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In defence of Travis Kelce

As old tweets resurface which show the football player delighting in the mundanity of everyday life, we celebrate the sincerity and joie de vivre of the Himbo

A number of old tweets from Travis Kelce, the football player and Taylor Swift’s latest squeeze, have resurfaced this week. With some exceptions (one tweet laughing at ‘fat people falling over’ and another about ‘ugly girls’ have not aged well), these posts paint an endearing picture of a guileless, buffoonish man who is perpetually enthusiastic about being alive. As far as “people digging up your old tweets” could go, it could have been a lot worse. 

One tweet read: “I just gave a squirle a peice of bread and it straight smashed all of it!!!! I had no idea they ate bread like that!! Haha #crazy”. Others found him in a more meditative, lyrical mood, such as “The moon looks crazy tonight... Imma chill out here for a little and just visualize my success n vibe to the scenary” and “the capacity to live in the past by memory can also emancipate the individual from the tyranny of the present”.  In another, he turns political agitator, making the prophetic, eerily prescient statement: “USA is pissing me off!!!” With this level of range, Kelce is a himbo poet, an outsider artist, a holy fool. 

Some people will try to tell you that being attracted to conventionally handsome but not very bright men with kind personalities makes you a freak, but they’re wrong. We need to tear down the hierarchies of desirability which oppress us all and affirm, loudly and unapologetically, that it’s OK to fancy famous actors and athletes with strong jawlines and six-packs, even if they haven’t read the complete works of Adorno and can’t spell squirrel.

Of course, the idea that “himbos” need to be defended is, obviously, a joke. While the origins of the term are negative – it was coined in 1988 by film critic Rita Kempley, railing against a new wave of Hollywood actors with “chest measurements [which] rival Dolly Parton” and “brains the size of the squid” – ever since then people have been defiantly claiming that, actually, and this might shock you, they like himbos, thank you very much! But why wouldn’t they? What’s not to like?

There is a long cultural history of people who consider themselves intelligent, tortured and complex being drawn towards people they perceive as blankly beautiful – the alluring airhead, the vacuous Adonis. This is no doubt a more popular form of desire than “sapiosexuality”, where erotic capital is conferred by listening to Alastair Campbell’s podcast. There is often something self-flattering and patronising about the valorisation of the ‘himbo’ (in that it always implies you yourself are more intelligent), and some people have even gone as far to claim that it’s ableist and predatory, akin to pursuing a helpless child. But on the other hand, “himbo” – along with his cousin, the ‘golden retriever boyfriend’ – promises a kind of steadfast solidity, reliability and strength which is understandably appealing. The himbo promise is that there will be no existential crises; no panic attacks;  no wry, self-mocking personal essays – all of that he will leave to you.

As Kelce’s old tweets make clear,  the key to the appeal of the himbo is sincerity; it’s about approaching the world with a kind soul, an open heart and a willingness to be delighted. In these glib, nihilistic times, who wouldn’t want to be driven to a state of such rapture, such innocent, child-like joy at the sight of a squirle?