It’s Not a Journey: The Endless Trend of Male Vanity

The next time someone tries to convince me that Pitt is ‘a really great actor, actually’ I’ll just throw my eyes around the room in a casually-but-profoundly dramatic fashion before fixing them on the Fight Club fanboy – and it always is a Fight Club fanboy – and saying: “THERE you ARE!”

I don’t mean to be bitchy, but… Ab Pitt seems to have all the neuroses of a Marilyn Monroe about being thought a dumb blond, but little or none of the talent. It’s not the fact this Big Movie Star has done an ad like this at all, or even the bathetic horror of the script – par to the course in perfume ads – it’s the way he delivers this stinky stuff like it was a Shakespearean soliloquy. We’re laughing at it because we know it will hurt.

Though of course, we’re just jealous. I certainly am. Brad is being so earnest and romantico not because he’s addressing you or me or Angelina Jolie, but his reportedly $7M cheque for the 30 second spot – which I suspect the director has taped to the camera.

At the height of her fame method-actress Marilyn was paid only $100,000 plus 10% of profits for the feature-length classic movie: Some Like It Hot. And I rather doubt she received a fee at all for her own posthumous Chanel No.5 ad.

The real significance of Brad’s ad of course is that Pitt is the first man to advertise the woman’s fragrance Chanel No.5 – which hitherto has been plugged only by leading examples of the ‘fairer sex’. Leading man Brad has stepped into a role previously occupied by leading ladies.

This though is very familiar territory though for Brad. Often described as ‘the most beautiful man in the world’ – i.e. the most objectified – he did after all play both Achilles and Helen in the movie Troy. He has the abs that launched a thousand sit-ups. And this former model’s own movie career was launched by playing a toyboy picked up and ravished by an older Geena Davis in Thelma and Louise (1991), a movie which itself famously reversed the gender roles of the buddy road movie.

Clinching the matter, his hairstyles are discussed almost as much as any actress’ – or even David Beckham’s.

Pitt also played, you may remember, the highly, er, aesthetic leader of a bogus revolt against metrosexuality and consumerism in Fight Club.

Oh, and by the way. Pitt is 48 years old. Which makes him even older than me. But in the Chanel ad, even with his gray beard and (electronically altered?) gravelly voice, Dorian Pitt seems no older than about 27 – the same age he was when we first met him in Thelma & Louise. In fact, he looks like a 27-year-old with a stick-on beard pretending to be 48.

As he puts it himself:

It’s not a journey. Every journey ends. But we go on.”

***

A survey released just before Brad’s Bad Marilyn moment appears to confirm the continuing, endless trend for men appropriating previously feminine preserves that has been going on since at least the 1990s, and which Pitt, whether he wants to or not, has often exemplified – and encouraged. “The world turns and we turn with it.”

The fashion and beauty spending poll (commissioned by online casino RoxyPalace.com) asked 1000 UK men and women how much they spent on clothes and cosmetic products. The findings showed, they said, that ‘men are fast catching up with women’.

  • Women average £2,462 p.a.; men £1,786 (£50 less a month than women).
  • Men and women in London are the most extravagant, and also the closest to one another in expenditure, with women spending c. £2,700 a year; men £2,350, £29 per month less than women.
  • Unsurprisingly, other metropolitan areas such as Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle and Liverpool also showed above-average rates of spending.
  • A man who took part in the survey says: ‘I can remember my dad’s cosmetic shelf consisted of a bar of soap and a bottle of Old Spice but I have a cabinet full of products.’
  • A woman says: ‘I have been shopping with my boyfriend before and on occasions he has been known to spend more than me on hair products. I don’t think men spending more money on clothes and cosmetics is a bad thing. It’s always attractive for someone to take pride on their appearance.’

Again, nothing very new here (and the quotes do sound a tad hackneyed). Just, further evidence that despite the recession the ‘trend’ of metrosexuality has hardened into an epoch – that nevertheless some are still in terrible denial about.

A spokesperson for RoxyPalace.com concluded:

‘It’s becoming increasingly acceptable for men to use cosmetic treatments. Even macho film stars are advertising skin cream, and whilst it would be difficult to imagine a world where guys spent more money on looking good than women do, but who knows where the age of metrosexuality will lead us?’

I imagine when he mentioned ‘macho film stars’ he had in mind Gerard Butler as the bearded face of L’Oreal, not Brad Pitt. But in regard to his last poser, it’s not entirely impossible that for younger people living in metropolitan areas, that world may have already been delivered by metrosexuality. Or very nearly.

