Portrait of a man: the head and bare torso image

On HT (head + torso) images of men.

In a painting, a drawing, a sculpture, a photograph: the face projecting a persona, an identity, a character; the naked torso presenting this character as a carnal being: an embodiment of gender, a sexual object, and an assertion of vitality.

The briefest of introductions to my first response on seeing this photograph of two men on a beach (with surfboards in the background), so that their shirtlessness is natural in the context:

(#1)  Alex Schulze (left) and Andrew Cooper (right)

— which was, basically, “Ooh, how adorable! And hot!” (I am capable of being as superficial as anybody around; though context is everything.) Good-looking faces, though far from movie-star quality, and wonderful crinkly-eyed smiles. Naturally fit swimmers’ bodies — well, they’re surfer dudes — which please me greatly.

Then I realized the photo was just the intro shot for a commercial for the 4Ocean company, founded by these guys, and that if they hadn’t looked like this, they would no doubt have hired two surfer dudes who did, whose faces and bodies would sell stuff for the company. (You can watch the 2018 commercial “Join the Clean Ocean Moment”  in this iSpot.tv piece on the company.)

From the company site:

The story begins when Alex and Andrew take a surf trip…

to Bali Indonesia that would inevitably change their lives and the fate of the ocean. Devastated by the amount of plastic in the ocean, they set out to find out why no one was doing anything about it. One afternoon they came across an old fishing village where fishermen were literally pushing their boat through piles of plastic that had washed up on shore. The two surfers realized that the proliferation of plastic threatened both the ocean environment and the fishermen’s livelihood. Could the fishermen use their nets, they wondered, to pull the plastic from the ocean? This idea stuck with the 2 surfers and they knew it was time to hit the drawing board. After realizing that the demand for seafood was driving the fishermen to focus on fish instead of plastic, they knew they had to create something that could fund the desired cleanup efforts. This is how the 4ocean Bracelet was born.

Made with recycled materials, every bracelet purchased funds the removal of 1 pound of trash from the ocean and coastlines. In less than 2 years, 4ocean has removed 4,977,880 pounds of trash from the ocean and coastlines.

4ocean currently operates out of multiple countries and employs over 150 people worldwide.

Alex and Andrew: buddies together:


Brief digression: I occasionally remark on the importance of close and supportive same-sex friendships (for both women and men). And I note that such relationships are usually without any sexual component; it is certainly possible for your best buddy / your best girl friend to be your lover, as I can personally attest, but straight folks generally gain a lot from a trusted friend of the same sex. We all live in many social worlds at once, and get different benefits from each of them.

I also note that the arms-around-each-other’s-shoulders presentation is a guy guy thing. (I am not a guy guy and have never been acceptable to guy guys, but as an alien in their world I have studied their ways, some of them to my mind admirable, others appalling and dangerous.)

But a bit more about 4Ocean, from a CNBC story of 9/7/19 by Tom Huddleston Jr.: “These 20-something surfers started a company that’s pulled 1 million pounds of garbage out of the ocean”:

In 2015, Florida surfers Andrew Cooper and Alex Schulze embarked on a post-college trip to Bali in search of big waves. What they found were beaches buried in garbage.

But the friends also came home with a big idea for a multimillion-dollar business to help clean the world’s oceans.

Cooper, 28, and Schulze, 27, first met as college students at Florida Atlantic University, where they both studied business and graduated in 2014. The following year, the two friends set off for a three-week surfing trip to Bali, Indonesia — an island in the Indian Ocean that’s a mecca for the sport.

In addition to being popular with tourists, Indonesia is also second only to China among the world’s biggest polluters. When Cooper and Schulze arrived, they were immediately struck by the massive pollution that chokes Bali’s beaches with trash that washes up from the ocean.

“Pretty much right when we got [to the beach] the first thing we saw was an overwhelming amount of plastic,” Cooper tells CNBC Make It. It was a vista strewn with everything from plastic bottles and bags to used food containers and other refuse.

Cooper and Schulze saw so much plastic that they approached a lifeguard: “I said, ‘Hey, man, how come there’s all this plastic on the beach and no one’s doing anything about it?’” Cooper recalls. The lifeguard responded that the government cleaned the beaches every morning, only to watch more and more trash wash up with the tide throughout the day.

“That was a real eye-opener for us,” Cooper says.

It was on that trip that Cooper and Schulze first had the idea that led them to found 4Ocean, a for-profit business that pulls plastic and glass waste from oceans around the world in order to repurpose it by making bracelets out of those recycled materials. 4Ocean sells each bracelet for $20 with the promise that the money from each purchase will fund one pound of trash removal.

