Is masculinity in crisis? Some people would have you believe so. The world we live in today is a very different place to the one that our fathers and grandfathers inhabited – traditional gender roles have become blurred, and old stereotypes have begun to decay. Compared with a generation ago, the very idea of what it means to be a man is more abstract. It sometimes feels as if the model of the 20th-century man – stoical, tough, heroic – has vanished into thin air. And, what’s worse, nobody has stepped in to fill his shoes.
But then, certain things haven’t changed. Values like integrity, strength and courage. Fundamental masculine codes of behavior that hold true, regardless of time or place. The question is, how do we interpret them in modern times? This February, HUGO BOSS gathered six men in the London studio of the renowned photographer and multi-platinum selling artist, Bryan Adams, to find out. They came from all over the world, bringing a diverse range of stories and experiences. The goal of the #manoftoday project was to take a snapshot of masculinity in the 21st century. To celebrate those enduring values and to see how men are putting them into action right now.
Take Niko Baur, 34, from Ulm in south Germany. He showed that in life, it’s not just about the cards you’re dealt. It’s how you play the hand. When his daughter was born with a rare genetic condition, he put his family first –and showed what it means to be a modern father.
Or Samuel Hayward, 26, who showed that following in your father’s footsteps doesn’t mean you can’t forge your own path. He’s a firefighter, just like his dad. He’s working a stressful job while dealing with the social pressures of being a young man by applying the lessons his father taught him to the modern world.
Then there was Joshua James Jacobs, 28, who grew up in Kansas racing sprint cars with his dad. He showed that following your dreams isn’t always easy. It can mean leaving things behind; it can even mean having to start over from scratch. But everyone deserves a second chance, and, as he puts it, “we all owe it to ourselves to be exceptional.”
Juan Carlos Baumgartner, 43, travelled all the way from Mexico City to London to be a part of the #MANOFTODAY campaign. He runs a successful architecture firm, with offices in North and Latin America, but he hasn’t let that success color his ambitions. He stays true to his original aim, which is to set a new standard for the industry – one that puts sustainability first. But what comes first for him will always be his family.
Ahmad Al Boloushi travelled from Kuwait, a distance of nearly 5,000 kilometers, leaving behind his wife and his one-year-old son. He came to represent the Middle East and show that masculinity can be something progressive and supportive. He and his wife run The Hybrids, one of the region’s most popular fashion blogs. His success reminds men that they shouldn’t be afraid to express their style.
Javier Fernandez Piera, 38, didn’t travel quite so far. He came from Madrid, where he was born and raised. But his journey through life has been anything but simple. He went against the wishes of his family and put his reputation on the line to pursue his lifelong passion: magic.
These six subjects painted a vivid portrait of what it means to be a #manoftoday. And social psychologist Professor Brendan Gough, who has studied contemporary masculinity in depth, was on hand to make sense of it all. He believes that the loosening of gender roles has given men more freedom to express themselves, which has resulted in the concept of masculinity becoming more open to interpretation.
“The role of the male in contemporary society is more diverse and dynamic than it has ever been,” he explains. “For instance, we’re seeing men take on closely involved parental roles that have been historically associated with women. They’re increasingly in touch with their emotions, too. But at the same time, they’re showing a new appreciation for traditional masculine values. The Man of Today is a blend of the old and the new.”
In other words, there is a balance at play – and it’s that very same balance that defines BOSS Bottled, the fragrance of the #manoftoday. Will Andrews, Principal Scientist in the PG fragrance creation team, has spent a long time trying to put his finger on what makes it such a timeless scent. “When it was released in 1998, it was quite groundbreaking,” he says.
“It utilized those warm, woody, fougèrenotes that form the backbone of classic masculine fragrances. But it balanced them with soft fruits and vanilla notes, which are considered more feminine. It’s an adventurous, distinctive scent – but the reason so many men identify with it is that it’s also entirely wearable.”
Versatile, timeless and full of contrasts. The fragrance notes for BOSS Bottled just happen to describe many of the qualities of the modern man that were on display in London this February. If our six Men of Today are anything to go by, masculinity isn’t in crisis after all. Far from it. Men today are better than they’ve ever been.