Dan Murphy: Veggies’ Swimsuit Issue

"I question the validity of Plant News’ assertion that its lineup of male-model vegans is somehow equipped to bring 'fashion' to the masses." ( FJ )

Let’s be clear: There’s nothing wrong with the vegan community ogling some male models ‘dressed’ in little more than briefs. But that’s where the educational value starts and stops.

If proof was ever needed that the vegan movement is populated mainly by younger, affluent Caucasian women, Exhibit A would be a recent “must-read” article touted on social media and posted on the veggie-promoting website PlantNews.com.

The feature was titled, “10 Vegan Male Models You Should Know,” with a subtitle informing would-be readers that although “Veganism and fashion have always been viewed as a contentious pairing, these plant-eating models are pushing for that to change!”

Having spent many years as an editor, back in the good old days when George H.W. Bush was in the White House — as vice president — and when news and feature stories were actually printed on pieces of paper and bound into a thin, portable volume known as a magazine, I’ve directed more than my share of photo shoots for various covers and inside spreads (that was shop talk back in the Jurassic Age of journalism).

Many of those long-ago sessions involved “styling” food products — plumber’s putty disguised as ice cream that wouldn’t melt under the studio lights or motor oil slathered on top of meat products for that “just-cooked” look. However, a fair number of shoots also involved the use of both male and female models, especially during a stint I served as editor of a publication featuring licensed apparel — sportswear, athletic gear and business casual clothing.

Denim was really “hot” back then, as I recall.

It’s the swimsuits, not the substance

Now, I don’t mean to stereotype anyone who makes money by modeling, but let’s just say that the pros who are regularly booked by the bigger agencies are generally not people with whom you’d engage in a spirited debate over the propriety of The Fed’s interest rate policies or, say, the impact of charter institutions on educational success rates in secondary school systems.

However: What’s trending in the realm of fad diets for quick weight loss? They’re experts. Best make-up for outdoor, as opposed to indoor, photography? Man or woman, most can deliver a Wikipedia-length dissertation off the top of their heads.

But what’s selling (and what isn’t) in the retail clothing sector? The majority of models are surprisingly uninformed.

Which is why I question the validity of Plant News’ assertion that its lineup of male-model vegans is somehow equipped to bring “fashion” to the masses.

Will, to the born-again true believer veggies to whom the article was directed, anyway.

Not only that, but — surprise! — every vegan male model was photographed wearing only briefs or a swimsuit.

Now, I realize that a certain magazine recently acquired for a nine-figure sum from Time Warner Inc. by Authentic Brands Group annually publishes a veritable catalog of women in swimsuits that’s thinly — pun intended — disguised as a review of contemporary trends in swimwear. When considering the meaning of “fashion,” however, even dedicated female vegans don’t immediately go to the male-model-in-briefs card.

Frankly, nobody seeks out models, vegan or otherwise, for insights into the clothing they’re wearing.

Or not wearing, as the case may be.

That’s not to say that the guys featured as Vegan Male Models would be incapable of commenting on various aspects of vegetarianism — but because they’re vegans, not because they look good in Speedos.

There’s nothing wrong with a website catering to the interests of people self-identified as vegetarians. But for the proprietors of that site to pretend that an article about male models offers something other than a healthy serving of beefcake is as substantial as the fashion items the eye candy samples in the story weren’t wearing.

In a word … minimal.

The opinions in this commentary are those of Dan Murphy, an award-winning journalist and commentator.