In July, Boca Raton, Florida-based 4Ocean announced that it had pulled more than 1 million pounds of plastic, glass and other trash from the ocean since the company launched in January 2017. Cooper and Schulze say 4Ocean has sold just more than $30 million worth of recycled bracelets to fund their ongoing cleanup efforts.

(#3) The 4Ocean signature blue bracelet; there are many other variants, featuring dophins, sharks, coral reefs, polar bears, jellyfish, seahorses, sea turtles, etc.

They still have a long way to go.

Another side issue: physiognomy. A widely held folk belief is that character and other personal characteristics like intelligence can be “read off” enduring features of the face. In the context of HT (head + torso) images of men, like #1 ( with “the face projecting a persona, an identity, a character”, as I put it above), the folk theory abstracts away from momentary facial expressions, details of grooming (like hairstyles), stance, and other less enduring features, to posit an underlying character type.

For Alex and Andrew, it takes a little work to find a photo of them not flashing their characteristic smiles: Alex’s spread-lipped open-mouthed grin and Andrew’s somewhat narrower smile, both smiling openly with their eyes as well as their mouths. But here they are in a more reflective moment:


Andrew’s long thin face would be taken to indicate a cautious, judicious temperament, while Alex’s more rectangular face and very regular features convey masculine power, solidity, and trustworthiness. Or so some would think.

The noun physiognomy in its several senses (from NOAD), senses a and b being the relevant ones here:

noun physiognomy: [a] a person’s facial features or expression, especially when regarded as indicative of character or ethnic origin. [b] the supposed art of judging character from facial characteristics. [c] the general form or appearance of something: the physiognomy of the landscape.

Some extracts from the Wikipedia entry:

Physiognomy (from the Greek φύσις physis meaning “nature” and gnomon meaning “judge” or “interpreter”) is a practice of assessing a person’s character or personality from their outer appearance — especially the face

… The practice was well accepted by the ancient Greek philosophers, but fell into disrepute in the Middle Ages when practised by vagabonds and mountebanks. It was then revived and popularised by Johann Kaspar Lavater before falling from favour again in the late 19th century. Physiognomy as understood in the past meets the contemporary definition of a pseudoscience.

… Physiognomy also became of use in the field of Criminology through efforts made by Italian army doctor and scientist, Cesare Lombroso. Lombroso, during the mid 19th century, championed the notion that “criminality was inherited and that criminals could be identified by physical attributes such as hawk-like noses and bloodshot eyes”

(Physiognomically, I have a weak, “feminine” face: large eyes well spaced, heart-shaped face with a classic “weak chin” (which I have concealed behind facial hair since 1969)  — plus no Adam’s apple. All this marks me out as a queer, which in this case is entirely accurate. But of course millions of straight guys look like this too.)

Shirtless days. HT images come in two parts, and it’s their combination that provides them with their interest. Not just faces on their own, or torsos on their own, but the compound of the two, each amplifying the message of the other.

Meanwhile, shirtlessness has been a regular theme on this blog, almost always always with faces (I find headless torsos kind of creepy), so I’ve accumulated tons of HT images, many of them linked to on my Page on shirtlessness postings. Note the exclusions:

excluded, for the most part: photos of men who are shirtless by virtue of their occupations — pornstars, underwear models, models for male photographers, swimmers and divers, dancers

As it turns out, most shirtless displays include not only faces, but also at least some portion of a crotch (clothed, but often prominent); including a pointer to the male genitals, even teasingly, tends to tip the scales of the image in favor of male sexuality. HTC (head, torso, and crotch) images are then something of a different species from HT ones.

In addition, in some shirtless displays, the men are also doing a sexualized side display, usually pitsntits, but sometimes biceps flexing or another beefcake pose.

Even so, my collection has lots of satisfying uncomplicated HT images. Two here, chosen because they are of actors whose work I’ve admired.

Bobby Cannavale. From my 1/11/15 posting “Bobby Cannavale”, about the versatile, hard-working actor:

(#5) Posing, in a serious mood, gazing intently at his viewers, for Out magazine (Cannavale is straight but excellently gay-friendly)

Cannavale is a very physical actor, employing his face and body for both large effects and subtle ones. Always a pleasure to watch. … You will see that he’s a lean man, not a muscleguy.

Eddie Cahill. From my 3/4/15 posting “Hunks of CSI: NY”

(#6) The amiable and enjoyable actor in his working-class NYC guise, also in a serious mood (given to broad smiles otherwise); admirable pecs (just right, like Alex’s and Andrew’s in #1)

A high-masculinity, Greek-athlete pose. Waiting for the sculptor to craft him in stone.



One Response to “Portrait of a man: the head and bare torso image”

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