"No one wants a beautiful woman or a beautiful man anymore." - Kelly Cutrone (RM part 4)

The average person probably thinks that male models are muscular, tall and attractive. Two of the three descriptions are accurate however today's ideal male model is definitely not muscular. The fashion and modeling industries experienced a drastic shift in demand at some point in the early 2000s. The male models du moment are skinny, lean and even tattooed. Gone are the days of the male models with movie star looks and porn star physiques. The skinny types are giving the beefcake types a run for their money. Models such as Cole Mohr, Josh Beech, Tyler Riggs and more recently Jethro Cave and Ash Stymest are leading quite successful modeling careers thanks to their lean figures. This new silhouette represents the realness movement in the male modeling industry.

Models with god-like physiques were the norm in the modeling industry up until the late 1990s. The faces of brands such as Dolce & Gabanna and Calvin Klein all had chiseled bodies. If you didn't have a 6-pack and great pecks you could forget about modeling all together. However, the consumers and eventually, the fashion world, got disenchanted with this overly masculine image. In the early 2000s, it was time to reinterpret and redefine societies' notions of masculinity. Male models started getting skinnier and skinnier. Some critics even thought that companies were going too far and promoting a stick figure or scarecrow physique. Whatever your opinion may be, the fact of the matter is that the men's fashion world shifted towards a more raw and realistic look. These boys were naturally good-looking and thin, demonstrating that you didn't need to go to the gym to be attractive. Consumers could relate to these models and this partially explains the reason why this trend caught on.

Hedi Slimane the ex-designer of Dior Homme was one of the first to promote the skinny look in men's fashion. He was making slim fitted, tapered clothing and therefore wanted thinner models to suit his aesthetic. He couldn't always find the type of model he was looking for at modeling agencies so he started conducting street castings. Many of the models in his shows and campaigns are boys that he discovered himself during his travels. Its thanks to these street castings that he was able to find real skinny punks to create a new look in the menswear industry. This brought authenticity to the fashion world. Modeling agencies quickly started scouting and signing skinny boys as well as promoting them to their clients. As Guy Trebay explains in The Vanishing Point article he wrote for the New York Times: "Within a couple of seasons, the sleekness of Dior Homme suits made everyone else's designs look boxy and passé, and so designers everywhere started reducing their silhouettes." Hedi Slimane's influence on the male modeling industry continues to this day, even though he has not designed a collection since 2007.

The "it" male models all have a punk and somewhat androgynous look. They embody the energy and rebellion of youth. They all have tattoos on their bodies and Ash Stymest as well as Josh Beech have gauges in their ears. They have an "I don't give a fuck" rock n' roll attitude. This punk rock model look has also spilled over to the womenswear market. Alice Dellal and Tasha Tilberg are both examples of female models that have become well-known for their edgier looks. Alice Dellal sports a partly shaved hairdo and they both have nose piercings and tattoos. This group of models has taken the fashion world by storm and the fashion world can't seem to get enough as they have appeared on countless magazine covers, in campaigns and in editorials.

The raw, skinny and edgy punk rock aesthetic in the modeling industry is yet another manifestation of the realness movement in the creative community. Dirty, slim and rough is in. Clean, muscular and handsome is out. At the moment, consumers don't want to look at advertisements portraying fantasy male models with physiques that are unattainable to most. They want something that is more realistic and that's what these models represent: reality. Although there is a lot of effort put into creating and maintaing this look, the punk/skinny aesthetic gives the consumer the impression that these models are effortlessly living their lives, one day at a time, without a care in the world. It's an alternative to the clean-cut, muscular male model image that was dominant in the past. In an industry that's known for pushing boundaries this change was necessary.


“I would just have this one little camera and show up at a shoot and people would be like: “where’s the equipment?”” - Terry Richardson (RM part 3)

The snapshot aesthetic is the best representation of the realness movement in the photography industry. It became a dominant form of photography in the 90s and continues to be popular today, especially amongst youth culture. Magazines such as Vice, The Face, i-D as well as clothing companies such as Marc Jacobs, Sisley and even American Apparel have all used this style of photography to promote their brands. Prior to the snapshot aesthetic's rise in popularity, photography was too impersonal and detached from everyday life. Photographers were depicting surreal models in unrealistic settings and situations. The point and shoot style of photography went against this trend by portraying subjects in a more intimate and personal manner. Terry Richardson, Juergen Teller, Wolfgang Tillmans, Diana Scheunemann and Ryan McGinley are all examples of photographers who have contributed to making this aesthetic more accepted in mainstream photography. They are the ones representing the realness movement in the photography industry.

