Standards of beauty vary broadly from region to region. What one culture finds attractive, another might find repulsive. One U.K. based online doctor recently commissioned a series of images depicting male standards of beauty across 18 different cultures to give us a better look at body image issues across the globe.
U.K. based Superdrug Online Doctor commissioned graphic designers from across the world to photoshop an image of the same man to conform with their standards of beauty. The project was called "Perceptions of Perfection". The results were astounding.
As the Superdrug Online Doctor website points out, "In Australia, he maintained his shape for the most part; in the U.K., he got a slimmed-down body; and in the U.S., he got a chiselled physique. Our designer in Egypt made him swarthy, our Spanish artist maintained his light skin tone, and our Hong Kong designer narrowed his face."
Some of the retouching went above and beyond just changing the shape of the face. For instance, the Russian artist gave him blond locks. The Serbian artist added a half-sleeve tattoo. The Bangladesh artist added a lungi.
Although, the shape of the face did go through various changes. Some images were changed so the man would have almond-shaped eyes or a broader nose. Some cultures valued thick eyebrows or beards. But there was one thing that noticeably didn't change - most of the men (with the notable exception of Russia) still had dark, cropped hair and dark stubble.
One would think that a chiseled six-pack would be universally appealing, but this experiment proved that that isn't the case. Physique varied widely between the different cultures. For example, the American came back with washboard abs, however the Chinese rendering featured a man with a slim frame.
This project proves more than the fact that different cultures have different standards of beauty. It also shows that members of both genders can struggle to achieve the perfect body type. In other words, even though the standards of beauty perfection vary between cultures, struggling to meet those beauty standards is universal.
As the project's website states, "Men who are faced with the pressures to be stronger, slimmer and more muscular often by the media and advertising suffer 'equally with women' around the idea of body confidence." Men might not read beauty magazines, but that doesn't mean they don't care about their looks!
"Fueled in part by the media and popular culture, men around the world may feel even more body image–related pressure than women do – pressure to be stronger or slimmer or more muscular," continues the website. In other words, yes, every man desires to be Ryan Gosling - or rather, their culture's version of Ryan Gosling.
Superdrug Online Doctor's research extended beyond the photoshops. “Our own research found that 40% of men in the UK felt pressure from television and magazines to have a ‘perfect’ body and this has negative effects on how they view themselves and others," says the project.
They hope that this project will change attitudes across the globe. "We want to affect change: to empower children to start life confident about their bodies, to promote health and wellbeing over quick-fix diets, and to encourage society to embrace people with all body shapes and sizes," says Superdrug Online Doctor.
"The goal with this project is to fuel a revolution: to spark real change about body image, to empower people to prioritize health above appearance, and to promote body confidence around the world," continues the project's page. And you probably thought it was just about cool photoshops!
The project was inspired by journalist Esther Honig’s project Before & After. Additionally, Superdrug Online Doctor conducted a similar experiment with an image of a woman before conducting the experiment with the image of a man. Their prior Perceptions of Perfection study, "focused on sometimes-unrealistic standards of female beauty."
With the female image, much like the male, some of the designers created new images that were completely different from the original. Additionally, some "European and Asian nations chose to render her so thin that her estimated BMI, according to a survey we conducted (described below), would fall under or dangerously close to 17.5." Yikes!