Brands and cultural opinion leaders are stepping up to offer a new vision for masculinity, countering unhelpful hypermasculinity tropes.
According to VML research for the Inclusion’s Next Wave trends report, 64% of male respondents across Brazil, China, Japan, the UK and US agree that society consistently stereotypes men. But now cultural narratives are slowly becoming more diverse, offering up a broader palette of representation for men.
Take rapper A$AP Rocky, widely applauded on social media after appearing on the March 2023 British Vogue cover walking behind his partner Rihanna holding their new-born. While some fretted about his “emasculation,” most saw a supportive man with the confidence to let his partner take the limelight. And in the blockbuster movie of this summer, Barbie, Ken undoubtedly plays second fiddle to the eponymous star, but after a journey of self-discovery, he throws out his alpha male aspirations, concluding that he’s ‘Kenough.’
Fashion is also serving up alternatives to tough chiseled archetypes on the catwalks, with ambassadors like Timothée Chalamet (Bleu de Chanel) and Harry Styles (Gucci) proposing a gentler and more fluid interpretation of masculinity. Following the Valentino menswear show in Milan in June, which showcased softer silhouettes and tailoring, creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli told Vogue Business, “The real power today is freedom; to be yourself exactly as you are. A new sort of gentleness or kindness or evenness can be your strength.”