Niamh O'Donoghue examines the rise of the male model on both our shores and internationally.
Ireland is known for producing the creme de la creme. We have the ritual of producing monumental sportsmen and sportswomen down to a fine art; setting the standard high around the globe from football and hockey, to tennis, boxing and athletics.
Then there’s our fixation with food and drink. Only an Irish man would contain that kind of precocity to take out a one-hundred year old lease on a brewery.
Producing international models for major fashion houses, on the other hand, is something that we’re not entirely accustomed to.
Where our tiny island lies on this gargantuan planet has a lot to say about how we look, and our genes have developed accordingly in response to our disappointing climate: freckles, fair skin, thick hair and often androgynous, asymmetrical features etc.
Yet our tiny island is beginning to make waves in an industry that’s foreign to us. Just this February, Dylan Moran from Not Another Agency walked for Alexandre Wang at New York Fashion Week and has been invited to castings for Kenzo and Prada.
And what about Aidan Walsh? The eighteen year old dance prodigy and model from Co. Clare appeared on the front cover of Vogue Italia in October 2015.
By name-sake we can also claim the undisputedly beautiful Dudley O’Shaughnessy too; most known for playing Rihanna’s lover in her hit song ‘We Found Love’ in 2011.
Born to a Saint Lucian father of Afro-Caribbean-Irish decent and an English mother, O’Shaughnessy struck lucky in the gene-pool lotto.
The industry has for many years been a female-dominated ball-game. In fairness, it was a woman who was first recognised as a “supermodel” (Lisa Fonssagrives, later taken over by Janice Dickenson).
The industry leaders today continue to be women, whose careers tend to span for decades. But there are marginally fewer male supermodels with as much career longevity as their female counterparts.
Only last month did the New York Post publish a piece about the world's first male supermodel - fifty year old john Pearson - thirty years after his career began.
Male supermodels earn a lot less too. According to Fortune Mag, in 2014 the highest paid female model was Gisele Bundchen who earned $47 million, while the highest paid male model, Sean O’Pry, earned a mere $1.5 million in comparison. Gender equality aye?
It’s worth noting however that female models are much more in demand, and there’s something less appealing about a male version of Victoria Secrets.
What filter is that?
The fashion market as a whole is in a constant state of flux. Advances in tech means that everything is churned out at a larger and faster pace - including models.
But this isn’t a new phenomenon. What is new is the way fashion houses are casting the faces and bodies of their latest campaigns and get-ups.
Fashion houses are using the platform to host global model searches; saving time and money and opening up the industry to an entirely new market that would be otherwise unreachable.
Marc Jacobs was the first designer to test Instagram and launched his search in 2015 to find the new face of his campaign using the hashtag #CastMeMarc.
Social media has proven to be an excellent platform for aspiring models to showcase their look to potential agents, as well as gain a reputable following to rival other competitors.
If Instagram isn't appealing you could just wait for a chance encounter like Italian model Alessio Pozzi (if you’re good-looking enough that is).
The provocative Mediterranean was scouted while at a dentist appointment, and six weeks later was signed to Elite models, one of the worlds most prestigious model agencies.
Grab life by the balls
In light of there not being enough male supermodels, those who have achieved success have brought about positive change to the industry.
In an environment that is dominated by skinny models, David Gandy’s muscular build was a more normal and healthier image to mimic for younger aspiring models.
After winning a modelling competition in his mid-twenties, Gandy was quickly scouted by Dolce & Gabbana. In the nineties Mark Wahlberg upheaved the Calvin Klein runway in his 1991 modelling debut.
Halfway through his walk Wahlberg's poorly-secured jeans come loose revealing his Calvins underneath. What does he do? He struts and grabs his balls. His cheeky stunt continues to be mimicked by both male and female models!