Broadly speaking, men are less dissatisfied with their looks and appearances as compared to women. But, that doesn’t mean men aren’t insecure about the way they look. Thus, women aren’t alone in facing societal pressures regarding beauty standards.
In the last decade, it has become increasingly prevalent in media, the entertainment industry, and even in advertisements to focus on an “ideal” type for men’s beauty. Although studies suggest that women are thrice as likely to be affected by beauty standards, the percentage of men admitting to the so-called “beauty standards” is shockingly growing at a very high rate.
These male beauty standards are especially harmful to young boys and teenagers. The idea of beauty keeps shifting every day, therefore, it is difficult to keep up.
What promotes these beauty standards?
In a simple one-word answer: social media. But, social media is not the only one to be blamed here. All forms of media contribute to propagating fixed beauty standards. Yes, we’re talking about traditional forms of media. From magazines to television, advertisements, billboards, etc. every one of these media masterminds contributes to the dissatisfaction men and women face with their bodies.
In today’s world, everyone living in developed countries, encounter and consume media daily. Media is the number one force behind perpetrating these unreal beauty standards. Men and women find themselves battling identity issues due to the rigid beauty standards portrayed in the media.
From the moment we open our eyes (considering all of us reach for our phones first thing in the morning), we are exposed to these air-brushed images of “perfect” men with perfect bodies. We find ourselves immersed in an alternate reality. We fail to remind ourselves that, in reality, a perfect body does not exist. An unnatural amount of planning, makeup, air-brushing, and photo editing goes into the pictures posted on social media. It’s designed to sell a product but not to support a healthy lifestyle.
Gym culture can also be toxic in promoting these unreal male beauty standards. And, while men are constantly badgered with these unhealthy standards of beauty, they’re also shamed for androgynous fashion, taking care of themselves, and wearing makeup.
Let us explore some of the beauty standards around the world that men fall victim to.
America is one of the countries that is known for having the most rigid beauty standards, most of this has to do with the influence of Hollywood among young teenagers.
Men in America face the pressure to be “muscular”. An ideal American body is one with broad shoulders, with an equally broad upper body (pectoral muscles and biceps). The back must be V-shaped. American beauty standards also put a lot of pressure on men for having facial hair and well-developed glutes. Not to forget, the ideal beauty standard in America is definitely a white man.
Brazil is known to be the most diverse country, but that doesn’t prevent it from having rigid male beauty standards. In Brazil too, white men are considered more beautiful than others. Popular beauty standards include straight and fair hair (quite contrary to Black features). Moreover, Brazil considers “Germanic” features to be beautiful. A lightly tanned skin is preferred over others.
As a response to these beauty standards, men’s grooming, skincare, and cosmetic surgery are becoming increasingly popular in America.
Italian men are considered the most fashionable. Thus, Italy is more focused on fashion than physical features. Italian men are expected to wear well-tailored suits with pocket squares and loafers as shoes. Italian men often shape their eyebrows as beauty standards in Italy emphasize clean features.
In the United Kingdom, models and football players are held as standards of ideal beauty. Facial hair, manscaping, and grooming have become increasingly popular in recent decades. The UK also views tattoos to be extremely attractive. Britain is the most tattooed country in the world.
Mexico places a lot of importance on skincare and facial hair grooming. Being “macho” is considered to be the ideal male beauty standard in Mexico.
Africa and Nigeria
In Africa and Nigeria, Nollywood is very popular. Young adults and teenagers look up to these Nollywood stars and groom themselves after them. Besides, music stars are also considered role models. Both these countries have an obsession with masculinity and values attached to traditional masculinity, like physical strength, chivalry, protectiveness, virility, etc.
Skin lightening creams are very popular in both these countries.
Australian men value tallness and muscular bodies. And at the same time, they emphasize thinness. Australia is very comfortable with elective surgeries like cosmetic surgery. A lot of Australian men go for rhinoplasty, liposuction, and facelifts.
Courtesy of Bollywood, Indian men are expected to look like movie stars. Masculinity is also modelled after Bollywood stars and how they behave in the movies. This being said, beauty standards in India are modelled after increasing confidence in men to such an extent that they even exert their dominance over women.
Besides, skincare has become increasingly important in India. Skin lightening creams are extremely popular.
Along with Bollywood movie stars, Indian men also look up to cricket players as role models for beauty.
How are South Korean stars challenging traditional male beauty standards?
Even though traditional gender norms including beauty standards for men are still plaguing society, they are on their way out. Credits to K-Pop stars like BTS.
While western society has ingrained a rigid beauty standard of how men should look (deep voices, rough skin with facial hair, muscular bodies, etc.), BTS stands in strong opposition to everything that makes a man beautiful conventionally.
From their hairstyles to fashion, BTS tries to incorporate feminine styles into their already existing masculine aesthetic, creating a sensitive androgynous style. They evidently do not conform to traditional male styles. From wearing corsets, feminine jewellery to skirts and dressing in all pink, BTS has done it all.
BTS also promotes makeup and has collaborated with various makeup brands. Therefore, K-Pop stars like BTS have reinvented male beauty standards and what it’s like to be attractive. They’ve introduced the world to a new form of masculinity. Thanks to stars like BTS, the world is finally progressing.
If you’re a man in 2020, reading this article, then you should know better than to be insecure about your looks. Like we’ve already established, none of these beauty standards is healthy or permanent. Male beauty standards will keep shifting with every year and it’s not possible to keep track. We know better than to judge men by their looks!
So, be confident in your skin and you’ll be good to go.