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Post Malone
Photography Adam Degross courtesy of Instagram/@postmalone

Why Post Malone is the epitome of male beauty

TextBertie Brandes

From his white crocs to his crown of thorns face tattoo, Post Malone is breaking the cookie cutter mold of what it meant to be a male star. We examine why he’s the ultimate male THOT.

Every generation gets the rock star they deserve. An icon that both contextualises the surrounded cultural landscape and redefines it. Looking back on this bewildering decade, no star will better epitomise our fractured, hyper-sexed identities and fiscal insecurity than the swaggy nihilism of Post Malone. The world is literally on fire and 13-year-old YouTubers are covering entire Ferraris in Louis Vuitton x Supreme wraps. Posty reigns.  

I should come clean. I opened Facebook this morning and my featured memory was a photo of Post Malone wearing head to toe Saint Laurent, looking perfect. I’ve photoshopped myself into pictures with him. I’ve pitched for countless interviews. I wear a Rockstar t-shirt to bed sometimes. Ok, I’m wearing it right now. I’m sort of obsessed with Post Malone, and I’m not the only one. After his self-produced Soundcloud single White Iverson went viral in 2015, Post Malone (real name Austin Post) skyrocketed to levels of fame normally reserved for pop stars willing to learn dance routines or at least wash their hair. White Iverson remains the perfect song, it’s slow and melancholic with lyrics that, juxtaposed against that irresistible hook, seem to gently mock the constructed masculinity and bravado they celebrate. Posty’s “ballin on you” one moment, and the next he’s complaining about “spending all my fuckin pay”. The music ripples with repeated words, the lyrics capture a tragic paradox for millennial listeners; it’s the reality of a paycheck set against the compulsive flexing of online culture. As Instagram teased and tested out a new culture of knowing self-objectification, White Iverson naturally became the anthem to soundtrack it.  

The song was always going to make waves but nobody knew anything about the artist until, out from behind the late-capitalist lullaby, emerged Post Malone. Here was a self-declared rock star who looked less like Iggy Pop and more like someone from school whose puppy fat actually grew up with him. Don’t get me wrong he’s a heartbreaker, but fitting the conventional stereotype of male heartthrob was never going to be Posty’s thing, with his formerly frizzy man bun (he’s since given it a smart trim) and Ed Banger style skinny jeans. The release of Stoney shot him into another dimension and two years later in April of 2018 his second album Beerbongs & Bentleys went double platinum, breaking the Spotify streaming record. Post Malone is like, insanely successful at this point. Which is why the fact that he wears white Crocs while smashing his guitar on stage, and starts twitter threads for people to share their Croc accessories, and comments on the threads asking to do trades on the Croc accessories, is so rib-achingly adorable. 

That’s Post Malone’s whole deal though. He upturns every preconception of male beauty held by the industry and revels in his role as a sort of male THOT, posting steezy outfit shots and thumb-face selfies to the gram. Here’s Posty in some very wide jeans, here he is with bed hair looking sweet and delicate, here he is holding a sword and tweeting about Skyrim. Before him, super successful male musicians fell into pretty rigid categories. After the nineties and early noughties, which boasted absurdly stylish musicians like Outkast and Marilyn Manson, the mainstream slipped quietly into a cookie cutter mould of what it meant to be a male star. Suddenly we were overrun with squeaky clean Bruno Mars, Justin Timberlake and One Directioner types flashing white teeth at every lens that turned their way. Fast forward to 2018 and things have flipped again, Post Malone is tweeting about how being handsome is “not dope” and you “have to be ugly to have swag” to tens of thousands of retweets and favourites. Evidently, the beauty requirements for male stars have evolved quite significantly, and continue to.

Post Malone, Yung Lean, Joji and the whole sad boy movement that swirls out from around them are infinitely less manicured. They’re redefining the whole idea of what it means to be a rock star, happiest in comically ugly shoes and hand-printed hoodies. Gone are the perfectly-coiffed haircuts and sockless brogues (that always creeped me out tbh), and instead our icons are decked out in camping gear and face paint. These guys are standing at the other end of the stadium to their slick and tidy counterparts and ultimately they’re selling more tickets. Even Justin Bieber’s taking laid back style tips.

It’s not all memes and merch though, cutting through the Supreme swag is that same kind of Quaalude-induced nihilism that made White Iverson such an irresistible track. Since rising to fame, Post Malone has been on a mission to cover himself with tattoos, most significantly on his face (“anything to piss my mum off” he stated earlier this year). These include a crown of thorns across his forehead, “Always Tired” under his eyes, a small Playboy bunny grazing his left cheekbone, a smiley face just above that, and “Stay Away” above his eyebrow. Facial tattoos have become the 90’s curtains of our time, adorning any early-twenties male heartthrob worth his weight in home-produced sad rap. They’ve come to define a whole movement of artists like Lil Xan, Lil Peep and XXXtentacion, all who are or were determined to perform their zeitgeisty nihilism by drawing it all over their faces. Tattooing your face has become a prerequisite for alternative male beauty, it’s what separates the same Hot Topic clothing from the sugary emo singers of yore and updates it for a hip-hop loving, streetwear copping alternative audience.  

Three years at the top of his game and, with his tattoos and trademark gold teeth, Post Malone has established a new frontier for mainstream male beauty. These days you’re more likely to see him on the cover of a magazine than as a Halloween costume (although recently Rita Ora did give it a go).  I’m pleased, I guess, although he’s not that chubby anymore which seems sad. Recently a fan went backstage for a meet and greet and apparently threw up after smelling him, which personally I think is pretty hot, but these special OG moments threaten to become few and far between.  

There’s a lot more to be said about Post Malone’s public image. The controversy over his distinctly white boy cornrows, the fact he wears grills, the accusations of veiled racism in the way his aesthetic draws on classic tropes of black culture while the mainstream music industry continues to push and prioritise white celebrities. There’s more to be said about his music too, the brilliance of the latest album, the fact the same guy drives down my road in North London playing Better Now at 2 am at least once a week.

All that in mind, living up to the role of self-declared rockstar in an age of scrubbed-clean social media can’t be easy. Nor can navigating your way through a culture that celebrates music which sounds like the space between your ears after a handful of xanax, while tragically losing artist after artist to drugs. Despite all of that, Post Malone still walks on stage and smashes a guitar like he actually means it, fag in mouth, smile on his face. Who knows how long a 23-year old with his level of success will put up with the pressure of the content-ravenous public eye. But while he’s here, I couldn’t be more grateful. And I’m screenshotting his selfies. Often.

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