Angelina Jolie

The Sexiest Women In The World: Will The Global Economic Slowdown Change Our Perceptions Of Beauty?

FHM, the acceptable face of highstreet smut, have published their annual run down of the top 100 sexiest women in the world. As usual the vast majority of their countdown consists of high-profile, well-airbrushed celebrity ‘babes’. What else could be expected? After all, how else would FHM peddle their rag to the pubescent boys and leering lowbrows who thoroughly read it before shuffling guiltily to their bedrooms for a ‘nap’.

It could be argued that the FHM Top 100 is an interesting insight into the communal male psyche. As a woman has children, settles down and drifts from sex symbol to mere mortal she inevitably slides down the scale. Take Angelina Jolie for example, previously a top ten stalwart, as she gathers children from all corners of the globe, her position steadily slips.

The perhaps chauvinistic rundown of this year’s top totty also serves as an easy way to see just who is currently considered beautiful and so see what body shapes are currently fashionable. It’s easy to think that modern standards of beauty have always applied, that big chests and tiny waists have always been en vogue but this is simply not the case. Beauty, like all things, has fashions which wax and wane over time and is dependent on all manner of surprising factors, including economic climate.

A question which simply begs to be answered is just where did the modern perception of beauty come from? When did these nubile, half-naked creatures become so appealing? How different is modern beauty to that of days gone by?

It’s no great secret that what we consider to be attractive today would not have been appreciated by previous generations just as their great beauties are lost on us. Cheryl Cole, for all her lovely big hair and disarming mannerisms, would be considered a prostitute just a century or two ago just for wearing make-up, never-mind some of her more adventurous costume choices.

Victorian ideals called for women to be chaste and delicate in order to be beautiful. The result was porcelain-faced, childlike women, creatures so delicate they would be lost in the modern age of binge-drinking, fake tan and overt sexuality. So, when did the change happen? When did we go from Lillian Gish to Keeley.

Between the early 1900s heyday of Ms Gish and the modern age of super-sexualisation we have seen perceptions of beauty change several times. The childlike slowly evolved into the feminine, for the two are not as far apart as you might think, and the austerity of the Victorian era gave way a new, softer yet less fragile woman who wore draping, elegant fabrics.

Almost as quickly as this type of femininity arose, it disappeared as the 1920s fashion for androgyny took hold. Women flattened their busts, wore their hair in the short bob style. Stars of the period like Greta Garbo used this androgyny as a way to appear mysterious, and very, very modern. Conforming to theories that times of economic plenty breeds thinner, less feminine women, the 1920s were a time of prosperity that has been likened to the boom of the 1990s, another time when waif-like women were favoured.

Fast forward to the post-war era of recovery and economic hardship and lo and behold, the fashion was for tight sweaters and pointy bras, the binary opposite of the breast-strapping seen in the 1920s. The ultimate 1950s icon, Marilyn Monroe would be considered chubby by the harsh standards of today, and one only look to the public’s reaction to Britney Spears appearing onstage with a slight tummy to see just how unforgiving current standards can be.

As the global economy continues to spiral into financial armageddon we will inevitably see more curvaceous women gain popularity. Last year’s FHM top 100 featured skinny celebrity Keira Knightly in the top ten, while this year there is not a single woman in the top ten who would be considered the slightest bit androgynous.

If history is to repeat itself (and it usually does) then when next year’s FHM top 100 comes out we will see even more curvy women, with a focus on femininity. You wait and see.

For those wanting to compare and contrast, the FHM 100 Sexiest Women for 2009 are:

1: Cheryl Cole

2: Megan Fox

3: Jessica Alba

4: Britney Spears

5: Keeley Hazell

6: Adriana Lima

7: Elisha Cuthbert

8: Kristin Kreuk

9: Anna Friel

10: Freida Pinto

11: Ana Ivanovic

12: Abbey Clancey

13: Scarlett Johansson

14: Angelina Jolie

15: Kate Beckinsale

16: Summer Glau

17: Frankie Sandford

18: Marisa Tomei

19: Thandie Newton

20: Zoe Salmon

21: Natalie Portman

22: Olga Kurylenko

23: Katy Perry

24: Jennifer Aniston

25: Ali Larter

26: Jessica Biel

27: Hayden Panettiere

28: Eliza Dushku

29: Eva Mendes

30: Louisa Lytton

31: Amber Heard

32: Gemma Arterton

33: Diora Baird

34: Konnie Huq

35: Doutzen Kroes

36: Keira Knightley

37: Kimberley Walsh

38: Jennifer Metcalfe

39: Sarah Michelle Gellar

40: Carla Bruni

41: Eva Longoria

42: Marissa Miller

43: Rihanna

44: Rachel Stevens

45: Maria Sharapova

46: Jessica Jane Clement

47: Emma Watson

48: Kelly Brook

49: Holly Valance

50: Alessandra Ambrosio

51: Katie Melua

52: Georgie Thompson

53: Charlize Theron

54: Amii Grove

55: Isabel Lucas

56: Miranda Kerr

57: Nadine Coyle

58: Nicola Roberts

59: Beyonce Knowles

60: Nicole Scherzinger

61: Alexa Chung

62: Alesha Dixon

63: Jessica Simpson

64: Madeline Zima

65: Christina Aguilera

66: Jennifer Garner

67: Vanessa Hudgens

68: Odette Yustman

69: Malin Akerman

70: Heidi Klum

71: Hilary Duff

72: Kristen Bell

73: Emily Blunt

74: Holly Willoughby

75: Kate Moss

76: Taylor Swift

77: Christina Hendricks

78: Emma Willis

79: Katherine Jenkins

80: Emily Scott

81: Gemma Atkinson

82: Katherine Heigl

83: Michelle Ryan

84: Victoria Pendleton

85: Carmen Electra

86: Elizabeth Banks

87: Sarah Harding

88: Mary Elizabeth Winstead

89: Lily Allen

90: Lisa Snowdon

91: Christine Bleakley

92: Billie Piper

93: Ellen Page

94: Evangeline Lilly

95: Rachel Riley

96: Gemma Bissix

97: Dannii Minogue

98: Fiona Bruce

99: Lindsay Lohan

100: Mischa Barton

Samantha is an expert Research and family breaks consultant. She is currently writing for Play and Stay and is very excited about the upcoming British summer

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