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In the new year, the Cut podcast will be going on hiatus. While the show has been a critical and popular success and we’re proud of the work we did, we’re going to be winding down this iteration. This is far from the end of the Cut’s audio offerings, and until we return, Cut editor in chief Lindsay Peoples Wagner will continue the In Her Shoes franchise biweekly, appearing on The Cut’s feed.
On this week’s episode, B.A. Parker goes on a mission to find out if himbos are real. Lately, the ideal man seems to have shifted from Mr. Darcy to Magic Mike — someone who makes up for their intellectual blindspots with kindness and a hot bod. But do they exist outside of films and television? We go hunting for them in the wilds of New York City.
To hear more about the eternal sunshine of the himbo’s supposedly spotless mind, listen below, and subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen. You can also read the full transcript below.
Dating is tricky and an overall pain in the ass. But sometimes, there are bright spots. I recently went on a date with a guy who saw my name, “B.A.,” and asked me if my name was “Bah.” This combined with his overall attractiveness made me pause and wonder, did I just go on a date with a himbo?
Now, himbos are the last great natural resource. They’re beautiful men who may lack intellect, but make up for it with an emotional intelligence. And while my date wasn’t a himbo, just a guy very focused on calorie counting, himbos remain wonderful unicorns that I’ve been desperately searching for all my life.
And there’s only one man to blame for this.
Johnny Utah: Buddy, this is your fucking wake up call, man. I am an FBI agent!
The characters of Keanu Reeves are the template. I mean, Keanu is practically perfect in every way, and in 1995, when asked about his character Johnny Utah from the film Point Break being described as “young, dumb, and full of cum.” He said, “There’s something good about it, something bad, something happy, something sad. There’s also a great term. Himbo.” See? Over 25 years ago, Keanu got it.
B.A. PARKER: When I say the word “himbo,” what is the immediate image that pops in your head?
MILES KLEE: Puddy from Seinfeld.
PARKER: Miles Klee is a senior staff writer at MEL Magazine and himbo connoisseur.
Jerry: No more grease monkey.
Puddy: I don’t care for that term.
Jerry: Sorry, I didn’t know.
Puddy: I don’t know many monkeys that can take apart a fuel injector.
So Rita Kempley, who’s the film critic who coined “himbo” back in the eighties, she was really talking about hardcore — like steroidal — characters and guys with a ton of testosterone. You know, you’re talking about Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone. They’d be kind of in these movies with big guns, big muscles, greased up.
Schwarzenegger: Sarah Connor?
(Wrong) Sarah Connor: Yes.
*Sound of gunshots*
MILES: Not healthy forms of masculinity.
But somewhere in the early ‘90s the big and brawny idea of himbo evolved into sensitive hot guys, whom critics assumed had no thoughts, just vibes. Like Keanu or Brad Pitt or Brendan Fraser. They had comic timing and viewed women as their equals and were objectified just as much as their female counterparts.
Now the internet has taken hold of the term and it feels like just about anyone can be a himbo. Loads of TikToks where gorgeous men are lovingly looked at with comments beneath them like “no thoughts behind those eyes.” And it’s not… an insult. Or at least, it’s not meant to be.
PARKER: Because according to Miles, we are currently in the “golden age of himbos.”
MILES: There’s a funny instinct online to praise the guys who are like, not on there. So, you’d see women’s saying, “I love my boyfriend who doesn’t even know what Twitter is. He has no concept of all this cursed internet garbage that obsesses the rest of us.” And that became sort of an aspirational thing of like, “Oh man, wouldn’t it be great to date this guy whose mind is totally clear of all this stuff?” The eternal sunshine of the himbo’s spotless mind. It’s just beautiful.
PARKER: But where did this version of a himbo come from?
MILES: It would be a response to the character we had for a long time before that, which was the asshole with a heart of gold or the smart guy who’s mean at first and then kind of melts, he’s like a Mr. Darcy character. Someone who’s high status, maybe kind of a snob, even. And we were kind of sick of that idea because in real life you encounter those people and you think, Oh, maybe I can change them or maybe I can melt their heart or whatever, but they just kind of turn out to be actual jerks.
PARKER: We don’t really go for Mr. Darcy anymore. Turns out he negs and gaslights and could really use a shrink. And himbos have positioned themselves as the evolved man, because they can admit when they don’t know something … which is often.
When it comes to the concept of the Himbo, can it change again? Online, there’s also the idea of “men who seem to have been written by women.” And I was like, don’t put that on Steven Yeun! That’s too much pressure! But we project all of this onto someone, and then… we’re going to turn on the himbos.
