Identity

What It Means to Be a Hot Man, According to Tabloids from 2007

Emo bangs, goatees, a hairless chest, and boardshorts, apparently.
April 11, 2017, 4:03pm
Photo of actor Adam Brody at the Toronto International Film Festival, via Wikimedia Commons

This Week in 2007 is a weekly column looking back on Lindsay Lohan, the first iPhone, George W. Bush, and everything else we loved about the year 2007.

Before the outrage of the week fueled media companies, pictures of hot male celebrities dominated American magazines and blogs. New media sites' commenters, like the stans of the then-nascent Oh No They Didn't! (ONTD), penned odes to hot men, while the glossy tabloid juggernaut US Weekly published a "Hot Guy of the Week." Pictorials seemed on point throughout the memorable year of 2007, but in retrospect, their dependence on bangs and men in vests seem a remnant of the 80s.

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One of Us Weekly's April 2007 issues presented "Hot Guy of the Week" Adam Brody in a vest and sweater with swoopy hair. Mirroring Playboy's descriptions of topless blondes, they described him as a sanctimonious good boy: "Sensitive and sweet, Adam recently told reporters at the In The Land of Women junket that his mom taught him never to break up on bad terms," the caption read, according to ONTD. "Don't expect PDA from this dude—when asked by ElleGirl about his love scene with actress Meg Ryan in his new flick, Adam admits that, 'I saw it and covered my eyes. I don't want to see me doing that!'"

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Internet users favored a similar look during the year of celebrity terror. ONTD user @seanopry wrote "The 411 on Dean Geyer." He described Geyer as "a singer who finished third in the talent contest Australian Idol 2006," but seemed to have posted about him because of his shirtless chest and light body hair—a look reminiscent of Abercrombie's controversial softcore porn catalogs. The watermark on the image accompanying the post appropriately says "Perve Poster." Similar images populated ONTD throughout 2007. Along with a photo of a khaki-wearing Mark Wahlberg grabbing his crotch, @sunoftheskye wrote, "Excuse me as I grab my lotion and tissues."

Judd Apatow is an old-fashioned romantic. He's also staggeringly raunchy.

Other websites highlighted sexy men, with even Salon.com, the then digital Bible for liberal caucasians, joining the craze, releasing their staffers' list of the hottest men alive on November 15, 2007. The list featured US Weekly regulars Jon Hamm, Matt Damon, and Kanye West (prior to telling Taylor Swift, "I'ma let you finish," West was considered fairly normal, and these posts often featured one or two people of color), but also the NPR favorites Ira Glass, Alec Baldwin, and "Cate Blanchett as Bob Dylan." "He got me most recently with his imitation of chifforobe-busting Tom Robinson from To Kill a Mockingbird," wrote then Salon writer Rebecca Traister about Baldwin. "Dy-no-mite!"

Writer Mary Elizabeth Williams endorsed a more surprising choice, praising Judd Apatow's sex appeal. "Judd Apatow is an old-fashioned romantic. He's also staggeringly raunchy," she wrote. "In other words, he is the very definition of a dream come true. He's also just plain cute. In photos, he looks stubbly and slightly rumpled, defiantly embraceable."

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As the arbiters of "the Sexiest Man of the Year," People magazine identified the standards of male beauty; in 2007, they awarded Matt Damon the coveted title. He graced the cover with the same haircut he's worn since the start of his career, but inside the magazine, the annual feature revealed more telling traits of sexiness according to pop culture in 2007, like Adrien Grenier's swooping bangs and Olympic speed skater Apolo Ohno's goatee. The magazine also highlighted Ludacris and American Idol contestant Blake Lewis. In his pictorial shoot, Matthew McConaughey walked towards the photographer while holding a surfboard. People chose the actor's abs as his strongest point, but McConaughey's mother told the magazine it was "his integrity."

Jake Gyllenhaal's blurb also struck a bizarre mix of sexual teasing and shout outs to his family. Posing in a green shirt, he gushed about his sister. "She's amazing," he said. "I revel in her growth." He went on to complain about the smell of his niece's diapers.

Only Dancing with the Stars dancer—and thick hair poster boy—Maksim Chmerkovskiy seemed to grasp what sexuality was actually about in 2007. "I know my assets, so I don't have a problem opening my shirt," he said.

Stars may have dressed their sexuality in a family image for interviews—but emo bangs, waxed chests, vests, and beach boardshorts defined the hunks of 2007. Their innocent quotes only accentuated the over-the-topness of male celebrity sexuality. When I asked Spencer Pratt—the most self-aware 2007 castoff—about how blogs and celebrity magazines defined hot guys in 2007, he wrote back a definitive two-word answer: "Brody Jenner."