Looking over the new campaign actor Tom Hiddleston has shot for Gucci, you can distinctly hear the hissing sound of testosterone leaking from the room.
As the tall, fair-haired star stares doe-eyed at the camera, poised on a velvet sofa clad in white ankle socks, Mary Jane style patent leather shoes (nearly identical to the ones I had as a 6 year old girl) and perched on colorful throw pillows surrounded by afghan hounds, he looks about as masculine as a fairy princess in crested loafers.
In fact, one might argue that not even Taylor Swift and that unfortunate I Heart T.S. motif that he wore whilst frolicking in the waves last summer, could wreck as much havoc on the manly image of a guy who was at one time in the running to play James Bond. If his ill-fated romance with the singing superstar served as the coffin for his Bond aspirations, then this Gucci campaign supplied the nails.
Unfortunately this is just the latest example of an attractive man made impotent and utterly feminized by the fashion world. It's unimaginable to picture leading men of years past such as Steve McQueen, Sean Connery or Marlon Brando doing anything of the sort. When did male fashion become so girly?
For further examples we need not go further than Tom's fellow Brit Eddie Redmayne's recent campaign for Italian fashion house Prada where he looks longingly out at the camera in a patchwork cardigan, long A-line coat and yes, clown shoes.
And not to kick a man when he's down, but not even Angelina Jolie could make Brad Pitt look as foolish as he did in his 2012 advert for Chanel – a career decision which threatened to singlehandedly derail a 30 year career in acting. In it the star faces the camera with long, greasy hair and a low-level middle manager's beard and with a dreamy-eyed look delivers some of the worst dialogue mankind has ever been forced to listen to.
"It's not a journey, every journey ends but we go on, the world turns and we turn with it," Pitt intones. "Plans disappear and dreams take over. But wherever I go – there you are. My luck, my fate, my fortune. CHANEL N°5 inevitable."
At the time, Britain's Guardian newspaper heralded it as "The Smell of Disaster" commenting: "All the hoary old perfume ad tropes are here – the hushed delivery, the awed look upwards as his brain tries to grapple with the majesty of planet Earth…worst of all, they come without the slightest trace of self-awareness. We expected more than this."
It seems that in the past few years leading men have been bowing to pressure from leading creative directors, cashing their increasingly attractive cheques and pandering to the whims of a fashion community bent on removing all traces of masculinity in an effort to sell high fashion.
It begs the question: just whom are they selling to? Clearly these ads are not aimed at straight women, or even straight men. For the record I don't know of a single gay man who finds this ultra-feminized, effete and uber fey-version of celebrity males more appealing than, and preferable to, their rugged counterparts.
Fashion designers are notorious for creating clothes to garner attention and set trends and strive for their adverts to be glamorous, alluring and perpetually beautiful rather than focus on designing the wearable. To some degree, this is what we expect on a catwalk.
The creative directors have a great feel for what female consumers want to look at when it comes to top models and their leading ladies but I would contend that they are way off base when it comes to styling today's leading men. In fact, it feels like a room full of tightly panted and super coiffed Karl Lagerfeld types are walking around somewhere chanting "fabulous," and "perfection" and making far too many defective decisions about what mainstream consumers, male and female, find sexy in men.
Ryan Reynolds looks crossed eyed and constipated in his Hugo Boss perfume ad, Colin Farrell stares at the camera with the eyes of a pretty boy sociopath in his D&G Intenso perfume promo while Matthew McConaughey sports so much make up and has so many shirt buttons undone as he lies provocatively back on a couch in his Dolce ads that he looks more like a bisexual Miami escort ready for a night on the town than an elegant and attractive leading man.
Even when they try to inject some manliness, they still tend to get it wrong. In terms of men's fashion ad failures, nothing, and I mean nothing, approaches the complete catastrophe that was Johnny Depp's ill-timed campaign for Dior Sauvage. Sporting lashings of black eyeliner and mascara, the 52 year old Pirates of the Caribbean star stares broodingly into the camera with the name of the perfume, Sauvage, blazing above him in huge letters – which is French for "wild."
This poorly timed ad campaign appeared hot on the heels of a restraining order slapped against him by ex-wife Amber Heard who claimed that Depp was, well, wild – verbally and physically abusive for the entirety of their four-year-relationship.
Pictures of Amber with what appeared to be a bruised eye and cut lip, and claiming the injuries were a result of his abuse – neatly coincided with the ads extolling Depp's wild side and resulted in an unfortunate prank alteration of the campaign which went viral.
It must be said there are a few who get it right. Garrett Hedlund looks startled but still handsome in his campaign for YSL La Nuit De L'Homme and David Beckham is HOT in his underwear whether it be for Armani or H&M. Robert Pattinson's Dior Homme ads are steamy enough to melt snow and the perpetually manly Idris Elba's recent images for Superdry manage to look simultaneously high fashion and masculine.
As long as today's designers keep emasculating male movie stars, they will continue to make fools of themselves for the cause of fashion.
But for poor Tom Hiddleston posing in his shiny shoes and patterned velvet, what can be done? Some things just cannot be unseen. My advice to him is hire a new team of advisors and start filming series 2 of The Night Manager as soon as possible.