Posts Tagged ‘Andre Pejic’

I have made my debut at the wonderful website Science Of The Time, where I have written about Andre Pejic and a campaign advertising women’s lingerie:

What it is:
Andrej Pejic, if not quite yet a household name, is definitely well known as a beautiful androgynous model, and for modelling both men’s and women’s clothes. But his most recent campaign, for the Dutch chain HEMA (as Dutch as it can get), has got people talking again. Pejic is modelling push-up bra’s (add 2 cup sizes!) and other pieces of women’s clothing. In the popular British newspaper, The Mirror, Pejic’s agent Joseph Tenni was reported as saying:

 “It’s revolutionary. I’ve never known a man to do a womens’ lingerie campaign before”.

This shows two things: first that we are all getting used to the idea of a model crossing the border between ‘men’ and ‘women’, ‘masculine’ ‘feminine’ in these modern metrosexual times. But second, that a man modelling women’s underwear, is maybe one step beyond acceptable. It’s ‘revolutionary’.

Influenced by the work of Mark Simpson, father of metrosexuality (1994) and a keen trend watcher in the areas of fashion, advertising and men’s display of their bodies, I have commented about reactions towards Pejic before. I noticed that while journalists were prepared to call him ‘pretty’ or even a ‘beautiful boy’, they could not fully embrace the idea of male beauty and call Pejic what he is: a beautiful man.

Why It’s Cool:
Now the beautiful Pejic is wearing women’s lingerie and looking better in it than many women do. He is challenging our understanding of what makes a man (or a woman) altogether. The irony being that whilst we find it hard to imagine a man modelling women’s bras,  men’s tits are actually getting bigger every day and replacing women’s as a sign of ‘sexiness’.

We are living in what Simpson has called Transexy Times. And before long the ‘revolutionary’ and  very cool Pejic will probably seem normal to everyone.

Campaign by Doom & Dickson

This NY Times Magazine article descripes Andre Pejic as ‘the prettiest boy in the world’. He is undoubtedly very pretty. But aren’t a lot of boys these days?

The real focus of the article is on how an openly cross-dressing androgynous man has been able to secure high profile modelling work for both men and women’s fashion.

‘At Storm, the fifth agency he visited, owner Sarah Doukas—known for discovering Kate Moss—decided to take a chance on him. “When I first met ­Andrej, I didn’t think, What a beautiful boy or girl,” Doukas says. “I certainly didn’t want to put him in one particular box.” The agency posted him not just on the men’s board but also on the women’s’.

In many ways, this is a comment, not on his androgyny itself, but on the fashion industry, and how hung up it has been about gender roles and the separation between ‘men’ and women’ in clothes/fashion.

‘In Europe’s fashion world, where the masculine ideal is a good deal less masculine, Pejic found some work, but he didn’t become one of the industry’s coveted items—the modeling world’s version of the Birkin or the Spy Bag or the Muse—until Carine Roitfeld, then editor-in-chief of French Vogue, decided to dress him as a woman for an editorial shoot. “Carine Roitfeld was just like, ‘Put him in ­Fendi!’ ” Pejic explains before adding, “My agency did ask me if I was comfortable with it, but I’ve been dressing in skirts since I was very little, so for me it was, ‘Of course.’ ’

I like the way the journalist contrasts the European ‘masculine ideal’ with that of, in this example, Australia, where Pejic could not get work at all. But what is a ‘masculine ideal’? Most men’s fashion involves pretty boys dressing up, wearing make-up, worrying about their weight, strutting their stuff on the catwalk. And many male models are skinny – not the traditional ‘masculine’ muscle look. I think it is interesting to consider why Pejic could not just be a male model like all the other pretty male models.

I suspect it is to do with ‘gender presentation’. Things like wearing long hair, women’s shoes, colourful (as opposed to skin tone) make up. These things signify ‘femininity’ to our eyes. And, Pejic’s comfort with straddling the gender binary probably made many model agencies distinctly uncomfortable.

