are not immune to the societal pressures to look or dress a certain way. Time inevitably passes by, and in the end will you have chosen to live your truth or let society dictate who you are? The choice is yours. You can follow or you can lead.

© 2021 Merrymen.

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