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Elliott Jay Brown
Elliott Jay BrownPhotography Rosie Matheson

Honest portraits of London’s young men

With London Collections: Men just a day away, we spotlight the work of photographer Rosie Matheson which presents honest portrayals of the city’s male youth

Tomorrow marks the first day of London’s biannual menswear showcase LC:M, so what better way to celebrate than with a series of photography documenting the diversity of male beauty? These images, a far cry from the stylised editorials normally associated with menswear, are lensed by 20-year-old Rosie Matheson. Dividing her time between Brighton and London, the photographer first entered the realm of fashion while collaborating with Zed Nelson for his project entitled “Hackney – A Tale of Two Cities”. In Matheson’s own words, the experience taught her “the important connection between style and personality in each individual that really makes for a strong image”. 

This connection is evident in these intimate close-up portraits which depict male subjects cast from the streets of London. When asked what constitutes a good subject, Matheson confesses her preference to work on instinct. “It’s almost unexplainable, but when I see the right boy, they jump out at me and I instantly know. If a boy can stare into my lens and really give me a part of their soul, then they’re the one.” She also alludes to the unique style and charm of London boys in particular, emphasising its simplicity. “It’s a combination of outrageous confidence and vulnerability…they can be wearing fitted trousers, a white T-shirt and gold chain yet still look so effortlessly cool.”

But, for the fashion industry, taking inspiration from male youth is nothing new. Renowned designers such as Gosha Rubchinskiy and Raf Simons have curated their entire aesthetic based on male youth and the subcultures within it. There’s even an exhibition opening that explores the topic, entitled Mad About the Boy, curated by ShowSTUDIO editor Lou Stoppard with the intention to underline fashion’s ongoing obsession with the teenage male. In a recent interview with Dazed, Stoppard elaborated on the tropes that recur in sartorial depictions of male youth. “There’s the boy as outsider, the boy as sexual being, the boy in the club, the boy in education.” Matheson’s portraits showcase this diversity within young male beauty and serve not only as a tribute to youth, but also as a tribute to London. As the photographer says herself, the appeal of the capital’s youth goes beyond aesthetic, it’s also about “the way they walk, hold themselves and talk. You don’t get them anywhere else.”