Since Alex Alfaro’s recent editorial of Stiaan Louw’s Lace & Leather collection featuring Jeffery Thomas is all the rage in the month of March, I considered it worthwhile to revisit its antithesis – if indeed that is what we may categorise it – ATLETIEK.
Featured model Thane Williams, a far departure from the category of male models that have come to be synonymous with Stiaan Louw and his label, does a sendup of men’s fitness magazines in the pastiche of publications the likes of Beefcake.
I quite believe Mr. Louw’s finger is on the pulse of our generation, what with the rapidly increasing preoccupation of men the world over with grooming, wellness and fitness. ATLETIEK is significant in that it recognises and cleverly exploits a move from the misconception that grooming, wellness and fitness in the concern of the homosexual and the metrosexual towards the normalisation of such creature comforts into the mainstream domain of the everyday-man (who is a symbolic figure of the heterosexual).
Now we might ask why the popularity of male fitness and grooming in the public arena, even as a social activity among men. The answer lies in that fitness training at your local gym can be homosocial without necessarily being homosexual. Men may comment on and compliment each other’s bodies without being doomed a homosexual. (Of course, this is not to deny the well-known secret that fitness training at the local gym has also become the gay equivalent of blind dating – or should we say blind humping!
Yet, after all is said and done, Stiaan Louw’s ATLETIEK does remind us why we all like a well-sculptured male form, a liking which is poetically captured in this excerpt from On the Mystery of Maleness & Male Beauty:
Photographically – (which implies artistically) – I reserve little regard for the female form and feminine beauty; for the simple reason that our – which is to say my – perception of them has been so defiled (and they, excessively dissected and scrutinised) that they have been exhausted of their mystery. Without mystery, there is little incentive for inquiry. (By mystery I refer to that which is hidden or not inherently known, not to that which is unfathomable; needless to say, every mystery reserves a certain measure of unfathomability.) As for the male form and beauty, fortunately it is yet in its age of innocence: there is yet mystery in it, yet the unknown and unsearchable. In a sense, there is something of the male form and beauty that is incorruptible – which is to say resilient. After all, referring from a Judeo-Christo perspective, is not man the fountain-source of woman? This is a mystery (that we must grapple with). Man is of the earth, the dirt, the clay, the cosmic debris, the water – in summary, the elements. Woman is of the flesh: She is a second tier mystery. It could be said, that, in light of the above – woman is consequent and man is primordial, woman is mortal and man is immortal, a mystery out of Mystery. But lest men be conceited, we also understand from nature that man is born of woman.
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Photography © Neil Robertson and Stiaan Louw.
Styling by Michael Cooper (One League).
Model: Thane Guy Williams (Men’s Division).
Live the life!