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.”

Personal care brands are also taking the lead. Melbourne-based Stuff is aiming not just to simplify grooming, but to “address toxic masculinity” by having a positive impact on boys and men. Founder and CEO Hunter Johnson also leads the male emotional intelligence charity The Man Cave, which is a major shareholder in the brand. Stuff’s website acts as an educational resource, offering advice on topics like consent and fatherhood, while purchases help to fund preventive mental health programs for boys.

US skincare brand Eos is taking humorous aim at the alpha male while making a stand for the everyman. Its ’Unmanhandle your face’ campaign for the launch of its new shaving cream features a ‘bro’ character who attempts to persuade a man not to buy Eos in favour of another brand which he says “smells of mahogany, and telling chicks to smile more.” In a release, executive creative director Tanner Thompson (for Mischief USA) said, “There are plenty of products for men with perfect jawlines and soaring crypto investments. But what about the normal guys who actually call their moms back and don’t make vests their personality?”

Eos Smells like a Superior Shave Unmanhandle Your Face

‘Clueless dad’ is perhaps one of the most pernicious male stereotypes. A 2022 study from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and Equimundo analyzed over 200 popular TV shows between 2013 and 2020 and found that male caregivers on screen are almost twice as likely to be depicted as incompetent as women. But here too, things are changing, with more relatable portrayals of fatherhood on the rise.

Father’s Day 2023 saw the release of brand campaigns celebrating the unsung dads. Dove Men+Care India released a film under the #ManEnoughtoCare banner, offering tender portrayals of real fathers’ devotion to their children. The Glenlivet USA conducted a filmed social experiment in which real dads and their kids read aloud a stereotype-riddled script written by AI. The 'What does it mean to be a dad today?’ campaign calls for everyone to celebrate fathers for who they really are.

The Intelligence Take

It's clear that the archetype of the so-called ‘real man’ is well past its sell-by date. Brands can help shift the narrative by acknowledging that masculinity is far more nuanced, and spans a broader spectrum than ever. Thoughtful and relatable representation will help men and boys both create and navigate the new era of masculinity for themselves.

Please provide your contact information to continue.

Before submitting your information, please read our Privacy Policy as it contains detailed information on the processing of your personal data and how we use it.

Related Content

Barbie the Movie HERO

Hyper femininity

A colorful new wave of femininity captures empowerment for modern times.
Read Article
HERO Faculty Press Kit Editorial 10

Men's beauty

Men's makeup and beauty is going mainstream.
Read Article