He's got the look: male beauty is where you find it

PADDY Collins often turns heads when he walks down the street. But it is not because he is drop-dead gorgeous.

''My hair tends to attract a lot of attention,'' laughs the lanky 35-year-old, who sports a mass of curls that make him difficult to miss.

While Collins wasn't blessed with the physique of a Greek god or the looks of a Hollywood leading man, he is currently one of Melbourne's most popular male models.

''Right now there is a lot of demand for unusual or interesting looking boys rather than that really classic, handsome look,'' says Tina Barrett, who represents Collins at Melbourne model agency, Giant. ''Clients are asking for boys who are edgy - say with really pale skin, bright red hair and freckles or thin boys with tattoos or piercings.

Matthew Anderson from Chadwick Models says it is a trend that started in Europe where ''different-looking models'' have been in demand for 18 months or more.

''There has definitely been a move away from that Chesty Bond-type model,'' says Anderson. ''The look is much less homogeneous. In Europe, some of the most popular models right now have full-on beards or are covered in tatts.''

The shift in the current beauty aesthetic recently provided English-born electrician Joey Armstrong with the opportunity to try his hand at modelling - a career he ''never dreamed'' of pursuing.

Late last year, just days after moving to Melbourne, the 24-year-old was approached in a bar by a model agent from Giant.

''I thought it was a joke,'' he laughs. ''I've just never thought of myself as a model. I'm a tradesman … I didn't think a modelling agency would want someone who looks like I do.''

Already, Armstrong has been in high demand.

''I'm really enjoying it,'' he says.

Collins, 35, who was also scouted in a bar several years ago, says he never would have considered a career as a model had he not been approached.

''I had never thought about it,'' says Collins, who signed with Giant late last year. ''I guess there are some people who grow up thinking they could be a model. I wasn't one of them.''

Anderson says the move away from classic good looks to more unusual ones - from androgynous types, such as Australian Andrej Pejic, to the kind of guy you might expect to bump into in a grungy Collingwood pub - has been driven by a need for marketers to differentiate themselves.

''It's about finding something new and fresh that is going to stand out from every other ad that features a good-looking guy in nice clothes,'' says Anderson.

The model agent has welcomed the shift, which has resulted in ''a broader representation of different types of male beauty'' on catwalks and in magazines.

''When Andrej Pejic came along, people were a bit shocked. They were like, 'Is this where male modelling is going? What type of example is that?' '' he says.

''I would say, 'Well, is it so bad that one of the world's top models looks different to an AFL footballer?' Not every 15-year-old can aspire to look like an athlete. I think it's really good when there are a variety of beauty ideals.''

Anderson is unsure how much longer the trend will last. He says in tough economic times marketers often play it safe and revert to ''that classic commercial look''.

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