Why is Timothée Chalamet on the cover of British Vogue making history (without questioning genres so much)?

With this cover of the October 2022 issue, it is the first time that a solo man has appeared on the front page of British Vogue. An honor for Timothée Chalamet who says a lot about the evolution of masculinities, and those that we perceive as enviable or not. Decryption.

the vogue British may have existed for 106 years, but this is the first time that a man has made the cover solo. We could have expected this to be reserved for the English singer Harry Styles, but since he had already had this honor on the side of the United States edition, it is finally Timothée Chalamet who creates the event on the UK side. .

Timothée Chalamet “inspires both women and men” according to British Vogue

The editor of the British vogueEdward Enninful, justifies himself thus :

Always aware that vogue is a space that celebrates women firstI didn’t want it to be a stunt or a statement. Do men desperately need more places to shine, I thought. The answer, of course, is no.. Yet, in my turn, I felt more and more that there was something at best dated, at worst dangerously retro, in those tired old genre boxes.

Fashion doesn’t always work that way – is every piece in your wardrobe strictly designed for the gender you identify with? I doubt. These days, sex and fashion are no longer about va-va-voom dressing, but about expression and personal ease. It’s about politics and gambling. It’s about dressing to feel good. »

For the influential Edward Enninful, Timothée Chalamet represents ” the modern man incarnate »as an Oscar-nominated actor for Call Me By Your Name in 2018, and as someone with a a style so innate and sure of itself that it inspires both women and men. » The actor would be downright representative of a ” new generation dismantling outdated notions of masculinity as a matter of course “.

In the cover storyjournalist Giles Hattersley believes that Timothée Chalamet is part of a line of actors who have become the symbolic boyfriends of their generation, after James Dean, River Phoenix, David Cassidy and Leonard DiCaprio. He would even have given his successor as his main career advice: “ No hard drugs and no superhero movies. » The journalist even speaks of « Timothy effect “.

Timothée Chalamet, photographed by Steven Meisel on the cover of British Vogue October 2022. © Instagram screenshot.

Is Timothée Chalamet really upsetting masculinities?

But what is really this Chalamet-mania, presented by many media as a revolution against gender stereotypes? For Aline Laurent-Mayard, author of the essay Freed from masculinity – how Timothée Chalamet made me believe in the new manthe actor indeed embodies a renewal of representations of enviable masculinities:

“Choosing a man on the cover of a so-called women’s magazine is not insignificant. It’s both a sign that British Vogue believes that fashion isn’t just about women, and that women readers are also interested in men and their fashion.

The choice of Timothée Chalamet is comparable to that of Harry Styles for US Vogue. It’s also because they have something feminine about them, even if they have a different relationship to it. For the British singer, it’s more of a game, while it’s not a staging for the Franco-American actor.

In this, Timothée Chalamet represents more of a fluidity between the masculine and the feminine.. Fluidity with which women have been used to playing for a long time, as illustrated in particular by the fashion for flappers in the 1920s. But also by queer people. In contrast, For cis-straight men, it’s something quite new to play with gender fluidity in this way. In this, the actor embodies a new form of enviable masculinity. »

Freed from masculinity, Aline Laurent-Mayard
Liberated from masculinity – how Timothée Chalamet made me believe in the new man, by Aline Laurent-Mayard, published by JC Lattès. Released October 12.

Timothée Chalamet or the broadening of the spectrum of enviable masculinities

In fact, it is not only through his physique, but also through his roles as a modern hero that he embodies in films with great public success, that Timothée Chalamet contributes to broadening the spectrum of enviable masculinitiesaccording to Aline Laurent-Mayard:

“Of course, there have always been young and thin actors, who sometimes play in outfits perceived as feminine, but it was rarely as movie heroes. They were even singled out by that, even marginalized. While Timothée Chalamet plays in blockbusters.

Since the 1980s, it has been rather muscular actors who monopolize the first roles in Hollywood cinema. It may therefore come as a surprise that with his physique and his displayed sensitivity, Timothée Chalamet finds himself erected as a sex symbol and occupies roles of savior of humanity.. »

Nevertheless, the expert author in questions of gender and representations wishes to emphasize that the dithyrambic media reception enjoyed by Timothée Chalamet is nothing new:

“That said, it happens consistently throughout history that women grow tired of virilism, of men’s inability to express their feelings, and of their rigidity in expressing masculinity.

Also, it happens regularly that men appropriate the trappings of femininity, show themselves as allies and yet abuse women. »

This enlargement also serves hegemonic masculinity

Screenshot 2022-09-20 at 15.07.29
Can the male bare back become sexy in the eyes of straight women? © Instagram screenshot.

In other words, the enthusiasm around Timothée Chalamet can also be explained by a social context of rejection of toxic virility, on the one hand. And on the other hand, this kind of masculinity can also serve as an alibi for some men (hello, pro-fems…).

Finally, there is nothing completely new about a young actor who meets most of the dominant beauty criteria becoming the dream boyfriend of a part of the West so ready to cisheterosexualize everything. Already, before Timothée Chalamet, other ephebes supposedly blurred gender boundaries, like Elvis Presley or David Bowie yesterday, and Harry Styles today. And their career would perhaps have been quite different if they were known to have homosexual relationships in broad daylight.

But when men like Timothée Chalamet supposedly rewrite the codes of the genre, who really benefits? This widens the field of enviable masculinities, certainly, but also the forms that hegemonic masculinity can take to continue to dominate socially..

In the great social game of gender performance, if men rewrite the rules, it is more likely to continue to win by other means than to profoundly change the system, or even reverse the board in order to to achieve equality.


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Front page photo credit: Timothée Chalamet photographed by Steven Meisel on the cover of British Vogue October 2022.

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Why is Timothée Chalamet on the cover of British Vogue making history (without questioning genres so much)?