MILES: Yeah. What if it becomes a matter of guys faking being himbo and they’re just playing dumb? I’ve seen some discourse lately about how guys, if they’re asked to do household chores, they’ll just do it badly so they don’t get asked again.
PARKER: Yes, the term for that is “weaponized incompetence.” It’s when someone intentionally does something poorly, so that their partner can do it for them. Like a Kevin James character come to life.
MILES: So what if someone comes along and it’s like, “No, himbos are toxic because you’ll ask them to wash the dishes and they’ll break a couple of plates, because they’re just big and clumsy.”
PARKER: But the difference between a weaponized incompetence culprit and a himbo is intent. One’s malicious while the latter is kind. And it’s all right to bet on a guy with a pure heart.
Who is your ideal himbo?
KERENSA CADENAS: Channing Tatum.
PARKER: That’s senior culture editor for the Cut Kerensa Cadenas.
KERENSA: I think about a Channing Tatum — it’s kind of jockish to a degree, but then also feminist in a weird way that’s not annoying.
PARKER: His characters seem to embody that idea of a real, safe-space feminist. Golden retriever energy.
KERENSA: Yeah. Think about Magic Mike XXL. Perfect film.
PARKER: Magic Mike XXL is a road trip film starring Channing Tatum, where he and a group of male exotic dancing buddies dance for women on their way to a stripping expo. I know what that sounds like, but trust me. It’s delightful.
KERENSA: If you think about that, his interactions with the woman, they never even sleep together. I don’t even know if they kiss.
PARKER: It seems like Magic Mike XXL is an entire cavalcade of himbos. But their sole purpose in that film was to give women pleasure.
Magic Mike XXL
Magic Mike: I bet you you can go in there right now. I bet you you can go in there and make her day.
Big Dick Richie: Who her? That girl looks like she’s never fucking smiled in her entire life?
Magic Mike: Then that’s your goal. You’ve gotta go in there and make her smile. That’s it.
PARKER: Like when Joe Manganiello does his dance to “I Want it That Way” at the supermarket for the cashier, just to bring a smile to her face.
“You are my fire…”
KERENSA: It’s perfect. And it’s not cloying in a way, like a man asking you to smile.
PARKER: That is true. Instead of saying “you should smile more.” He was like, “I’m going to find a way to make you smile.”
Big Dick Richie: How much for the Cheetos and water?
KERENSA: Himbos are like service dogs.
PARKER: Jesus. Not a bad way.
KERENSA: Not in a bad way! I’m going to get canceled.
PARKER: But most of our himbo references come from fiction or projection onto celebrities. And so what about out in the real world? Just walking down the street. Do himbos… actually exist?
I really want them to be real. I think they’re a great idea, like a great concept of a safe space of a man. They are a narrative construct that we’d really like to be real.
KERENSA: Maybe it doesn’t exist because typically we don’t find safe spaces with men. I think it’s kind of rare, like a rare bird or something… if I knew anything about birding. They exist and they’re with us, but they’re very hard to find.
NOOR BOUZIDI VOICE MEMO:
I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a himbo in real life. The only himbos that I’ve ever really encountered are from pop culture, like celebrities, movie characters. The fact that these men are harmless is one of the pitfalls of this trope that makes them feel so elusive.
PARKER: After the break, I search for real live himbos and get some guidance from a few Cut voices from the past.
JAZMIN AGUILERA VOICE MEMO:
Himbo is a state of mind, because you can have something that’s made up of all the same stuff, all the same atoms, all the same genes, and it would be not a himbo. Take Chris Pratt, for example. Not a himbo. But Andy Dwyer: himbo. All the same stuff. It’s just a state of mind.
PARKER: That’s Cut producer Jazmín Aguilera. Along the way, you’ll hear some familiar voices.
But before I started my himbo hunt, I put a theory to Miles Klee.
Can I tell you my himbo rule that I’ve made up along the way?
MILES: Yeah. I would love to hear this.
PARKER: I don’t think a himbo can know he’s a himbo.
MILES: Oh, absolutely true. And you certainly wouldn’t be aware of himbo theory. If you declare yourself one, you’re out of the running.
PARKER: We’ve got to create a Turing test for himbos. I don’t know.
MILES: If a guy knows about the Turing test, he’s not a himbo.
PARKER: So, here are the set himbo rules. A himbo must be conventionally attractive, with maybe not great intellect, but emotionally astute, physically active, and easily likeable. Instinctually respects and defends women and other marginalized people, and doesn’t know that they are a himbo.
Totally easy… right?
But where do I go?
MILES: He’s probably out hiking, right? Rock climbing? or he’s at the beach. Himbos are out in nature. Go to the basketball courts. He’s going to be getting some movement on. I picture him working in an outdoor clothing store.
