London: All world leaders have a fallback option for when they’re desperately in want of votes. Joe Biden puts on aviator sunglasses and makes sure he’s seen at an ice cream parlour. Donald Trump reaches for his red hat, arranges for 5,000 acolytes to meet him at the nearest airport runway. Boris Johnson drives a digger through a wall, or something, then hopes people misread that metaphor and see it as charming.
Emmanuel Macron, bless him, is no different. Leading Marine Le Pen by just five percentage points in the French presidential election, he needed to turn heads this Easter weekend, and rapidement. “Mes amis, what can I do to really get the people going?” he must have asked his staff on Saturday.
A month ago, Macron spent an afternoon wearing a hoodie, a furrowed expression and three-day stubble for a photoshoot that made it look as if he was playing Volodymyr Zelensky. It went down poorly, but not poorly enough to put Team Macron off overtly masculine, uncomfortably informal portraits involving excesses of body hair and that familiar political scent, Eau D’esperation.
Because he’s at it again, and this time he’s saying it with his chest. In a new photo set from Soazig de La Moissonnière, a frequent Élysée snapper, Macron can be seen reclining, presumably post-rally (post-something, anyway), on a mustard leather sofa, with several mobile phones at his side and at least four more shirt buttons undone than is ever acceptable, unless actively undressing.
And poking – no, powering – through the chemise is his rarely seen running mate: a bristling carpet of thick brown hair. The war chest. A Tom Selleck throwback special. And boy, did it get the people going. Some politicians call for a spin doctor, Macron called for the rug doctor. Diagnosis? A heavy dose of “he-vage”.
Whether this will win over the undecided voter in France is unclear, as is the manner in which Le Pen might respond. (A little midriff on show at her next press conference, perhaps?) But in revealing that he could save hundreds of Euros on the government security budget by always wearing his own thatched bullet-proof vest, Macron has accidentally tapped into the zeitgeist.
After more than three decades under wraps for everybody other than Roger Federer, he-vage – male cleavage – is very much back. At awards ceremonies, triangles of nude torsos, from Timothée Chalamet’s to Jared Leto’s, have littered red carpets through the spring. On the catwalks, you’ve been more likely to see real fur than a round neck or top button done up this season. And as with any trend, it was always going to be ruined by politicians.