After decades of using male models with virile good looks and porn star physiques to parade their clothes, fashion houses in the mid-1990s began downsizing men, going for younger, thinner and lankier models in a trend that last year wound up being just simply androgynous.
But specialists say a page is being turned, and the real men are back.
`Our man this season looks like a young Texan farmer,` said Ungaro assistant designer Damien Amsallem. `He has muscles, though he isn`t big. And even if he`s only 20, he has a real physique and looks like a man.`
Historians and designers say big-shouldered beefcake gym-addicted types were shovelled off catwalks in the 90s by the likes of Yamamoto, who went for street-boys as models, or Belgian avant-garde designer Raf Simons, who put suits with extravagantly small shoulders on sapling-thin boys who were not agency models.
Then came Hedi Slimane, who from 1999 to 2006 revolutionised menswear at Dior with cigarette-slim pants and narrow suits. He is credited with the worldwide crush for the skinny, boyish, often sexually-ambiguous, silhouette.
"Slimane and Simons and that whole generation of designers loved street and youth culture and rock `n roll and gave men`s fashion an androgynous make-over,` said fashion historian Lydia Kamitsis.
`Inevitably, now we`re seeing a turn-around, which is not over-statedly virile but which is the sort of masculine image conveyed by western youngsters today.`
At BananasMambo, one of Paris` top male model agencies, manager Patricia Cadiou-Diehl said that for the first time in years she was receiving requests for models aged between 25 and 30, `or who look as if they’re over 25.`
`We used to get requests for 17-year-olds, which was often a headache as you have to get special permits and parental agreements,` she said. `Now, over the last few months, they want boys with bodies, not adolescents.`
Eating disorders of the kind undermining the female model industry are unheard of with male models.
`Not having pimples is the most important thing,` said 25-year-old model Pires.