‘Since then, “I guess professionally I’ve left my gender open to artistic interpretation,” he says. This past year, he walked in both men’s and women’s shows for Jean Paul Gaultier (who describes Pejic as an “other­worldly beauty”), and was cast as ­Gaultier’s bride—traditionally a line’s pièce de ­résistance—in his Spring 2011 couture show.’

“I know people want me to sort of defend myself, to sit here and be like, ‘I’m a boy, but I wear makeup sometimes.’ But, you know, to me, it doesn’t really matter. I don’t really have that sort of strong gender identity—I identify as what I am. The fact that people are using it for creative or marketing purposes, it’s just kind of like having a skill and using it to earn money.”

But the journalist went overboard on how beautiful the model is:

‘For even a moderately vain female, spending time with Pejic is like losing a race to someone who’s not even running: If he were not a man, he would be the most beautiful woman I have ever seen in the flesh’. Can’t he be the most beautiful man s/he has ever seen in the flesh?

I think Pejic is just honest about what most if not all young men dream of: the desire to be considered beautiful as a girl would do.

“The way I need to look, it’s a very personal thing,” Pejic explains. “When I started experimenting, it was to make myself feel happy, to look in the mirror and be satisfied. I never did drag or anything like that. It was always that I wanted to be pretty, to look beautiful, as a girl would want to.”

Previously, Pejic posed topless for a magazine and it was banned (or covered up) by Barnes and Noble bookstores. The argument being that magazines featuring topless women are not considered suitable for their shops.

As I said at the time, this tickled me, because

‘in some ways, muscled up pecs look more like women’s breasts than a skinny androgyne’s ones.’ And Aaron Schock’s bazookas look more like Barbara Windsor than Brad Pitt!

For me, the notable thing about all the fuss around Pejic, is how the concept of ‘androgyny’ is really quite quaint and out moded in this postmodern, Metrosexy world. As Mark Simpson pointed out recently, if ‘macho’ figures such as Shane Warne are starting to become obsessed with being beautiful, and matching their glamorous girlfriends, wax for wax, pluck for pluck, accessory for accessory, shouldn’t we reconsider what our sense of ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’ mean?


And again, quoting the man that saw all this coming, long before Andre Pejic got his first booking at Storm, probably when he was prancing round his mum’s bedroom in a skirt as a young child:

It’s Transexy Time!–noble-censors-cover-featuring-androgynous-male-model

This image of the male model Andrej Pejic was censored by the bookstore chain Barnes and Noble, because it could be mistaken for a picture of a topless woman

As the Jezebel article states, other magazines featuring covers of shirtless men have been stocked by Barnes and Noble, but the men in question have been muscle-bound metrosexuals.

What does this tell us about gender anxiety and attitudes to ‘obscenity’ and nudity in the 21st century?

I think it is interesting, in the light of that recent photoshoot for Abercrombie and Fitch in Paris, where over one hundred male models got their tits out for the whole of Paris to enjoy. Because in some ways, muscled up pecs look more like women’s breasts than a skinny androgyne’s ones.

I also think this serves as a reminder that the feminist campaigns in the UK by organisations such as OBJECT, to cover up lads mags and to put them back on the ‘top shelf’, may lead to similar incidents of censorship here.

Jezebel decides that the thorny issue of how feminists simultaneously bemoan ‘double standards’ of how men and women’s bodies are perceived in our culture, and also campaign for the censorship of images which ‘objectify’ women but not men, should be left for ‘another day’:

‘Why it is exactly that women’s toplessness is considered inappropriate for magazine covers in this country is a question for another day, but this debacle does call into question the general ridiculousness of these standards’

Very wise, Jezebel, very wise. But on this or any other day, I could point out how contradictory and full of its own double standards, feminist dogma about gendered bodies is. I’m not going anywhere…