Deirdre Reynolds meets the new wave of unabashed Irish men who are making careers out of gracing fashion catwalks and magazines
Just five years ago, Dubliner Paul Kerr was folding clothes in Hollister in Dundrum Town Centre for a living.
Today, he models them for designer brands such as Dolce & Gabbana and Ralph Lauren on the catwalks of London and Milan.
“I was just walking through [the shopping centre] on my lunch break,” recalls Paul, who’s signed to Morgan the Agency here. “The Elite London scout saw me and scouted me and that was it really.
“I’m signed to quite a few agencies around the world.
“It’s a good way to make a living, I suppose. You get to travel quite a bit and you get to meet a lot of people. You can make good money out of it too.
“When I first started obviously everyone thought it was a bit of a joke,” adds the 26-year-old, who’s based in London. “My dad didn’t think it was real — he was like, ‘It’s a scam!’
“Now everyone’s quite supportive of me.”
In these selfie-obsessed times, it’s perhaps not unusual for teen girls to dream about becoming the next Kylie Jenner or Gigi Hadid, and the accompanying Instafame and fortune.
However, growing up, Greg Lally never once imagined he’d end up on the pages of a fashion catalogue or strutting his stuff on the catwalk. The Galway senior hurler was snapped up by Catwalk Model Agency just over a year ago after going along to a fashion show to support his model girlfriend.
“There’s no point in saying it was something I wanted to grow up and do,” admits Greg, who has done campaigns for MacDonagh Junction Shopping Centre in Kilkenny and Carraig Donn. “But it was always something that really caught my eye.
“I would have always been into my clothes big time.
“When I started off, I probably took about six or seven months of slagging off all the lads. The more shoots I did, the more the slagging and the joking kind of wears off. At the start, it was real nerves before every shoot or every show,” continues the 29-year-old, who also works for Audi Galway. “Then when you get a few under your belt, and the nerves leave the system, that’s when you really start to enjoy it. I love it.”
As the founder of Cover Model Body Gym in Dublin, it comes as no surprise that Darragh Hayes has one. A model body, that is.
The personal trainer has graced the pages of Men’s Health and Men’s Fitness magazines, among others — but confessed he hasn’t always been so comfortable showing off his sculpted physique.
“People perceive you to have the utmost confidence because of what you do,” says Darragh, who has also modelled for Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger. “But I can guarantee the majority, if not all, models lack a lot of confidence in themselves because they’ll always see flaws — they’ll always see what needs to be improved.
“I started modelling when I was 18 in New York. Being that young, you’re looking at these lads that are in great shape and you think, ‘I need to keep up with these people’.
“It is quite hard mentally — you can become quite negative about yourself. It doesn’t matter who tells you you’re gorgeous,” explained the 35-year-old. “I’ve been getting it since I was a kid — ‘You’re gorgeous’, ‘You’re beautiful’ — and it would just go over my head because I didn’t believe it.
“Now I see the world in a very different light — I’m very grateful for what I have. I’m not half as hard on myself the way I used to be.”
Eight years after supermodel Kate Moss controversially claimed ‘nothing tastes as good as skinny feels’, France recently moved to ban “excessively thin” models from the catwalk.
On Irish runways, for the fellas at least, it’s about being brawny not scrawny.
“For my clients, they like you being big and strong,” says Paul, who has shot for GQ and Esquire.
“I don’t really do too much catwalk [because] I’m quite big around the shoulders so it’s difficult for the fit.
“I do quite a few shoots with girls as the boyfriend — they don’t want you like a twig. I’d be in the gym four times a week, I’d run twice a week and I’d probably sauna twice a week as well. I wouldn’t overeat, but I wouldn’t hold myself back.
“You can’t go crazy on beers because it definitely shows.”
While British model Gandy is regularly snapped on the red carpet, Gort native Greg jokes he’s more likely to be found in a football club than a night club.
“Definitely with the life I live you can’t be going into shoots or shows — or even playing sports — with a hangover,” he agreed. “I only drank once this year so far.
“I’d be a gym-goer — I go to the gym every morning before work.
“It’s not like internationally, where you have to be really, really skinny. As long as you wouldn’t be really bulky and you can fit into the suits on the day, that’s the main thing.”
Whether you’re working the catwalk or just the sidewalk, portion size is the secret to swapping a pot belly for a six-pack this summer, according to Jen O’Callaghan of Pure Results Bootcamp.
“For men, the biggest pitfall would be portion size,” says the nutritional therapist. “If they’re driving a lot, they’re going into the petrol stations and it’s grab and go.
“They’re getting a lot more refined food and sugary food in their diet which is a big issue.”
Food prepping for the week ahead is her top tip for getting into tip-top shape, she adds: “Having a food bag in the car, especially if they’re travelling.
“So on Sunday evening, you’re putting maybe a bag of apples in there, you’re putting nut butter, oatcakes, hummus — good healthy snacks to prevent you from going for the chocolate or the biscuits when you’re a bit vulnerable.”
Despite boasting just 9% body fat year-round, disciplined Darragh insisted he still indulges in a cheat meal such a Chinese takeaway at the weekend with his girlfriend, Sue.
Greg and Paul, who are both also dating part-time models, recognise that it helps to have a partner who has been in the fashion business and understands the demands.
“We’ll be walking through Dundrum shopping centre and I’m getting stared at purely because of the way I look,” laughs Darragh. “Sue is like, ‘It’s ridiculous — you’ve got guys staring at you and you’ve got girls staring at you’.
“I don’t do it for that — I do it for myself. If I’m feeling down or if there’s anything bugging me, I get into the gym. I train. It just takes all that crap away.”
Now that we’re in Speedo season, personal trainer Dave Kenny says it is possible to get a body to rival Ronaldo — sadly just not this summer.
“It’s not a kind of thing where you just click your fingers and you have it within six months,” cautioned the expert, who runs www.davekennypt.com.
“It takes a while to build up muscle,” he says. “People who look like that have worked eight or ten years on their physique.
“Most people who come to me would be from 25-40 years of age just looking to lose two or three stone. I try to get them in three times a week with a mixture of resistance training and cardio as well.
“It is achievable,” he says. “You can get in good shape within a year, but you’d have to be training four or five times a week and be on a very strict diet.”
Just like Deshun Wang, an actor-turned-model who famously walked in a show at China Fashion Week at 79, the good news for guys is that there’s no age limit on looking good — or getting paid for it.
“Different countries have different needs,”says Paul, who also has a degree in leisure management. “[In] Germany, for example, they like the man with a beard and they tend to go for older guys in their thirties and beyond.”
As sales of men’s fashion begin to outstrip womenswear on the high street, Greg reckoned a lot more Irish men could be set to embrace their inner Derek Zoolander. “I can certainly see a change,” he continues. “Definitely the likes of Paul Galvin has brought it to a new level with the clothes they have brought out — people aren’t afraid to wear them.
“It’s not about what the women are wearing any more — the fashion is more with the lads than the women.
“You might get a few more whistles and roars [on the catwalk] than the girls too.”
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