What Makes A Man?

Zegna pose one of the most interesting questions of recent times with their latest campaign and thought piece.

There is no doubting that we live in exciting times. We live in a period of rapid technological and scientific innovation. A time when we have finally realised it's make or break for our environment, a time when anything, yet nothing seems possible. And a time when we find ourselves asking who we are, what we stand for and who we want the world to know us as.

This shift in consciousness has had a profound effect on the house of Zegna, who have begun asking themselves the very timely question; what makes a man? With all the changes and movements society is going through, surely the old notion of masculinity representing something one-dimensional, steely and stoic must too be changed?

Now that the world is finally paying attention to the stereotypes and gender roles we have placed on ourselves, Zegna, as a fashion house, is standing up for their belief that men, like women, have come to terms with their inner weaknesses and strengths, to embrace love as an enriching force and are finally ready to embrace their new roles in society as multi-faceted, multi-dimensional participants with courage, humility and patience.

As the heritage fashion house moves into a deeper state of consciousness, they have started their movement, aptly named ‘What makes a man’ in which they state: “Masculinity is a state of mind, not a set of given rules. One thing does not make a man, men have been learning that love is strength, kindness is power, openness is freedom. At Zegna, men get undressed to be dressed, daring to bare their distinctive selves, side by side with men for 110 years we continue to change, with them.”

So what better time to release their new campaign, along with their new thought initiative, featuring one of the most talked about, versatile and conversation starting actors of recent generations, Mahershala Ali. Having been named as ‘One of the most influential people in the world’ by TIME Magazine in 2019, Ali is someone who is not afraid to push buttons, to play with convention and, most importantly, to challenge our views of what ‘should’ be. Having tackled the topic of race in the Deep south during the 60s in Green Book, which earnt him an Oscar, and the deeply controversial and sensitive topic of sexuality and religion in Moonlight, alongside more mainstream roles in Hunger Games and Luke Cage, it is his openness and desire to take on roles that start a conversation that made him a perfect fit for Zegna’s more thought-provoking campaign.

Within the campaign, Ali is seen juxtaposed against rugged backgrounds while in sensitive poses such as holding fresh flowers – representing the duality of masculinity. In another shot he stands, with microphone in hand, as if trying to reach his audience with his message which is to show that love, risk, playfulness and fragility are the new qualities that make a man today. Or, as Zegna so aptly puts it: “Openness makes a man. A will to accept change as the force that shapes life. The ultimate message, thereafter is one of kindness as a supreme form of strength.”


Written by
Poppy covers a wide range of topics at Billionaire, having spent the past 13 years at companies including Singapore Tatler, Her World Plus and Harpers Bazaar UK. She has a passion for fashion, jewellery and travel as well as an avaricious fascination with crime novels. Follow her at poppypskinner on Instagram.

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