In the world of the internet, certain things are just inevitable. Like the fact that, if an argument drags on long enough, someone will eventually be compared to Hitler and/or the Nazis.
And... the topic of today's breakfast club:
In any discussion of "hot" women... Someone's eventually going to trot out fashion models as an example.
Specifically, editorial models. The kind you see in fashion layouts, in glossy magazines and the like.
...Or commercial models, like the Victoria's Secret angels. (Most commercial models come from editorial careers anyway, so this is really "Play it again, Sam." Which no one ever actually said in a movie, by the way.)
At this point -- since the internet is, after all, the internet -- the discussion usually devolves into a cloud of bitter obscenities gargled from froth-corrupted lungs.
"Men are such filthy fucking pigs!"
"They're promoting anorexia!"
"They want us to feel bad about ourselves!"
Pull up a chair.
Ridiculously Wrong Piece of Crazy Insanity #1: "(Straight) MEN like fashion models."
I hear this WAY too often.
The idea that the waif physique is something perpetrated upon women by a global conspiracy of straight men, for their own gleeful masturbatory satisfaction (and perhaps to keep a lid on food prices, too... WHO KNOWS D00D).
Ahahahaha hahahah hahahahha hahahah haha hahahaahahaahah hahah.
Hahah hahah ahahha aha ha.
Not that this DESERVES a serious response -- if you've gotten to know more than 0 straight men in your entire life, you'll already realize how insane it is -- but, since I'm in a giving mood today, here are two actual pieces of scholarly research, to back up what everyone already knows anyway:
Women's own ideal (for the female body) is MUCH thinner than what men find ideally attractive.
(Men, on the other hand, are able to guess women's preferences accurately... for female bodies, at least. Men have a shitty grip on what WE like... but that, friends, is another discussion for another day.)
The only men who even somewhat prefer waif-like women, on average, are men who don't think they ever want kids. (Guess they're really not bullshittin', if that extends all the way to their subconscious mate preferences... holy shit.)
...And even THOSE men still prefer female bodies that are curvier and more "fertile"-looking than those of fashion models.
The difference is captured pretty well by this graphic:
...Except it's almost certainly more pronounced than that. Remember, those items were chosen from CELEBRITY "multiple choices" -- so, there probably weren't too many women of more normal proportions from which to pick.
But, regardless, we can safely put to rest this particular ridiculously wrong piece of crazy insanity.
Straight men find the fashion-model physique so sexually UNappealing that they don't even look at THOSE parts of the models.
I shit you not.
"Eye-tracking heatmaps" show where viewers look, from blue (least time) to red (most time). This is a heatmap for STRAIGHT MEN looking at a Dolce & Gabbana fragrance ad:
Straight men. NOT EVEN LOOKING AT THE TITS.
Oh wait. It gets better:
Yep... men... NOT EVEN LOOKING AT A BARE ASS.
...When it's on a girl who ain't got ass.
(Side point: We look at the shoes. Men don't. Lol ahahahahha)
Okay, I think we've settled this one.
Anyone who thinks that fashion models are supposed to be "sexy" -- to men -- has officially lost their grip on reality.
If they ever had one.
So... alright, we know fashion models are chosen to appeal to women.
Now... let's talk about THAT.
Because... um... yeah. There is, to put it lightly, a great deal of misunderstanding on that side of the aisle, too.
Ridiculously Wrong Piece of Crazy Insanity #2: "Fashion models are chosen to make normal women feel shitty about themselves."
First... Like what the fuck? Let's just stop and think about that, for a sec.
Fashion houses are BUSINESSES. They SELL THINGS. They sell really, really expensive -- and completely frivolous -- goods.
If you want to sell someone really, really expensive things that she doesn't actually need?
You don't do that by making her feel shitty and fat.
High-end couture marketing gives women something to ASPIRE to.
"Aspirational" is a buzzword that you'll see in the prospectus of just about every single high-end brand in the world, like, say, Hermès.
Annnnnnd THIS... this... is the reason why editorial models look like editorial models, kiddies. It's so fucking simple that it hurts.
Wait for it...
Women are physically inspired -- generally speaking -- by other women their size or slimmer.
