Is This What a Man Looks Like?

Is This What a Man Looks Like?

With Mental Health Awareness Week drawing to a close, we’ve been giving thought to this year’s theme of body image.

The conversation is opening up and it’s about time. Over one third of adults have felt anxious or depressed because of their body image, as revealed this week by a survey commissioned by The Mental Health Foundation.

When it comes to body image, the focus has largely been on the impact on women over the last decade or so, and with good reason.

Female body shape is a subject which has been under the spotlight, with brands making strides to benefit positive body image for women, particularly in fashion and beauty – for example, brands like Dove and Pretty Little Thing casting all body types and forgoing retouching.

But body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is something that is being overlooked when it comes to men.

Whilst some companies like Manual are opening the door to the conversation with their campaign for all male body types which launched this week, it’s just not quite reaching the same level of recognition as when we’re discussing it in the context of women.

Male body image is a subject that we’re regularly evaluating as part of our work through New Macho, our strategic arm specialising in growing brands whilst shaping a positive male narrative.

We’re all starting to wake up to the realisation of the extent of the role that brand communications have played in developing many of the issues we’re faced with today.

Over time, brands have contributed to a negative ideal that the ultimate standard of masculinity is having an unrealistic Adonis-like figure through the promotion of unhealthy stereotypes and aspirations.

For years, society has been fed an agenda that tells guys their attractiveness will follow once this ideal of so-called beauty has been conformed to and attained.

But when men push themselves too hard in the gym, they can experience negative mental side effects such as an addiction to endorphins and dopamine or ‘bigorexia’, a stem of OCD, where even the most “stacked” of men feel their bodies are inadequate and they’re in constant pursuit of more muscle.

The condition, which affects one in ten male gym-goers, can lead to over-exertion, injuries, anxiety and depression amongst other nasty side effects.

When you magnify this rhetoric through the social media echo chamber, the problem has infinite ways to extend its reach. It’s already taken firm roots – Our recent report from New Macho uncovered 27% of males within the ‘millennial’ age bracket agreed with the statement ‘my popularity on social media makes me more desirable’.

Not only this, but when head of New Macho, Fernando Desouches, spearheaded the repositioning of Axe/Lynx in 2016, research was uncovered that showed that whilst men deem money and muscle to be the key to pulling-power, the majority of women said they are most attracted to men that make them laugh and are true to themselves; a much healthier goal to aspire to.

Our findings from the New Macho report reflect this, particularly in younger people – 30% of Gen Z male respondents agreed with the statement, ‘the more buffed a man is, the more attractive he becomes’, versus 12% of Gen Z females.

If there’s one thing to take away from this week, please let it be this – In order to have a sustainable relationship with your audience, support the idea that the key to confidence and happiness for everyone is on the inside, no matter what body shape.

If you want to create a real change, show diversity but don’t use it to make a statement.


We love talking about this subject. Drop us a line if you’d like to have a chat about any of the topics discussed, we’d be more than happy to share a few pointers.

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