Much like the studio system of Old Hollywood, the modeling business relies heavily on typecasting. Everyone has a part to play: Bombshells, ingenues, and square-jawed leading men are all in the mix, but unlike the talkies, modeling tends to source its talent from specific regions. Exceptions to the rule exist—who would guess that ultimate vixen Irina Shayk hails from Russia, or that jolie laide couture fixture Daiane Conterato grew up on Brazil’s beaches?—but there’s something to be said for consistency: Brazil will always net a bikini-ready beauty; Eastern Europe remains the default destination for austere blondes; and Spain, with its abundance of smoldering, elegant men, is the place for male models.
While it simply takes a glance at swoon-worthy industry veterans like Oriol Elcacho and Jon Kortajarena to understand the visual appeal, the allure of the Spanish male model isn’t solely about chiseled abs or high cheekbones. Spain tends to yield models with a force of personality that propels their careers forward, whether they are consummate pranksters whose on-set jokes leave the whole team laughing—we’re looking at you, River Viiperi—or dashing Renaissance men like model-photographer–Inez and Vinoodh muse Andrés Velencoso, there is always more to the story than what can be revealed in a shirtless selfie (not that the world doesn’t appreciate the constant stream of eye candy!). To get a feel for Spain’s influence over the profession, look at the longevity of the careers it has launched: The average model is lucky if they stick around two or three seasons—Elcacho, Kortajarena, and Velencoso have been modeling for well over a decade, attaining supermodel status while setting the standard by which all who’ve followed are judged.
Which brings us to the next generation of Spanish stars. As the male model pendulum has shifted toward androgynous and edgy, Spain has shown it has plenty to contribute. With his pout and mass of black ringlets, Piero Méndez caused a sensation when he debuted on the runway for Prada, while Dimytri Lebedyev has brought a boyish prettiness to the catwalk for labels like Calvin Klein Collection and Fendi. Marçal Taberner’s refined cool has won him a place in Jonathan Anderson’s stable of favorites, and Diego Villarreal’s combo of dramatic features and punk haircut has caught the attention of Alexander Wang and Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing. Whether these rising stars will have the shelf life of their predecessors remains to be seen, but the seemingly endless stream of beautiful faces coming out of Barcelona, Madrid, and Bilbao proves that Spanish male models are here to stay. Here, the 12 models to watch.
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