It's not just celebrity body types that have changed. Increasingly, ordinary men are emulating themby Caspar Salmon / November 22, 2018 / Leave a comment
The central character of Alan Hollinghurst’s most recent book, The Sparsholt Affair, is first seen lifting weights. The year is 1940, and weightlifting is seen as something fantastical and alluring: glimpsed in a window across an Oxford quad, “the source of the shadow moved slowly into view, a figure in a gleaming singlet, steadily lifting and lowering a pair of hand-weights.” David Sparsholt immediately provokes a collective passion among the homosexuals on campus—but he is also described in the opening chapter as “the exhibitionist” and “this ridiculous fellow.” It’s one of the book’s many consummate ironies that something now so mundane and ubiquitous as working out should both be synonymous with Sparsholt’s sexual ambiguity, and tell us a great deal about his vanity and self-possession.
In 1940 the silver screen sex symbols of the day would have been Cary Grant, Gregory Peck, Clark Gable, even John Wayne. You only have to google “Clark Gable shirtless” to find a perfectly pleasant result, but one that in today’s lexicon would be called ‘dadbod.’ Peck, likewise, is nicely built, but you would struggle to find anything that could pass for definition on his body.
At the time, Charles Atlas, the bodyb…