You have the shrimp, we’ll have the muscles …

David Gandy in San Remo, Italy. Photograph: Venturelli/WireImage

David Gandy’s body is extraordinary. Elegantly proportioned, classically lovely, rigorously maintained. It is athletic without being can i wash my canada goose jacket pumped. It’s clean and fragrant, but only to a post-metrosexual degree. (Gandy goes to the gym every day, but that’s the limit of his beauty regime. Does canada goose coat 1000 calorie a day meal plan he wax his chest, I ask. He most certainly does not.) It is lithe but – and this point is crucial – it is in no way thin.

Gandy’s body is very now. It’s worth a considerable amount of money. He won’t say how much (Gandy, who comes from an affluent corner of Essex, is too British for such vulgarity), but he will say that a male model (which is what – he grudgingly concedes – he is) can expect to make up to £300,000 a year if he’s very successful. This is nothing compared to the earning potential of female models. Giselle Bündchen is rumoured to have turned over something in the region of £15m last year. But nor is best canada goose coat for skiing it to be sneezed at.

Gandy is the most successful male model of the moment. Following a starring role in Dolce & Gabbana’s Light Blue best price canada goose parka perfume ad (a 40-second clip in which Gandy, dressed in very tight, damp shorts, cavorts with a young lady in the bottom of a dinghy moored off Sicily) and a racy promotional calendar (an expensive black-and-white effort entitled David, and intended buy canada goose jacket cheap as photographer Mariano Vivanco’s homage to Michelangelo’s David – although I don’t think even Michelangelo channelled such an explicitly homoerotic subtext), Gandy has managed to achieve something approaching celebrity status. This is rare. While female models routinely become household names (in the style of Naomi, Eva, Tyra, Erin, Lily and Kate), men hardly ever do. But Gandy, who took 75 flights to and from fashion shoots last year (“It could have been more but I’ve been turning stuff down lately. I am… knackered”) has a slew of internet fan sites dedicated to him and an international following. He’s been profiled by fashion magazines, interviewed by broadsheet newspapers; he has starred alongside celebrity photographer Rankin in a BBC4 documentary. The Light Blue advert has been spoofed on YouTube. Gandy is now regularly recognised in public: “Even with my clothes on, which is strange, if you think about it.” He has stalkers. “Nice stalkers, though. One of them did an oil painting of me; a really beautiful thing. She showed it to me on Facebook. I said: ‘Bring it round to mine’ and she did. Gave it to me as a birthday present.”

The currency of David Gandy’s body – its commercial worth and the widespread approbation it inspires – corresponds to a sea-change in male beauty. It heralds the rebirth of a (quasi) beefcake ideal, and the end of Size Zero man.

Contrary to popular belief, Size Zero is not the exclusive preserve of women. While the extreme skinniness of female models and celebrities grabbed all the headlines and inspired all the debate, men – the fashionable ideal of men – quietly became thinner, and thinner, and thinner.

For nearly a decade, fashion’s concept of male beauty has been shaped by one man – designer Hedi Slimane. In July 2000, Slimane became creative director of Christian Dior’s menswear line, Dior Homme. Slimane showed his first collection for Dior Homme in 2001. It was here that he introduced a new silhouette. Slimane’s clothes were sleek and lean and clinging; his collections hinged on razor-sharp, super-tight tailoring and jeans so skinny they’d give Kate Moss a bit of bother. Slimane’s look required Twiglet-proportioned teenagers to do it justice; leggy, waifish, pallid children with hollowed cheeks and concave chests. No one else could hope to fit into the clothes. “Slimane would street-cast,” says Charlie Porter, deputy editor of fashion magazine Fantastic Man. “He’d talent-scout for his shows and shoots on the street and find skinny young 16-year-olds. He was incredibly influential.”

