Welcome to the Twink Age

November 8, 2022
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 Twink cannot get the scene from “Call Me by Your Name” out of my head. (No, that’s not the one.) It occurs at the beginning of Luca Guadagnino’s gay odyssey.

twink

Armie Hammer’s character Oliver, sweaty from playing volleyball, stops to take a drink from Elio (played by Timothee Chamet).

Oliver starts to massage Elio’s shoulder, sensing his nervousness. It’s not because they are watching two straight actors do a pas de deux in muted gay desire but because of their differences in size.

Hammer, 31, stands at 6′ 5″, with broad shoulders, and a lot of body hair. Chalamet, 22 years old, is five inches shorter and naturally smoother than Hammer.

He has a prominent clavicle, concave torso, and is five inches shorter. He’s the perfect gay man by gay standards.

The origin of the term is disputed. Some trace it back to 1920s British slang, “twank”, which was used by a client of gay male prostitutes. Others claim it’s a vulgar riff of the Hostess snack.

Twinks are attractive, thin, and hairless young men. There are many modern variations of the term: Euro twinks, the boys at BelAmi in Slovakia, named after Guy de Maupassant’s novel, and twunks, which is a portmanteau that includes a hunk, as embodied by Zac Efron. Feminine twinks include Adam Rippon, the American figure skater.

But the latest twinks — many of whom are straight — are what you might call “art twinks,” building upon an aesthetic legacy established by Ryan McGinley’s turn-of-the-millennium photographs of the sloppily skinny, or last decade’s leather-pant-clad Saint Laurent models chosen by the designer Hedi Slimane.

They are culturally mainstream, however: A growing number of well-known (and small) boys stand against the abusive, lumbering oafs that have been dominating headlines this year.

Take Tye Sheridan (21-year-old star in “Ready Player One”) — one of few action heros who won’t soon be ripping off his T-shirt. Lucas Hedges, a 21-year-old rising star, whose acting exudes antialpha softness. Christopher Nolan’s 2017 WWII epic, “Dunkirk”, was an ensemble showpiece that showcased British twinkiness. “Love, Simon”, starring Nick Robinson, is the American suburban version.

Music’s most prominent men were less influenced by stereotypical masculinity. However, the nonbinary pop godfathers Adam Lambert and Freddie Mercury — often came off as glam-rock caricatures.
Gay twinks like Olly Alexander and Troye Silvan, from Years & Years, feel less costumed today. Sivan was 22 years old when he performed on Saturday Night Live in January.

His shirt was torn by a wind machine and his entire mien was charged with sex. His slimness seemed to offer safety — both for Sivan to express himself and his many teenage fans. Sivan has also walked on a few runway shows. Several modeling agencies, including Tomorrow Is Another Day in Germany, specialize in slim men. They sometimes lend their teen-aged clients to Valentino and Prada.

Jaden Smith (17 years old) wore a metal-embroidered kilt when Nicolas Ghesquiere presented his spring/summer 2016 collection at Louis Vuitton. This was beyond drag and questioned what boyishness actually looks like.

While female body types have been in fashion for a long time, men have often shunned or ignored alternatives to the ideal of an imposing physique.

As women use their voices to change the legacy of toxic masculinity, a new kind of change is occurring within the culture.

These twinks aren’t just the most enviable boys or the latest unrealistic gay fantasies, but an answer to the question of what makes a man. — Nick Haramis

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