These days, working out is often at least as important a way of ‘looking good’ for males as fashionable clothes and cosmetics – but isn’t covered in the survey. In fact, many men invest more heavily in their bodies than in their wardrobe – which tends to be rather skimpy…. And generally it seems men are more into working on their bodies to ‘look good’ than women are.

So if you were to factor in average spends on gym membership, fitness equipment, and particularly sports supplements such as creatine and protein drinks (a booming market), the gap between men and women’s average spend on ‘vanity’ might shrink again. Currently the gap between male and female spending on ‘looking good’ is reportedly only £29/month in London. That’s less than most monthly gym memberships.

£29 also happens to be about the price of a yearly subscription to the best-selling men’s magazine, Men’s Health. The November UK issue of which carries the results of another survey, this one studying MH readers’ favourite subject: themselves.

One of the questions asked readers who had their ideal body. The answers were:

  • Tom Hardy 42%.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo 32%.
  • David Beckham 26%.

Somewhere David Beckham is crying into his low-carb lunch. Interesting to note though that Brad Pitt doesn’t make the list at all, when once he would probably have dominated it – after all, Men’s Health has built a global empire out of modern man’s yen to have abs – and thus be worthy of love. And abs didn’t exist, remember, until Brad Pitt invented them in the 1990s.

Perhaps though Brad is relieved to be out of the running. Or maybe he’s relieved and heartbroken.

Tom Hardy, the Brit Brando with the voluptuous pecs and the pouty lips, seems to have won the hearts of Men’s Health readers. I don’t blame them. And I suspect Tom’ doesn’t either. Probably they were seduced by his body in Warrior and his motto in Inception: “Don’t be afraid to dream a little bigger darling”. Actually, in a better world that would be the motto of Men’s Health magazine.

Interesting that a third would want a body like Ronaldo’s – despite Ronaldo’s official designation in the UK as Most Hated Footballer. It rather confirms my suspicion that us Brits are just jealous of him.

It does seem a little odd though that there are only three men in the whole world whose bodies Men’s Health readers want/aspire to – and nearly half of them want just one body in particular. (There’s no indication of whether they were given a multiple choice or just came up with the names themselves.)

Other findings include:

  • 37% of MH readers spend 4-6 hours in the gym a week – while 30% spend more than six hours there.
  • 46% want to improve their abs. 42% their upper body, and 12% lower body.

Chicken legs, in other words, are de rigeur with MH readers.

 

Tip: Lee Kynaston

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12 thoughts on “It’s Not a Journey: The Endless Trend of Male Vanity

  1. Mark, as I read this it occurred to me that you could almost view Thema & Louise as an updated “Some Like it Hot” (two female impersonators on the run) without the yucks, in which case Abs would be Osgood Fielding without the yacht.

  2. Pitt wasn’t too bad in Fight Club, but was play­ing Edward Norton’s vapid good­look­ing hyper-sexual hard­man bimbo alter-ego (or Chuck Palahniuk’s wank fan­tasy); hardly a stretch. He was just a male (parole) model in that any­way. But one fairly decently-acted role does not a career make. If you watch him (and I nor­mally don’t, except by acci­dent) in stuff like Inglou­ri­ous Bas­terds, he sim­ply stinks to high heaven. Awful.

  3. JC: Thanks for the corrections. Clearly I shouldn’t trouble myself with that word either. The traps are quite something. I seem to remember them doing much of the acting in ‘Bronson’.

    Graham: You win.

  4. The value proposition with T. Hardy is traps, not “pecs,” and “de rigueur” is spelled thus.

  5. Mark W: I think you’re right that Tom Hardy might have carried it off better. Though he may be more popular with men than women.

    Stephen: Maybe the mark-up is higher on womenswear….

    Sisu: That’s very forgiving and Christian of you.

    Graham: ‘De rigeur’ isn’t a word you need concern yourself with. ;’)

  6. Having recently visited a couple of major department stores and been taken aback by the amount of floorspace given over to women’s clothing compared to that for men (an even more extreme disparity in charity shops) it’s clear who is spending the money on clothing. Maybe men are spending most of it on cosmetics then?

  7. deep the lighting really makes ya think too heh?

    would anybody believe me if I were to say I think he kinda looks like shite in this thing?

  8. The ad featuring Pitt certainly left me thinking right off as you remarked that he was engaged in a Shakespearean solil­o­quy. Seeing that he was pushing women’s perfume, I just felt confused and really so put off that I can’t bring myself to watch it again. He always plays action characters and not one’s with any delicacy of feeling or any aesthetic delicacy. He would have a rough go selling men’s underwear–clean one’s at least. I can almost see Tom Hardy doing something similar more convincingly.

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