Throughout the course of history, what is considered to be the ‘ideal’ male body type has changed and for centuries, men have felt the pressure to alter their shape and appearance in order to fit in with the ‘perfect’ look at the time. This is still the case today, and although it’s often women who take the brunt of body shaming in the media, men also experience it and it can lead to a host of physical and mental health issues. 

Trying to achieve a body type that is popular amongst athletes, Hollywood actors and celebrities can cause a person to become self-conscious about their body, especially if they’re unable to achieve the desired look. A recent campaign from Chemist Click looks at the different ‘ideal’ bodies of men throughout history and how the male body shape and appearance has changed to fit with the times. 

Male ‘perfection’ throughout different time periods

As far back in time as ancient Greece, men have been trying to achieve the perfect body. Inspired by the Greek gods such as Zeus and Apollo, a chiselled, muscular, thin-waisted body with long hair tied back with a headband was the look craved by many. Unfortunately, this would not have been possible for most men to achieve.

Moving on to the Elizabethan age, the muscular arms and upper body was no longer considered to be ‘perfect’ — instead this type of body was associated with peasants, and in order to show off your manliness, you would have needed powerful legs with shapely thighs and strong calves.

During the Gilded age, the desired muscular upper body and the strong, shapely legs had been replaced by the need to have a wide waist and generous sized stomach. This type of look demonstrated a man’s wealth and social status by showing you could afford plenty of good food.

As we reached the golden age of Hollywood, a new look was now considered to be ‘ideal’ — this time an athletic, lean and clean-cut body was sought after. People quickly came to realise that the camera made people appear larger on screen. The desired hairstyle at this time was a short to medium tapered style that could be parted to the side or slicked back.

There was a slight shift during the 1960s and 1970s, and a slim and slender shape was now considered popular, with people taking inspiration from the likes of The Beatles and David Bowie. This meant thin arms and legs, no muscle tone and a slender chest. There was also a drastic change in men’s hairstyles, with The Beatles ‘mop-top’ a firm favourite as well as sideburns, ponytails and afros.

Throughout the 1980s, icons such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone glamorized the bodybuilder look, with bulging muscles becoming the go-to look. In terms of hairstyle, arguably one of the most recognised styles of all time came about — the mullet! Short at the front and sides, while kept long at the back.

As we reached the late 1990s and headed into a new millennium, men were less inclined to display the beefy muscular body that had dominated the 1980s. Athletic, defined bodies were now the popular shape, although there was much less emphasis on this. Men were beginning to take a more relaxed approach to the ‘ideal’ body standards.

From the mid-2010s, the ‘dad-bod’ had emerged — a body type that aims to show that you don’t have to have a defined or chiselled body and can still be healthy. This is a more attainable body image for men to achieve, with men taking inspiration from celebrities like Chris Pratt and Seth Rogan.

Accepting the body you have

Hopefully this post has highlighted how the ‘ideal’ male body has changed dramatically over the years, and that there is no such thing as the ‘perfect’ body as each body type is unique. What the media and society portray as perfection will continually change and if you have a body type that doesn’t meet those standards, it doesn’t mean that it’s not perfect in its own way.

It’s important to remember that body shaming someone can have a lasting negative impact, affecting a person’s physical and mental wellbeing. As we move into a new decade, hopefully people will feel less pressured to meet these body standards set by society and the media.


Image by Jan Steiner from Pixabay