For a long time the imagery found in advertisements, editorials and other visual media often depicted fantasy worlds. The models were portrayed as god-like creatures living in perfect environments. This advertising strategy was employed to create an aspirational image. In other words, by wearing a certain brand the consumer will be, in this case, seductive. This strategy is still used today however certain brands have decided to shift their image from a glamourous one to a more realistic one. Certain consumers got sick of constantly aspiring to own specific products that they could never actually own. They realized that they were never going to be like the models in the images they were being exposed to. These images ended up being perceived as unrealistic and unattainable by the average consumer. The point and shoot style of photography allows the consumer to relate to the images being shown. It is more immediate, more energetic and more personal. It brings accessibility into the equation since there's more interaction between the photograph and the viewer. The photographs don't seem like they have been retouched, the models' imperfections are noticeable and the settings are realistic. It's sexy, fun and raw. It's this intimacy that attracted and still attracts people to this sort of "natural" or "organic" photography.

When talking about the manifestations of the realness movement in photography there is no way of getting around Terry Richardson. He almost single handedly brought the snapshot aesthetic to the attention of the mainstream market during the 90s. However, it was difficult for him to launch his career. Showing up to a professional fashion photoshoot with a point and shoot Yashica T4 camera isn't exactly what you would expect from a photographer who was hired to oversee a campaign or editorial spread. He obviously got criticized for using amateur equipment but the visual results quickly shut his critics up. The snapshot aesthetic eventually caught on and Terry Richardson accurately describes the reasons for this in an interview during the Belvedere vodka campaign shoot:

"[With regards to] my aesthetic...it's much more immediate, and it has an energy to it...I think that that's what people, now more so, they look at a picture and if there's energy, there's some sexiness or something they like about it, it appeals to them...it's an energy people respond to, they want to be part of it or they like the way someone looks, and that's on a more human level, I think that advertising was really detached for a long time, it had nothing to do with how people see things, they sought to make it this fantasy, special, almost unobtainable object. To me, with the whole snapshot thing, it's just human, it's personal and I think people respond to it."

By following these beliefs his photographs have appeared on countless magazine covers, in editorials, in campaigns, on pop stars' album covers and in addition to shooting the previously mentioned Belvedere vodka campaign he has also recently shot the infamous Pirelli calendar, solidifying the point and shoot aesthetic's place as one of the dominant forms of photography.

Even American Apparel adopted Terry Richardson's style of photography. Their advertisements are directly influenced by the snapshot aesthetic. It's in large part due to their campaigns that the brand has become so successful. Consumers relate to the models in the shots because the pictures look like they could have been taken by the viewer. The models aren't even models, they're usually employees or so-called "real-life" models. Again, the pictures are personal, raw and usually sexy. They don't hide the subjects' flaws. They don't seem to have gone through hours of retouching in photoshop. American Apparel was one of the first mass market clothing brands to use this style of photography in its advertisements therefore it was new to consumers and helped them differentiate themselves from the competition.

The Marc Jacobs brand has also profited thanks to the snapshot aesthetic. Marc Jacobs' longtime collaboration with Juergen Teller has created unique advertisements that consumers can immediately recognize without even seeing the company's name. The photographs are fun, energetic and raw. Past campaigns have included Harmony Korine eating at a restaurant, Ryan McGinley taking a bath and Victoria Beckham’s legs popping out of a Marc Jacobs bag. They have chosen not to always use professional models. Yes, these subjects are famous in their respective industries but these images show them in a different light. In a way, the photographs bring them down to our level. The consumer can relate to them more since the campaigns make them look like everyday people by depicting them in banal/normal settings.

Prior to the likes of Terry Richardson and Juergen Teller entering the photography industry the snapshot aesthetic had never been valued highly. It was perceived as unprofessional and crude. However, it revolutionized the photography industry by incorporating elements of intimacy and reality and this, in a way, democratized it. The point and shoot aesthetic demonstrated that there wasn't one best kind of photography. These "realness movement" photographers made the photography world more accepting of their "natural" photography and showed that they also deserved artistic merit. The fact that this type of photography has remained quite popular during the last 15+ years attests to the fact that it has become an important part of the photography industry. Longevity is an important indicator of any true artistic movement and I don't see the snapshot aesthetic disappearing anytime soon.