This is another one of those things that no one should ever NEED to back up with research. But, like I said... Giving mood, today.
Peep it: Women's own BMI's, versus the BMI's they found most attractive (or "aspirational", in marketing terms).
That pink line is where the x- and y-values are equal. (Nice tricky axis scales there, guys!)
Yep, there are exactly TWO data points there for women who picked "preferred" or "inspirational" bodies bigger than their own.
And both of those women were quite slim -- BMI's between 17 and 18 -- and, in both cases, the difference was so tiny as to be pretty much negligible. (Those two data points are only a few pounds off of the pink line. That's a few glasses of water, or a nice bowl of soup, away from having the same BMI.)
And there you go. That's why fashion models look like ... well, fashion models.
The ideal fashion model is "inspiring" or "aspirational" to as many female consumers as possible.
In other words... She's slimmer than EVERYONE, but without actually looking like she's sick or diseased.
So, she looks like...
...A fashion model.
It ain't complicated.
Businesses want to sell things... so they want to make people want to buy things. As many people as possible. I KNOW RIGHT? Like omfg that's cray.
Now, let's take the cold, hard bayonet of reality and skewer some reasonable ideas.
Reasonable Idea that Turns Out to be Totally Wrong #1: "Overweight models make overweight women feel better about themselves."
I mean... sure, this sounds reasonable. The usual line of reasoning: Thinner models make bigger women feel shitty about themselves -- so, naturally, bigger models should help them feel less shitty about themselves.
...But totes wrong.
Sry try again.
In actual reality, thinner models make bigger women feel shitty about themselves... and bigger models ALSO make bigger women feel shitty about themselves.
Basically, thinner models make bigger women feel inadequate by comparison... but bigger models remind bigger women that they're ... well ... bigger.
Ironically, thinner women get a confidence boost from BOTH types of models -- from the thinner models because they're "aspirational", and from the bigger models because they feel superior by comparison.
Hey, don't yell at me! Go yell at the authors of the study if you need to yell at someone.
Oh, and, go tap Aerie and Dove on the shoulder, and kindly explain why their ad campaigns didn't deliver the expected results.
Reasonable Idea that Turns Out to be Totally Wrong #2: "Fashion photos emphasize fashion models."
How could THAT possibly be wrong?
Aren't we talking about ... pictures of fashion models, here?
Some editorial layouts and ads for ya.
Have a look.
If you've looked at fashion photography much -- and paid attention much -- you'll realize how LITTLE attention is actually given to the models, comparatively speaking.
You know why? I'll tell you why.
When models are too "in-your-face", female consumers react with hostility and defensiveness -- and form negative associations with the brand.
When models are photographed more peripherally -- and/or as secondary to the activity in which they are engaging -- those same consumers find the advertising "aspirational", and form favorable impressions of the brand.
Fashion houses have known this for decades and decades, but I can't find any research study older than this one. I have the full article -- if you want it, just ask.
Oh -- This ESPECIALLY goes for brands that have the potential to be branded with that scarlet "S" for "slutty".
Reasonable Idea that Turns Out to be Totally Wrong #3: "Women think fashion models are sexy... where sexy means, like, sexy."
After reading the above, you should already understand this one.
Sex appeal is forward, direct, and INTIMIDATING -- and puts most women on the defensive. This is the same unfortunate instinct that leads all too many women to yell "slutttttt!" at any beautiful woman who might dare to wear "something that reminds ya she's a woman" (as my husband would say).
SMART branding, in fact, involves models who DON'T flip the sex-appeal switch in women's minds.
Victoria's Secret is currently the most popular clothing brand in the world... in no small part because NONE of its advertising could EVER be accused of being "forward" or "slutty".
No Victoria's Secret ad will EVER put the model's sexuality front and center. The brand's appeal is built on "playful!" "carefree!" "mb I'll adult... someday!"
(This isn't hate by the way -- I'm a card-carrying Angel VIP, so, I got got.)
This is a typical VS ad:
Anything and everything BUT sex, happening there. This picture makes me think "sleepover", which is fun, but also the least sexy thing ever.
If I were still in the dating market, that picture would also make me think... "These women are not threats."
And ... there ya go.
You now understand fashion marketing.