Where Slimane led, other designers followed. Within a season or two, everyone from Philip Lim to Versace was referencing Slimane’s silhouette in their own collections. Fashion elder statesman Karl Lagerfeld was so impressed by Slimane that in 2001 he lost a third of his body weight – 90lb – for one reason only: “I woke up and decided I was not happy with my physique… I suddenly wanted to dress differently, to wear clothes designed by Hedi Slimane.” By the middle of the Noughties, everyone was showing menswear collections on weedy models. “Sample sizes were tiny to ensure that only skinny boys could wear the clothes [in fashion shoots],” says Catherine Hayward, fashion director of men’s magazine Esquire. “Samples dropped from a size 40 to a 38 – even a 36. Male models suddenly had to be canada goose coat 1000 bulbs led two sizes smaller. We struggled with that at Esquire because traditionally, half our fashion shoots feature ‘real’ men, actors, architects, chefs – none of whom are anything like a size 36. We’d go to the collections, see the clothes on the catwalk and think: ‘Yes, lovely. But we’ll never be able to use them in the magazine.'”

A new breed of Slimane-approved male model emerged; they were very young, interchangeably waifish and largely anonymous, although one of their number was identified in an article in the New York Times as epitomising the diminished-and-desirable male physique. Russian model Stas Svetlichnyy is the anti-Gandy. He stands 6ft tall, weighs in at an absolute maximum of 10 stone – and boasts a 28in waist. Gandy himself began modelling seven years ago, 18 months into Slimane’s reign, after winning a daytime-TV model can you buy canada goose jacket online search competition (organised by Richard and Judy). He’d beaten off hundreds of contenders to secure first prize – but he struggled to get work in the new fashion context. “My mum would go: ‘I don’t understand it. You’re so handsome!’ But no one wanted the big guys; it was all skinny androgyny. People would look at me very strangely at castings. They’d say unbelievable, stupid things. You’re too big! You’re too good-looking! Basically: you’re not skinny enough or weird enough. And I’m going: ‘Oh – I thought models were supposed to be good-looking and muscular.'”

Slimane’s influence filtered down off the runway, onto the streets. He chose Pete Doherty to be his muse; where Doherty led, a million aspiring indie boys followed. By 2006 the streets of the UK had filled with the fashion spawn of Hedi.

In May 2007, Slimane left Dior. A month later, David Gandy’s Light Blue advert aired for the first time. The internet registered a wild surge in who’s-that-boy type of investigative Googling, and pages and pages of lecherous blogging. Then things began to change in earnest.

Initially it was all about Gandy. Dolce & Gabbana capitalised on the success of the Light Blue advert by commissioning the 2008 David calendar, which was distributed as a marketing tool for canada goose coat 1000 calorie a day diet the label. Gandy’s power in the fashion industry grew exponentially – he crossed over, or as he puts it “gapped the bridge” (sic) between fashion name and pop-culture fixture. “He was suddenly our most successful male model by some distance,” says Heidi Beattie, who has worked black friday 2013 canada goose sale as an agent at Gandy’s agency, Select, for more than 15 years. At the beginning of this year, preposterously hip fashion mag VMan ran a cover story on Gandy entitled “The making of a male supermodel”. The pictures were shot by photographer Mario Testino, who said of Gandy: “He has something of what the 1980s supermodels had. He radiates health and positivity… It’s exciting because it signifies a real shift in men’s fashion. That whole skinny, decadent look is very limited.” The article itself congratulated Gandy on single-handedly reviving masculinity – “which wasn’t my plan”, says Gandy, “but of course it’s nice that people say things like that”.

Inevitably, other elements of the fashion industry began to embrace the altering sensibility. The mood shifted imperceptibly, and weedy boys began to seem a smidgen overexposed, passé. Next thing you know, Armani had paid David Beckham handsomely to clamber back into its branded underwear for a succession of striking billboard ads that ran through the summer of 2008. (“Beckham is doing his white-pants thing. I think he should probably focus more on the football,” Gandy tells me, a little sniffily.)

Sportsmen increasingly infiltrated the iconography of fashion. Calvin Klein signed up Freddie Ljungberg for a 2007 billboard campaign; Johnny Wilkinson signed for Hackett. Calvin Klein’s association with Ljungberg paid off so handsomely that by 2008 it had cashed in its skinny runway models wholesale for sporty, substantial, all-American-looking boys in swimming trunks and cycling shorts, and launched a man’s fragrance called MAN (the capitals are obligatory).

And now, in the spring of 2009, it’s official. Size Zero man has had his day. Big boys are back.

