Last year, we thought we’d found a male body positivity ally in American Eagle. Right around April 1, the storied teen brand released a series of ads for its men’s underwear line. Each clip featured men of different sizes and physiques discussing their bodies. There was a tinge of humor but, for the most part, the ads were refreshing. A few days later, we learned the campaign was nothing more than an elaborate April Fool’s prank. It was a sad development considering male body image is nothing to joke about. Luckily, we’ve got a new ally in fashion photographer Tarik Carroll and his EveryMan project.
You’ve probably seen the images filling up your Instagram and Tumblr timelines. The initial shoot, a recreation of a classic 90s Calvin Klein ad, features four men of color who defy every expectation we have of male beauty. There are no rippling six packs, chiseled chests, or bulging biceps in sight. These men aren’t “perfect” but they’re comfortable showing their bodies the way they are. It’s a daring move in a society that values unattainable beauty.
“My main goal is to challenge society’s standards of what the REAL male aesthetic is through the lens of reimagined iconic 90s fashion ads,” Carroll said. He was inspired to start the project after dealing with his own body image issues and realizing this was a common thread he shared with so many other men.
“Most of us had been programmed with this cycle of self-hate beginning at the playground, in a space where we were most impressionable and vulnerable,” he said. “Body positivity is something that isn’t typically discussed amongst men. Mostly because we were taught by our fathers and male figures in our lives that feeling inadequate or displaying any emotions and sensitivity made us less than.”
Now, the EveryMan project is talking about male body positivity in a big way. Men in general need to have this conversation. In an era of toxic masculinity, where men are threatening to beat up other men who wear rompers, it’s definitely time to talk about what it means to be a man. More importantly, it’s time to redefine it—something the queer community can benefit from.
“I want to challenge society’s obsession with hyper masculinity and perfection by capturing men and those who are male identifying from all backgrounds, orientations, gender identifications, personal classifications, races, and colors,” Carroll said. He acknowledged the prevalence of toxic masculinity in the black community and hopes EveryMan can shift the collective consciousness.
With only one shoot, the project has already made a huge splash. UK-based publication FGUK, one of Carroll’s favorites, recently ran a high-profile piece about the initiative. But perhaps the most meaningful impact came through a message from a 16-year-old boy struggling with his body image.
“Seeing the images from our first shoot was uplifting, liberating, and made him feel amazing about himself and his body,” Carroll said.
Carroll is currently planning other EveryMan shoots for the remainder of the year. He’s holding an open call for interested participants June 10. He’ll release the photos as a coffee table book along with a documentary about the project. Also on deck, he’s working with up and coming artist Moxiie, and he recently released the “Oral Fixation” editorial spread in XEX magazine.
With EveryMan and his future projects, Carroll aims to use his work for the greater good.
“My goal is to use my creative voice as a fashion photographer and graphic artist to tackle more social issues and challenge society’s beauty standards.”
For more information about EveryMan, connect with the project on Instagram @theeverymanproject and check out the website here. If you’re interested in participating in the June 10 casting call, email Carroll directly at [email protected]