"When you drape your music in effects, it actually undercuts the music itself." - Bob Lefsetz (RM part 2)

The late 90s and 2000s gave us mainstream acts such as Britney Spears, Blink-182 and 50 cent. Although these acts belong to different musical genres they all reflect the state of the mainstream music industry during the past decade or so. For the past ten years music has been too polished and overproduced making a lot of acts seem repetitive and bland. As a result of this, certain music fans started searching for something else. The musicians they discovered were individuals who created music with very little means. These artists were demonstrating that you didn't need the newest instruments, proper equipment or state of the art recording facilities to make records. Their reason for being was to create records that were different from what was being played in the mainstream and the difference was their lo-fi sound. Lo-fi music has existed for awhile now but this genre is currently experiencing a resurgence. Bands such as Wavves, A Grave With No Name and The Bitters (to name a few) have been getting their first tastes of success. These lo-fi bands are at the forefront of the realness movement in the music industry.

As during most periods, there are a lot of overlapping elements between the fashion (which I mentioned in my previous entry) and music scenes of the late 90s and 2000s. In this case, both of these scenes were overly glamourous and polished. Musically, the pop artists from this era all created music that was layered in unnecessary effects. When it comes to their image, pop acts such as Britney Spears are made up of plastic dolls that do everything they are told, pop punk acts such as Blink-182 are promoting the "punk" way of life while touring in luxury buses and living in mansions and hip pop acts such as 50 cent are trying to play-up the "gangster" (sorry, "gangsta") image while spending too much time smoking weed, insulting rivals in safe interview settings and carrying guns for show. Unfortunately, the mainstream music industry hasn't stopped promoting slightly updated versions of the previously mentioned pop acts but at least this has motivated a new generation of musicians to create more authentic music.

Lo-fi music is defined as "the production or reproduction of audio characterised by an unpolished or rough sound quality." (merriam-webster) Bands searching to create a lo-fi sound pride themselves in making music with very limited tools at their disposal. Wavves started making music in his bedroom using Garageband. The members of A Grave with No Name record in friends' bedrooms if they can't record in theirs. They are making music out of love and are willing to sacrifice a lot to get their music out there. They'll tour endlessly in shitty vans, play in dive bars/clubs and sleep on couches. To a certain extent, it's become cool to do this. As Ben Cook from the Bitters explained to dazeddigital: "I guess even more so now people aren't paying attention to ANYTHING that sounds like it could be played on a radio station. The more shitty and obscure, the more elite and rad you feel, right?" But this doesn't mean that everybody and anybody can produce good lo-fi music. Ben continues by stating that "...the availability of low budget recordings only sets apart the true songwriters from the bored kids with a laptop." You still have to have talent to make lo-fi music.

The lo-fi sound is fuzzy, distorted and rough but underneath it all you will find good melodies and songwriting. That's why it's appealing. It still is good pop music but lo-fi musicians decide to record it in a minimal way. Take Wavves, for instance. So Bored and No Hope Kids are feel good tunes that are extremely catchy. They're simply dirtier and more abrasive pop songs. Lo-fi musicians, like Wavves, are stripping their music down. Keeping it simple. Taking away the extra layers of production. These bands make the best of the few tools they have. In a way, they are showing the world what the music making process used to be like. Lo-fi music is bringing it back to a time when music was raw, natural and organic. A time when the magic happened when you were physically playing your instrument. Not in post-production. In this sense, they are helping make "real" music again. It's for this reason that lo-fi music has reached a popularity level unseen since the days of Sebadoh and Pavement.

The musicians creating lo-fi music today are offering an alternative to young music goers who are fed up with the music promoted by the mainstream media. The fans and bands alike are indirectly rebelling against the mainstream music industry. They want to create and support music that isn't perfect. By stripping down the layers and keeping it raw and simple there's a certain energy to it that you don't often find in mainstream music today. It seems more personal, more honest and more believable. I know that I've used the word "real" a lot and you're probably getting sick of it by now but that's the simple word that fans need to associate with your band in order for you to be successful. And although it's a simple word, it's not a simple concept to grasp. There's no formula for it. It just happens. The best chance you have to be perceived as "real", is to be true to yourself. More specifically, let your music speak for itself because at the end of the day that's all it comes down to.