Bikini fit is a plague that arrives in April and continues until August. It appears on the covers of magazines, on the websites you read (although not this one) and it has the one aim of making women feel they need to hit treadmills, stop eating and generally not have any fun until they look like Elle McPherson (which for 99% of us is never going to happen).
Inevitably there is a backlash against such sheep-like mentality, but no one has ever really thought to ask whether men feel the same pressures too.
Telegraph writer Lee Kynaston recently wrote about the subject, saying that while men do feel pressure to have an amazing Joe Mangianello body (Google it – it’s the singularly most amazing thing ever), they are coping with it remarkably well.
“…back in my father’s day,” he writes, “there was no such thing as a “beach body”: the one you took to the beach was the one you hauled to work every day, the one that accompanied you to the theatre, and the one that helpfully transported you to your local watering hole.
“But times have changed. Objectified in the press (witness headlines like “Harry Styles shows off his toned body!”) and by ourselves (thanks to selfies and social media), the pressure is on for men to be buffed and body beautiful.”
Talking to HuffPost UK Lifestyle blogger and confessed ‘male shopaholic’ Furquan Akhtar, this isn’t anything new.
“I think people hark back to the time of “My Dad” although I don’t think that’s an actual historical period. Growing up during a time when Beckham was hailed as the ideal man meant that the pressure to be groomed and freshly honed from the gym has affected at least one generation.
“What adds pressure to men though is the guys who aren’t necessarily expected to be ripped and in fact are. Long gone are the days when the actor who played James Bond put an ice pack to his chest to pass his moobs off as pecs. This means that men are coming under the same criticism that has plagued women for years.”
It appears that men are having the same debate around the appearance of a healthy body.
Nick Clements, author and writer around topics of self-development says: “I’m all in favour of men wanting to be fit and healthy, but healthy men are not necessarily thin, muscular or bronzed. By conforming to this fashionable game men are again adding to the almost unbearable pressure on women to be ‘beautiful’.
“Fashion dictates that well defined muscles are ‘in’ and flab ‘out’. Like the women with their ‘free the nipple’ campaign, men and women need to join together and create the ‘free the paunch’ campaign. Bring back sanity.”
TOWIE’s No Carbs Before Marbs mantra may be mocked at the watercooler, but it increasingly seems to be the norm.
John Mason, model and presenter agrees. “The perfect summer beach body is absolutely something that more and more men are striving for.
“In the months that are a precursor to summer, there is always a rise in guys working hard in the gym and throwing themselves into healthy nutritional routines to try and achieve a body they can show off and be proud of on their holiday jaunts.”
However, while more men hitting the gym in the run-up to summer may seem like a harmless attempt to get fit, it may hint at a the start of a darker trend for men.
“On a regular basis now we hear things such as Mark Wright doesn’t dress for his body shape, Harry Styles isn’t toned enough and that Boris Becker has aged,” says Akhtar. “I’m not sure what this means for the emerging generation of men but one thing we can be certain of is that it’ll be less than positive.”