The pressure to achieve a perfect body type is a fairly obvious problem with which women basically always have to deal, but not everyone recognizes that men oftentimes face the same issue. Men are also bombarded with images of celebrities and models who have near-perfect bodies, and they too can feel like they have a lot to live up to.
Just like with women, there is definitely a perfect male body (via Business Insider), and, although that ideal has shifted over time, the concept remains the same. In fact, researchers from Bradley University have done some work into male body image, and "agree that the trend is for men to desire bigger muscles and leaner bodies," noting, "However, societal assumptions about male body image can be very misleading." Most of what men see on television and in movies are images of muscular, powerful males, and that definitely impacts how men perceive themselves and how society thinks they should look. There is no one perfect male body type, but the idea of such a thing has definitely changed over the last decade.
In 2010, Justin Bieber and the skinny look were all the rage when it came to perfect body types
At the start of the decade, being thin was all the rage, even for men. The number of men with anorexia drastically increased from 10 percent in 1990 to 25 percent in 2010, according to The Guardian. The publication reported, "But now thin is the cultural mainstream. Thin is desirable. Men want it — men diet for it. They go under the knife in pursuit of it."
It’s no coincidence that 2010 was also the year that Justin Bieber really came onto the scene. The singer released his music video for "Baby" in February 2010, and he fit right in with the ideal male body type of being skinny. Sam Thomas, a project leader for the organization Men Get Eating Disorders Too, told The Guardian, "Men are certainly under a lot more pressure to look good, to live up to the latest trends now than they were 10 years ago." Thomas continued, "If a man is already feeling insecure about his body, exposure to such ‘ideals’ could make him feel inadequate and increase his susceptibility to eating disorders."
When Game of Thrones premiered in 2011, every guy wanted to have Khal Drogo’s perfect body type
While being skinny was definitely still in fashion at the start of the decade, the premiere of a certain hit HBO show definitely provided men with a new perfect body type to aspire to. When Game of Thrones premiered in 2011, people couldn’t stop talking about the show. The plot, the violence, and, yes, the nudity began trending almost immediately. Game of Thrones was popular from the get-go, and so was Khal Drogo, the chiseled character portrayed by Jason Momoa.
Drogo was definitely the epitome of what the ideal male body looked like in 2011, and people were so obsessed with Momoa’s body that he even described his workout routine to Men’s Health a few years later. "You put on a lot of weight very quickly — and you also burn a lot of fat," he said of his workout. "Pick a heavy weight and it will get you shredded and build a lot of muscle." Momoa’s big, bulky body proved to be the envy of a lot of men out there.
During 2012, muscle tone was a very important part of the perfect body type for men
As time went on, the skinny look for guys started to go out of style. Thanks, in part, to celebrities like Jason Momoa and The Rock, muscle tone became extremely important around 2012, and it became what the perfect body type for men was all about. In fact, according to Insider, there was a 2012 study from the Institute of Neuroscience which "used 3D-visualization software to estimate our preferences for both male and female bodies." And perhaps unsurprisingly, "for both sexes, the ideal was lean and muscular."
Around this time, men’s ideal body type became toned and muscular. Sure, not everyone could look like Momoa, but it was clear that guys still wanted to get ripped. In fact, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, gym memberships really started to increase this decade. "Since 2008, membership has grown by 33.6%, while the total number of club-goers has increased by 31.5%," the website reported. The ideal body type for men was becoming one that was fit.
2013 saw celebs getting into shape and abs were a key component of the perfect body type
In 2013, as the skinny guy look faded into obscurity and gym memberships continued to rise, there was one particular body part that became a necessity of the perfect body type for men: abs. The year 2013 was all about the abs, and men can thank a certain celebrity for making that happen. That year, actor Chris Pratt shared an Instagram photo of his progress in working out, and his abs were in full view. "Six months no beer," Pratt captioned his photo.
