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ATOMIC DOG

A Brief History of Ta Tas


I'm not sure how to break it to you, so I might as well just lay it on you.

It's over.

The six-pack abs? The rippling muscles? Finished.

They're no longer fashionable.

It's true. Vanity Fair said so. They just declared that the gym body is yesterday's fashion. The creative director at Barney's in New York supports the assertion, saying that, "Male models have never been so concave. They're on low-carb diets, and they don't work out anymore — they jog. It's a look coming out of Paris..."

The head of Pucci International, a company that makes mannequins for upmarket retailers, says, "The gym body has almost become a cliché."

Feel free to experience your three stages of grief, but please do it quickly as I've got an early lunch meeting.

First, anger: Bastards!

Then, denial: No f-in' way!

Finally, acceptance: I guess I can cancel my gym membership and start collecting stamps; I've always liked stamps.

But that's not the worst of it. You know those large female breasts many of us are so fond of? They're so last year. Style.com has named legs the latest erogenous zone. That's not so bad, but The New York Times gave the title to clavicles. That's right, clavicles.

Tits are 2008, they're so two-thousand-and-late; clavicles are 2009, they're so two-thousand-and-fine.

Sigh.

Yes, bony parts are taking the place of fleshy parts. Pucci International reports the best-selling female mannequins are thin, flat chested, narrow-hipped, and long legged, with good collarbones.

Man, I'm gonna' miss those lovely titties.

Sigh.

Please, everyone, hold hands and sway back and forth while I sing:


Showing Off Her Angry Tits

Amy Fine Collins, the author of the Vanity Fair article that trumpets the extinction of all things abs and tits ("The Shape of Thighs to Come"), posits that bodies have always followed the lead of fashion and then quickly become passé.

Amy, Amy, Amy, you're a fine writer, but I'd like to feign a model-like bulimic episode and vomit on your shoe. Collarbones? You expect us to get off on clavicles?!?

Excuse me, but while deeply hollowed clavicles might be useful in keeping an errant money shot from cascading onto the sheets, they're hardly a body part that's lusted for by the reptilian portion of our brains.

Okay, I'll admit that notions of what constitutes the ideal female body have vacillated more erratically than Dick Cheney's EKG, but the essence of what turns us on has always been pretty much the same. We've always liked breasts and we've always worshipped the .7 hip-to-waist ratio, it's merely our acceptance of body fat levels that fluctuates.

While the original Venus De Milo was a curvy chunk, our modern-day version, Megan Fox, is lean and taut, albeit bestowed with so many saliva-inducing parabolas as to induce apoplexy in Euclid himself.

The female breast itself, though, has followed a peculiar path in the last 70 or so years, influenced as much by fashion as by science.

Amy, take a look at 1940's era actress Jane Russell, who you used as an example in your article. She forced her assets on the movie public through the use of bras that made her breasts look like missiles.

Whether she was showing off her angry tits or silently supporting General Patton's tank troops in Europe we'll never know, but it popularized big breasts and made actresses like Marilyn Monroe, Sophia Loren, and Jayne Mansfield possible.

The big-breasted movement suffered a literal recession in the sixties when models like Twiggy re-defined breast fashion, but that madness ended quickly with the arrival of Raquel Welch.

As you pointed out, it was about this time that science intervened in the form of breast implants. In a kind of fleshy space race, breasts became larger and larger without concern for the natural teardrop shape preferred by nature.

Since the shape was hard to duplicate, medicine stopped trying. The bowling ball look became the norm. It was totally unrealistic, but men folk by and large stopped caring a long time ago. It's almost to the point that the infrequent real breast is the one that catches the puzzled attention of males, if only because of the sheer novelty.


Let Me Puke on Your Other Jimmy Choo

I'll also concede the point that fashion may have affected the kind of butts that women aspire to and men covet.

Back in the 1940's the Betty Grable no-cleavage mono-butt was in fashion, which was replaced by a boyish butt that was quite fashionable until J-Lo started hauling her junk around. That led to a spate of butt-implant surgeries and hip-hugger jeans that exposed so much ass cleavage that a girl, if so inclined, could catch a Frisbee without using her hands.

And I'll concede how it seems that female fashion seemed to influence automobile designers, at least back in the fifties. I appreciate the notion that the "jutting, red-tipped taillights of a 1958 Chrysler LeBaron could make a grown man blush."

But that's where it ends, Ms. Collins, that's where it ends. Fashion is admittedly a powerful force in shaping our perceptions, but our balls, Amy baby, are immune to the vagaries of fashion.

Fill the magazines with all the pictures of clavicles and rib cages and jam the airwaves with ketogenic, sallow skinned models, but it's not gonna' change our preference for curves. Hell, to do that, you'd have to swizzle stick our insular cortexes, which is the part of the brain that allows us to tell fresh food from rotten.

But let's get back to male Homo sapiens. You assert that, "the android-y aesthetic of the pumped-up he-man with washboard abs percolated into mainstream conspicuousness from gay and black subcultures."

You believe the trend has reversed and since fashion is extolling the virtues of the size-zero male, society will follow suit.

Amy, let me puke on your other Jimmy Choo.

From the Farnese Hercules to John L. Sullivan to Sandow to Muscle Beach to comic book superheroes to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sly Stallone, men have always gravitated towards muscle.

Check out the following quote, Amy:

You know who said that, Amy? It wasn't Tom of Finland and it wasn't 50 Cent; it was Adolf Hitler. I'm not ascribing the modern, apparently now passé love of broad shoulders and deep chests and rippling muscle to der Fuehrer, only pointing out that the love of a hyper-masculine esthetic ideal is maybe the product of a lot more than gay or black subculture.


It All Comes Down to a Love of the Heroic

I think the love of a mesomorphic frame is hard wired. Study after study has shown that a muscular form is a cultural ideal. Granted, we're probably not talking about the excess that's seen on the stage of a competitive bodybuilding show, but we're talking about at least running-back muscle.

For better or worse, men attribute positive personality traits to muscle. Men view their bodies as instruments and those with strength or power will be more useful, more likely to be dominant, confident, and independent.

I'll readily admit that there's some minor psychological flaw in just about anybody who starts lifting weights; some insecurity or weakness that requires muscular armor to either hide it, shield it, or cure it, but as therapy it's a hell of a lot more effective and rewarding than a psychologist's couch or a lifetime addiction to smoking, drinking, or eating comfort food.

The end result, aside from hopefully reaching an esthetic ideal, is often a confident, self-actualized being who carries the lessons learned in the weight room into every facet of life.

It all comes down to a love of the heroic, Amy. Muscle, throughout history, has been next of kin to the heroic, and the heroic is eternal. Fashion is just a passing whim, destined to be dumped into the back of the closet with the bell-bottom pants and the platform shoes.

The original version of this article was posted on October 7th, 2007.



The History of Ta Tas

This, or shall I say these, are out.

The History of Ta Tas

And this, presumably, is in?

The History of Ta Tas

One of our many modern-day Venus De Milos.

The History of Ta Tas

Jane Russell with her fleshy Howitzers.

The History of Ta Tas

Betty Grable and her mono-butt.

The History of Ta Tas

Sandow, left, posing as the Farnese Hercules, along with the original (right).


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