“It is a truth universally acknowledged that the straight-male-body ideal runs five years behind the gay one,” writes the popular men’s magazine in a cover story titled “America’s New Male Body Obsession,” and featuring new photos of renowned model David Gandy.
The magazine looks at the 41 moments that changed the way men look in the mirror. The following text next to a photo of a Speedo-clad Ricky Martin puts it all in perspective: “‘It starts in gay porn, moves to gay gyms, underwear ads, and then the mainstream,” says David Barton, owner of the eponymous gyms in New York, Miami, and, soon, Los Angeles.
In the eighties, when gay men jacked their bodies to ward off suspicions that they were AIDS victims, the typical straight guy was soft and shlubby. By Y2K, after a decade defined by South Beach gym culture and Calvin Klein underwear hunks, he had transformed into a gym-going body-dysmorphic dude with tribal tattoos encircling over-pumped biceps.
Sensing that their cartoon-superhero look had gone mainstream—and turned on by Fight Club‘s Brad Pitt, whose taut muscles looked more serrated than inflated—gay men pared back, on a new wave of swimming, yoga, and Pilates. “I got a lot of requests for Keith Richards–type bodies that looked like they happened from playing guitar in a bar all night,” Barton says.
The triumph of lean, mean muscle was cemented in 2005, when pictures appeared online of Ricky Martin and a friend playing beach games and executing yoga moves in tiny swim trunks in St. Barts. Their muscles were sensual, their bodies slim. Six years later, trend-attuned straight men in New York and L.A. walk around weekend mornings toting yoga mats, not weight-lifting belts.