Pratt’s photo got so much attention that Men’s Health magazine even wrote about him and his body transformation, sharing tips on how anyone could get the former Parks and Recreation star’s muscles. Pratt’s body transformation was everywhere, and having a toned body with defined ab muscles became the very definition of a perfect male body. While it might not have been possible for most to train as much and as hard as Pratt did, men still wanted to get the same look, and honestly, who could blame them?
In 2014, CrossFit shaped what was considered to be the perfect body type for men
As getting into shape continued to gain popularity, so did one particular kind of workout in 2014: CrossFit. Though CrossFit has been around since 2000, it really got popular in the 2010s, with many people referring to the workout routine as a "cult," such as The Daily Beast. However, there’s no denying the fact that CrossFit was huge, and so was the CrossFit body: one that is toned and seriously strong.
"We certainly have a large demographic of strong, fit males in the firefighter, military sector but the workout is great for anyone that’s looking to get in shape and get rid of fat," trainer Peter Reilly told Racked. Part of CrossFit’s popularity came from the team-building aspect associated with the workouts. "We build a strong camaraderie and the competition is motivating," Jimi Letchford, a marketer for CrossFit, told Racked. "You suffer through the workout, but you know that you are suffering together." In 2014, the perfect body type for men was one that could easily accomplish a grueling CrossFit workout. Basically, it was all about being as fit as you could possibly be.
2015’s idea of the perfect body type involved putting on weight, but only in the form of muscle
In 2015, as CrossFit continued to gain traction and more and more men were looking to appear more muscular, the idea of the perfect body type for men was one that was pretty big but also pretty muscular. The perfect example of this could be found in Bradley Cooper. In 2015, Cooper was featured in Men’s Health due, in part, to his impressive weight gain for a movie role.
In American Sniper, Cooper played Chris Kyle, who was a real-life Navy SEAL who had a record of 160 confirmed kills in Iraq and weighed in at 230 pounds, according to Men’s Health. So, for the role, Cooper had to bulk up, and it wasn’t easy. In addition to working out, Cooper also had to greatly increase how much he ate every day. "It was a real shock to my body," he explained to the publication. "If it’s pizza and cake, that’s one thing. Putting 6,000 calories a day in your body gets old quick." Still, Cooper’s body definitely sparked envy among men everywhere.
The Rock influenced what was considered to be the perfect body type
One huge male celebrity — emphasis on "huge" — in 2015 was Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Johnson had made his way into Hollywood by appearing on WWE Raw since 1996, but he soon started acting, and, in 2015, he appeared in Furious 7, cementing his position as a total action star. Because of Johnson’s celebrity, people couldn’t stop obsessing over how huge he was, and his diet and fitness routine soon became what everyone was talking about.
Johnson was so hugely popular in the 2010s that he actually shared what he eats in a day, as noted by HuffPost, and let’s just say that it was no small amount. According to HuffPost, Johnson eats about 5,165 calories per day, which is considerably more than the amount the average man eats. Of course, it can’t be easy to maintain The Rock’s giant, muscular figure, but, in 2015, it was all the rage. Not everyone can look like Johnson, but a lot of men really wanted to. With arms like tree trunks, The Rock encapsulated the perfect body type for men at the time — a standard that seemed nearly impossible to live up to.
The "dad bod" started to take over as a perfect body type for men
Perhaps in some sort of rebellion against all the muscle mania at the start of the decade, a new perfect body type for men emerged. This one was way more attainable, though also slightly problematic: the dad bod. In 2015, the "dad bod" rose in popularity due, in part, to a viral essay from college student Mackenzie Pearson. Celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio, Jason Segel, and Jon Hamm perfectly showcased the dad bod (via People), and the trend gave men a new, attainable perfect body type to aspire to.
"A dad bod is a guy who is not incredibly chiseled, but at the same time, is not unhealthy," Pearson explained in an interview with Slate. "He’s not overweight," she noted, adding, "Maybe he had a few too many slices of pizza, or a few too many ramens, and just ended up with a little bit of squish on top of his muscle. It’s a healthy body. It’s a boy-next-door look." The dad bod of 2015 showed men that they don’t have to have chiseled abs in order to be attractive.
