In a 2015 article about male model Brad Kroenig, Karl Lagerfeld’s muse since 2003, the New York Times shed some light on the rather infrequently discussed difference in pay between male and female models. Interestingly, modeling is one circumstance in which women (or girls, in most cases) are paid significantly more than their male counterparts. The article highlights not just the difference in annual income of top models, but also the advantage that male models tend to have, if they can maintain a career.
Writing for the New York Times, Irina Aleksander says: "Brad likes to say that male modeling is to the women’s business as the W.N.B.A. is to the N.B.A. While Gisele Bündchen’s yearly income is estimated at around $47 million, men of Brad’s standing earn $200,000 to $500,000. A male model, however, can gain an advantage, and ensure career longevity, by forging relationships with influential designers and photographers."
And she's right. You may recall that according to a 2013 report by Forbes, the 10 top-earning male models raked in a combined total of $8 million from September 2012 to September 2013, about one-tenth of the $83 million the 10 top-earning female models earned during that time.
Given that men's fashion is growing at a rate that significantly outpaces women's, it may be surprising that the divide is not closing. In fact, for over five years now, the growth of the men’s fashion market has outpaced that of womenswear, leading brands to expand their menswear offerings, broaden their product ranges and in some cases, open menswear-specific stores. According to a 2013 luxury goods study by consulting firm Bain & Company, growth in the market for men’s ready-to-wear has outpaced that of womenswear, increasing between 9 and 13 percent year-on-year since 2009. This past spring, NPD Group, a consumer market research group based in New York, reported that in the U.S., men’s apparel sales grew 5 percent in 2013 to over $60 billion, outperforming womenswear.
Aside from jumps in revenue, we can see the growing influence of men's fashion in a number of forms. During the summer of 2012, London introduced London Collections: Men, a bi-annual menswear-specific fashion week (or a few days, actually), which has only grown in size and significance since then. And in 2015, New York launched New York Fashion Week: Men's – a bi-annual standalone showcase of menswear collections in line with the European schedule.
There's more. Traditional womenswear brands are expanding, and relying on men's fashion for growth. Luxury goods conglomerates Kering and LVMH have made significant investments in their respective luxury menswear brands, Brioniand Berluti. Prada, whose menswear business made around 800 million euros in sales in 2013, is also looking to bolster its men's division. A spokesman for the Milan-based house said last year that it will open 50 men’s-specific stores from 2014-2016, adding to the 30 it currently maintains.
And these high fashion houses are not alone. At the other end of the spectrum, execs at affordable luxury brand, Michael Kors announced their plans to grow Kors' menswear into a $1 billion business by 2017 with the help of Mark Brashear, its new head of menswear and the former CEO of Hugo Boss. Coach, under the direction of Stuart Vevers, launched a menswear collection for the first time ever this season. La Perla has done the same. Tory Burch is slated to follow suit; the brand hired Jeffrey Uhl, formerly of Coach, to head up its men's accessories. Even Victoria Beckham has expressed her desire to expand into menswear. In case that's not enough, just last week, the New York Times announced that it is launching a men's style section, which will make its debut in April, in response to what the publication's editors say is a demand from men (over half of its readers are men), as well as inbound interest from advertisers "who seem eager for a section targeted specifically at their customers."
Clearly tied to the growing demand for men's fashion is the notion that the approach to and the culture surrounding men's fashion has changed. This past fall, AdWeek wrote: "Men, it is clear, have outgrown the stereotype of the reluctant shopper. In the last few years there’s been a much wider acceptance of fashion among regular guys that previously were shy about it. There isn’t the stigma attached to making an effort that there used to be.” The sources of such a shifting change in perception? Well, blogs, for one. Men’s style blogs, like The Sartorialist and A Continuous Lean, have become heavily visited websites. Moreover, online shopping has made designer apparel more accessible. Celebrities are reportedly helping, too, upping the fashion ante for men on and off the red carpet.
Even if we consider the undeniable momentum that is driving the men's fashion industry right now, which is currently raking in roughly $400 billion worldwide and growing (to womenswear's $621 billion) and the increasingly widespread fame that male models are enjoying thanks to social media, I doubt we will see male models' wages increase to coincide with the growing importance of men's fashion in a female-dominated industry. They will almost certainly never reach the wages of their female counterparts, and the main reason is, at least in part, because: men don't value models like women do.
The average man, even one that is shopping high fashion brands, simply doesn't look at any of the number of industry regulars (think: Yuri Pleskun, Arthur Gosse, Ben Eidem, Janis Ancens, Paul Boche, Cole Mohr, etc.), with their sunken cheeks and 29"-or-so waists, and think, "God, I want to be like that dude," quite like women look to Karlie Kloss for her super long and lean body or Cara Delevingne for her enviable eyebrows or Daria Werbowy for her perfect makeup-free face. Most men just don't do that.
This is not to say that there are not exceptions. There are the "money guys," as they are referred to in the industry. You know them. They're the ones that Dolce & Gabbana and Armani book year after year for fragrance campaigns or that Gucci taps for its accessories campaigns. They are the David Gandy's, Sean O'Pry's, Tyson Beckford's, maybe the Adam Senn's and Jon Kortajarena's. These are the dudes that other dudes wouldn't mind being. And they are certainly the exception to the rule.
So, if most men simply don't respond to models like women do (and thus, don't give brands a reason to invest in them), what is the alternative? If anything, from what I have gathered, men respond more strongly to well-cast celebrities as models (think: Ethan Hawke for Prada, Sean Connery for Louis Vuitton, Christopher Walken for Jack Jones, David Beckham for Belstaff, Daniel Craig for Omega, etc.). (Don't think: Brad Pitt for Chanel, an ad campaign which was apparently aimed at women and which most men thought was completely corny and unappealing, at best.)
It turns out, in terms of advertising, men are more tempted to buy clothes from a brand fronted by James Bond than one being presented on early twenty-something-year old model boys. That makes sense to me. Thoughts?
* This article was initially published in January 2015.