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Machine Men, Machine Minds, Machine Hearts

Casting off a one-dimensional masculinity.

The modern man is tall, handsome, supremely confident. He drives the best cars, wears the best clothes and smells absolutely fucking amazing. He spends a lot of time topless, the better to reveal his godlike physique. He never doubts himself, never falters.

He is, in other words, a total arsehole.

Every time you turn on the TV, go online or just walk down the street, you’ll be confronted by a humourless army of these men, machine men, with machine minds and machine hearts, to borrow a phrase from Charlie Chaplin.

He matters to all of us, because this man, and the advertising which sustains him, has become the dominant form of male iconography. And in particular he matters to anyone like me who works in menswear, because we must choose as advertisers whether or not to endorse or diverge from him.

This is currently more a private concern than a mainstream issue, and to an extent that’s very fair. Men have had it pretty good for a couple of dozen centuries, so whatever issues may exist aren’t necessarily at the front of society’s queue.

Yet I would argue that if we want the 21st century to be kinder, more peaceful and more equal than the 20th, then male identity sits at the heart of that challenge and we need to celebrate men who embody those ideals far more than we do today.

As it stands, male advertising screams ‘ASSERT YOURSELF.’ It equates being a man with strong, bold actions, whether that’s racing down a road in your sports car, lacing up your trainers before a workout or smiling dryly at the supermodel across the bar.

There’s nothing wrong with any of that, but when that’s the only vision of men we get, to the exclusion of all others, that becomes a problem.

In fact, it’s more than a problem, it’s dangerous. It silently encourages millions of different individuals to conform to one ‘norm’, rather than to explore who they really are. And men, deep down within their true and varied selves, are rather awesome. We’ve been known to be funny, intelligent, sensitive, urbane, passionate, creative, dedicated and even surprising on occasion. Men think in different ways, love in different ways, express themselves in different ways. So why not shout about it?

If you look at any of the stats on male mental health right now, it doesn’t paint a pretty picture. There are doubtless a myriad of causes, but if we all spent less time being pressured into becoming something we’re not, I can’t help but think that might have a positive, even if small, impact.

Maybe you do want to assert yourself or maybe you don’t. Maybe you simply want to sit quietly somewhere and enjoy a book. Both are OK, but both must exist as options.

As consumers, you have immense power to shift the narrative, to reject these outdated idols and to usher in a more nuanced interpretation of male identity. I urge you therefore: Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men - machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines! You are not cattle! You are men!

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