2017 saw the emergence of body positivity among men
In 2017, the body positivity movement really started to take over, and magazines, television shows, and other forms of media really started to diversify their models. Body positivity was on the rise, but, until 2017, men didn’t really have a place among the movement. But that year, men started to get involved.
Body-positivity blogger Katie Sturino told InStyle that men were finding their footing in the movement. "For a long time, men had been excluded from fashion in general," she said. "I’m not saying men have it tough because, let’s face it, men don’t have it tough, but we do underestimate that dudes have bad days too. There are days when men look in the mirror and they feel bad about themselves. That absolutely happens." So, in 2017, the perfect body type for men didn’t really exist. Instead, men were learning to love and accept their bodies just the way they were.
Pete Davidson ruled 2019 and his skinny body inspired a new idea of the perfect body type
If there was one unexpected celebrity who took over in 2019, it was Pete Davidson. Over the years, the comedian has dated Larry David’s daughter Cazzie David, pop star Ariana Grande (to whom he was even engaged), actress Margaret Qualley, Kate Beckinsale, and, finally, model Kaia Gerber (Cindy Crawford’s gorgeous daughter), according to Slate. Truly, people were confounded by Davidson’s mass appeal to women. After all, though good looking, he wasn’t exactly the typical Hollywood type. With his lanky body, Davidson’s reign over 2019 was reminiscent of a young Justin Bieber’s domination of 2010.
According to Slate, women’s attraction to Davidson had a lot to do with his personality, reporting, "He’s open and self-aware. He’s a large, goofy, confident man who loves being in love." Davidson definitely made the skinny look cool again, and, in 2019, the perfect body type for men could definitely be summed up by looking at Davidson.
In 2019, more men were dieting to lose weight to achieve a perfect body type
As much as the body positivity movement really shifted the public’s perspective about what it meant to love yourself and your own body, the diet industry still thrived in 2019. Diet trends came back in style in 2019, and it wasn’t necessarily for the best. "This is the problem I have with all of these fad diets," registered dietitian Andy Yurechko told Men’s Health when discussing the Keto diet. "A healthier type of diet is something you can do every day of your life."
Another huge diet fad in 2019 was intermittent fasting, and it caught the attention of even Silicon Valley executives. However, nutrition professor Marjorie Freeman told ABC News that the trend was dangerous. "Long term, none of us would go on a trip without filling up our gas tanks," she said. "And I would say the same thing for eating." Diets were huge in 2019, despite all the body positivity out there, even for men. At the end of the decade, losing weight was a way men tried to achieve the perfect body type, as problematic as that may have been.
A full head of hair has always complemented the perfect body type for men
Something that’s always been in style for men is a full head of hair. While some celebrities like Vin Diesel and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson can definitely pull off the bald look and appear super attractive, there’s no denying that the perfect body type for men has always included a thick head of hair.
Men are seemingly so obsessed with having a lot of hair that they tend to spend a lot of money trying to remedy the situation if they notice that they’re going bald. In fact, 10 percent of balding men spend a ton of money on hair growth products, according to ABC News. "Collectively, they will spend more than $1 billion a year on shampoos, hair pieces, lotions, pills and follicle transplants to cover up their exposed craniums," ABC News reported. Clearly, men desire to have hair on their heads. No matter what their body type may be, a head full of hair is always in for men, and it’s unlikely that that will ever change.
The perfect body type for men is continually changing
The perfect body type for men has changed a lot throughout history. As far back as the 1870s, there was an ideal body type for men, and it was far from what is considered ideal today. According to Business Insider, the ideal back then was for men to have somewhat of a beer belly, as it was a sign of class and money that they could afford a good deal of food.
Obviously, a lot has changed since then, and, even over the course of the past decade, the perfect body for men has gone through somewhat of an evolution. At the start of the decade, the skinny look was in, and, as time went on, men became a lot more aware of their health and fitness, with body positivity taking over. However, diet trends came back in style before too long, and men’s struggle to achieve and maintain the perfect body has continued.
Still, it’s important to remember that there is no such thing as the perfect body, for neither men nor women, and every body is perfect.