The proof? Last month, glossy men’s lifestyle magazine Men’s Health reported a 4.1% increase in year-on-year circulation. This might sound minor, but when many other magazines are floundering in the recession (weekly men’s magazine Nuts, for example, lost 13.1% of its circulation in the same period), it’s actually borderline miraculous. Men’s Health is a paean to the buff male body. Its covers routinely feature a set of abdominals that wouldn’t look out of place on David Gandy, its article content is dominated by practical tips on acquiring and maintaining an athletic body.

In May Esquire magazine will run “Big Shots”, a lush, eight-page fashion story dedicated to the older, more athletic variety of male model. It’ll star 38-year-old Tyson Beckford, 40-year-old Mark Vanderloo, 43-year-old John Pearson and 38-year-old Paul Sculfor, among others. “It’s all about the big guys, the ones with the flecks of grey at the temples,” says Catherine Hayward. “The ones who look like they’ve made an effort. The ones you can fancy.” And at Select, Heidi Beattie has registered a seismic shift in the kind of male models clients are asking for: “Completely different. Completely! The briefs I’m getting… really recently a company I’ve always known to prefer slim boys asked for some names for a casting. I sent them over some cards of boys with 28in waists. They came back to me saying: ‘No, we want bigger. 32in, 34in…’ I said: ‘I didn’t even know you made clothes that big.'”

Why has this happened? Why is fashion embracing masculinity once again outlet, with such vigour?

It would be gorgeous, of course, to think we’re witnessing the surge of a new consciousness in men. But that’s not exactly what’s going on here.

First, we’re witnessing fashion in motion. Reinvention and renewal is fashion’s schtick, its function. If it didn’t change its mind completely about what was right every few years or so – well, it wouldn’t be fashion, would it? “So Hedi died a death after he left Dior,” says Hayward. “And his replacement at Dior did not prove as influential as Slimane,” says Charlie Porter. “And then Tom Ford – who is as influential as Slimane – launched his own menswear line. Tom’s clothes are very much designed for the older man; he creates clothes for himself. The model he uses in his showroom is older and bigger. That is the Tom Ford look: everything is more masculine.”

Commercial concerns were also coming into play. As Hayward points out: “The men who buy designer clothes are not skinny 16-year-olds. They’re older, and bigger, and sooner or later they were going to realise that they didn’t look like Hedi’s models, in Hedi’s clothes… Versace went down the skinny route after Slimane did, but now it’s gone back to pumped-up, greased-up models, men who can dress up and get noticed.”

Second – and more significantly – strong, masculine looks are the ones that designers and consumers prefer in times of economic crisis. We seem to need them. “We want images of men who look like they could hold down a proper job,” says Jeremy Langmead, editor of Esquire. “It’s reassuring. It’s as simple as that.”

Heidi Beattie at Select has experienced this phenomenon twice over already. “We saw exactly this in the last recession – and we also saw it directly after 9/11. Clients stop wanting to take risks. They revert back to basics, to classic ideas of what’s handsome. The danger, the threat of heroin chic, of Dior’s skinny boys – it doesn’t work for them any more. They want images of boys who will sell clothes, boy-next-door boys. And women want to open magazines and see pictures of men they fancy. Obviously good-looking men.”

Of course the idea that any one man, or any one look, or any one body shape is empirically more attractive than any other is spurious. David Gandy is single and says he most certainly cannot click his fingers and have any woman he fancies. “No! That’s for the charmers of this world, the ones with the gift of the gab. Not me.”

The iconography of fashion is never really about dictating who and what we fancy (although anyone who finds themselves lusting after David Gandy should feel free to continue. I met him, and he’s jolly handsome and jolly nice – and charmingly, just a little bit silly). But clearly it does tap into other needs, other desires, beyond our desire to consume clothes.

Is it OK for us to invest, as a society, in an image of male beauty that is gym-honed to best price canada goose jacket outlet usa online store abstraction? Isn’t it another opportunity for the podgier, less toned or naturally horribly, unfashionably Size Zero among us to indulge in more self-loathing? And anyway: shouldn’t we all have better things to think about right now anyway?

Probably. But then again, exposure to multiple images of health and strength has got to do us something of a favour, hasn’t it? There’s a distinction between aspiring to this season’s strength and aspiring to last season’s super-thinness – neo beefcake, or some variation on it, is by definition a better end goal.

And if all else fails, proceed directly to David Gandy’s calendar, at November’s enough to give anyone a giggle.