Can you name which 20-something blue-eyed, brown curly hair, actor, queer icon, Christopher Nolan movie star interviewed a different 20-something blue-eyed, brown curly hair, actor, queer icon, Christopher Nolan movie star? If you guessed Harry Styles and Timothée Chalamet you may be a millennial. If you haven’t, you may be living under a rock. It is not every day that two of the most well known young artists of recent sit down for a phone interview to discuss everything from the entertainment industry to Chalamet’s peach traumas to masculinity and vulnerability. Beside the fact that Chalamet likes to sleep naked, the most interesting part was how these two superstars talked about challenging the notion of what masculinity is and the power that one gains from being vulnerable.
As i-D notes, there have already been many comparisons made between the two by their fans. For example, When Chalamet wore a floral hand painted suit, many comparisons were made to Harry Styles’ collaboration and photoshoot for Gucci FW18. Their soft locks, their explicit embrace of femininity and their rejection of traditional masculinity have struck a nerve with audiences of all ages who have marveled at their commercial and critical success. With millions of adoring fans and countless blogs documenting their every move, their creativity and sensitivity are molding a new image for the current heartthrob.
Styles and Chalamet represent a departure from the previous Hollywood-manufactured leading young man. They take daring risks and are incredibly sensitive. Most notably, they have openly embraced the LGBTQ+ community. Styles teased fans by hinting at his bisexuality in his off-album song “Medicine” while Chalamet took on the role of Elio, a character exploring his sexuality, in the movie adaptation of “Call Me By Your Name”. Most actors tend to shy away from talking about sexuality, let alone so actively embracing the LGBTQ+ community. It makes sense why i-D paired the two for an interview. Even reading the transcript, you can pick up on the chemistry the two have. They cover a multitude of topics, from addiction to the role of their parents to sleeping naked to politics. The interview definitely satisfies hard-core fans of the duo by divulging juicy tidbits, while also giving some thoughtful insight on important topics. The most interesting part of the interview is when Styles brings up the “concept of masculinity” and how it has changed over time. Chalamet confesses that he wanted to discuss it with Styles and was already planning on bringing it up. Chalamet divulges that Chicago based rapper Lil B helped him to “blur those lines” and expressed excitement about a future without thinking about “jean size, or muscle shirts, or affectation, or eyebrow raise, or dissolution, or drug use that you have to take part in to be masculine.” They both agree that masculinity is shifting and comes from an openness about their individuality and emotions. Chalamet emphasizes the importance of vulnerability and how it impacts him. He confesses that he hopes “in any infinitesimal way, he can help anyone, a guy, a girl, realize that being vulnerable is not a weakness, not a social barrier”. This conversation has cemented their status as soft-boys: a dawning of man where vulnerability and openness makes one king.
Styles and Chalamet represent a new sensitivity in Hollywood male sex symbols. They wear their hearts on their sleeves, are not afraid to don more feminine apparel and take on risky and adventurous projects, all the while maintaining both mainstream and independent appeal. A direct comparison to the brand of Styles-Chalamet soft boys would be Noah Centineo, star of the Netflix Original summer blockbuster “To All the Boys I Loved Before”. Practically overnight, Centineo has become incredibly popular and has amassed a large following. He currently boasts over 15 million Instagram followers. Centineo’s following surpasses Chalamet’s 2.4 million yet he is still far behind Styles’ 24.3 million. Compared to Chalamet, Centineo has a more traditionally Hollywood sex appeal than Styles and Chalamet, as he is much more muscular and masculine and he certainly leans into that role. Centineo has also received some flack for his tweets which read more like 2012-era Wattpad fanfiction lines. Most notably, Lena Dunham recently compiled the differences between a “Chalamet” and a “Centineo”. As she best puts it “A Chalamet won’t call you his girlfriend cuz monogamy is a construct … a Centineo won’t do it cuz his insta is blowing up right now.” The very public push back of Centineo and retreat to Chalamet clearly illustrates a shift towards the soft-boy and rejection of traditional masculinity.
I personally welcome this change and hope that Chalamet and Styles serve as inspirations for a new era of men. Countless times I have had my male friends “confess” to me that they secretly enjoy something even a tiny bit feminine. The often heard “no homo bro” needs to end. Men need to start embracing vulnerability. Hopefully the success of Chalamet and Styles in terms of their popularity among women, and success in general, may serve as a sign and shift the tide toward a more open, progressive man.