I’m invited to a fashion house to give a lecture to their management team. About men and masculinity. The company has struggled for decades trying to get men to become more fashion conscious and to buy more clothes.
-We haven’t cracked the code yet and need to understand men better, says the female HR manager who hired me, as she casts a stressed glance at her watch.
-I have a little method of my own to create insight, I say. But she puts a hand on my arm and stops me.
-I have full confidence in you, Anders, but I have another meeting I have to attend now, and saying that backs into the elevator.
Two weeks later I'm standing in a conference room with a refreshing gender balance.
-This is a pure marketing problem, I say looking out over the well-dressed men and women around the shiny walnut table. I show my first powerpoint image of a listless man staring at himself in a bathroom mirror.
-And the key is about identification. Men want to be able to relate to fashion advertising and visualize the clothes on themselves.
People nod in agreement around the table, pouring mineral water in their glasses, taking notes.
-But no man over 30 want to see images of men his own age, I continue and show the image of Tommy from Pippi Longstocking.
-Men want to see better versions of themselves. They want to see 12 year olds.
-12-year olds? the Marketing Director asks and laughs nervously.
-Yes, no older than 17. Men like to look at young boys, it’s scientifically proven. Older men relate to young, skinny boys because all men like to be reminded and idealize their own lost children's bodies. As brittle porcelain dolls, I say poetically while gazing into thin air.
People around the table start to look uneasy and exchange glances, so I raise my voice a few decibels to take command of my insight mission again.
-Besides, it’s well known that clothes look much better on a 12 year old. And I 'm not talking about your average chubby brat with one arm in a bag of crisps and the other firmly clutching a games console here. I'm talking about thread-thin boys with becoming eating disorders, substance abuse, self-mutilation or anything else that produces a desperate look that photographers like Terry Richardson can exploit into high fashion.
-This is the dumbest thing I've ever heard, says the male CEO and gets up. His face is red and he’s almost screaming at me.
-Porsche doesn’t sell cars using images of CHILDREN? And technology companies don’t use CHILDREN as models for a new PC or a new TV? You sound as if you’d like to make us look like a paedophile network. What the hell do you think it would look like if our male collection was marketed with children, even sick children?
-Indeed, I say, and start a slide show of the company’s own images from their current autumn collection for women.
-What would it look like?
The silence in the room is so sublime that it should be recorded and saved for posterity.