By Neal Broverman
Originally published on Advocate.com October 21 2013 4:05 AM ET
One of the benefits of employment with Here Media and The Advocate is having the latter’s irreplaceable 46-year-old archive at my disposal. I’ve certainly read about Anita Bryant’s pie to the face and Barney Frank’s youthful(ish) indiscretions, but what really gets me into a time warp k-hole are the now-discontinued personals and advertisements for bars, clubs, and “spas”; you get to see how gay men really presented themselves and what the often-warped standard of beauty was.
If the issue is from the ’60s, the featured guys are smooth, muscled, and white (diversity wasn’t our strong suit back then). In the Me Decade, a stroll down Castro Street would not be complete with a mustache, mutton chops, untamed body hair, and painted-on jeans. By the ’80s, mustaches were out and mullets in. The ’90s brought us not only “don’t ask, don’t tell,” but floppy hair and overgrown stubble. Filthiness was mostly gone from The Advocate by the Aughts, but it’s clear that the previous decade saw incredible advances in hair product technology. (Get lost in our past covers here.)
There is certainly a clone “look” that still permeates gay male culture; specific styles that identify someone as a card-carrying homosexual, whether that’s the intention or not. How will the clone look of the Teens be recalled (and undoubtedly laughed about)? Since I haven’t been to a gay bar in six months (too much effort), I decided to peruse Out.com — our sister site and arbiter of gayville — to see what the predominant gay look is these days.
My attention was pulled strongly and swiftly toward “The 30 Sexiest Gay Sex Scenes in Film” (unlike fashion, men never change). One of my favorite movies of all time, 2011’s Weekend, almost tops the list (sorry) and that movie not only captured the modern gay male experience in a true, beautiful, and searing way, it also got the “look” just right. Main characters Russell and Glen are thoughtful and distinctive, but physically they’re clones; their carefully calibrated scruff and pomade-assisted hair is at every gay dive bar from Edinburgh to Williamsburg. Clippered scruff: typical Teens clone accessory. Textured manes that both defy gravity and look tousled from rigorous sex shall be a mark of the Teens; American Crew is to the ’10s what L.A. Looks was to the ’80s.
My sociological searching next took me to the gay bars of our time: iPhone apps. Scouring various “dating” applications, I saw — no surprise — enough manicured facial hair to make Gillette investors very happy. Head hair was a little more all over the place, but it was mostly business-on-the-sides-and-back, high-rise-living-at-the-top. The hirsute scene was more shocking a few inches down, with much more waxed and shaved chests than I expected. The torsos were similar at Gay.com, another sister site to The Advocate, but with more bodies attached to faces, it felt more revealing. Chest hair in the early ’10s: running free, but maybe moving toward a more mowed state (no!).
This being the Internet, clothes were not a huge commodity, so I thought about dragging myself to a gay bar for an up-close look at clone fashion. Sadly, I just couldn’t stomach the will to shower again (hyper-cleanliness being a big part of gay clone culture), so I did the next best thing, more like the most lazy: I Facebook-stalked my gay male friends. Recurring themes: jeans so tight, pliers are necessary for fly closure (very ’70s); neckwear, in the form of skinny ties and bow ties, usually worn with anything but a suit (kinda ’80s); formfitting polo shirts (very ’80s).
This all sounded familiar. I walked to the bathroom and looked at the gay man in the mirror. Facial hair just a few days away from turning into a crumb net: check. Tousled peaks of hair as viscous as dough thanks to $20 pomade: check. Snug polo shirt with bicep-exposing sleeves and wisps of chest hair sprouting from collar: check. Jeans so tight they’ve actually ripped and been sewn up by a professional: check. A clone stared back at me. In honor of the realization of my sameness, I snapped a photo: more than scruff, pomade, and polos, the selfie will likely be the enduring gay look of the 2010s.
NEAL BROVERMAN is a columnist for The Advocate and the editor in chief of Out Traveler. Follow him on Twitter @nbroverman