PARKER: Like an REI?
MILES: Yeah, exactly.
PARKER: And that’s how I began my journey… at an REI Co-op in midtown.
Parker wanders through REI
Guy in line: It’s very subjective. Like, what do you feel about yourself? Do you think you’re a dumb guy? You think you’re smart? You think you’re ugly? That you’re gross?
PARKER: Turns out the place was filled with mostly econ majors and $60 running shorts.
So I tried to think of somewhere with a possible high density himbo population. Where men from all over the tri-state area would just come to town and vibe. So, I entered my own personal hell… SantaCon.
Randoms: Bing bong! Fuck your life! What do you wanna say to Joe Byron right now?
I trudged through the Lower East Side. Through hoards of men in Santa costumes and candy cane pajamas, who were 10 PM drunk at noon.
Parker: I’m just going to talk to the first white guys in shorts, because it is December.
I got combative guys.
Guy: It’s all about what you define as a himbo.
Woman: A dumb, hot guy.
Guy: It’s all subjective. I mean, it’s a loaded question.
I got bro-y guys.
Guy #2: One hundred percent Zoolander. Yeah, fuck. Yeah. Yeah, of course.
And I got patient boyfriends.
I feel like half of them could be good boyfriends. And half of them just know they’re too hot to be good boyfriends.
How can you be too hot to be a good boyfriend? Because if you’re so hot, your whole life you didn’t have to form a good personality. You know what I mean? You were just hot and you relied on that.
Parker: Wait, is that your boyfriend?
Woman #2: The guy in the plaid, yeah.
Parker: Hello, sir. Do you think himbos exist?
Boyfriend: What is that?
Woman #2: It’s a hot guy that’s dumb, but emotionally intelligent.
Boyfriend: I’ve never heard of that before. That’s all I got to say.
Woman #2: I feel like he’s smart, but emotionally intelligent, but maybe he’s not the hottest guy on the street… but I think he’s hot.
Parker: I love that for you.
Woman #2: Do you think he’s hot?
Parker: I think he’s cute.
Along the way, I found some slightly promising guys.
Guy #2: I’ve never heard that word in my life. Or they would have known, like you said, because people don’t talk about intelligence that much face-to-face.
Parker: Just like a guy who’s hot, but isn’t all that bright, but has an emotional intelligence.
Guy #4: There’s a bunch of them right here. They all play football, but like, honestly, deep down, they’re really pretty nice guys. But look, we’re doing our best.
They were my biggest contenders. And they almost had me… until they broke the cardinal himbo rule.
Parker: This is the nicest group of men I’ve talked to all day.
Guy #3: Because we’re himbos.
You can’t know you’re a himbo. But they wanted to reassure me that, you know, they got it. They might not be himbos, but they wanted to be seen as affable and protective. Two out of three.
Parker: Also like a safe space for women, which is like a big part of it when I talked to other women.
Guys: When you’re around them there’s no threat?
Guys: Honestly, we will make sure girls are comfortable around us. We will fight guys if they make girls feel uncomfortable.
JOLIE MYERS VOICE MEMO:
Have I met a Himbo? Well, I have met plenty of affable, attractive dummies over the years, which I think is probably the simplest definition. But hot, cishet men? I find them sort of inherently sinister. And I think if there’s one thing a himbo cannot be, it is sinister.
AVERY TRUFELMAN VOICE MEMO:
Are himbos real? Sure. I have certainly met handsome men with not much to say, but I think I just didn’t scratch the surface. I think maybe. You know, we all have our existential anxieties and our freaky little proclivities lying just below the surface. So it’s hard to say like, are they real? I feel like, do they make themselves apparent? Yes.
MILES: I think people were more expressing the yearning. It’s like, where is my himbo?
You are fundamentally talking about some kind of prince charming figure. You’ve just decided that he’s wearing short shorts and playing volleyball and has never heard of the thing that’s presently driving you crazy.
PARKER: The description of the himbo has shifted from an insult to a great compliment, because you want to be a himbo.
MILES: They’re part of our imagination, like so many other characters that we’ve invented for the purposes of the internet. No one really lives up to the himbo mold because it is an idealized form of person, and people in real life have flaws. So I’m not sure how the himbo would exist, but he does present a kind of healthy mode for us to think about living and self-improvement. He presents a great concept for how we can be kinder and less bogged down in our negative thoughts.
PARKER: I must admit, briefly on my journey, I did think, where is my himbo? This unicorn of a man that sounds more like a manifestation than a person. A man who fits this impossible rubric and every projection that I have about him. All without a single negative thought in his body. And I thought back to the lady on the street with her boyfriend.
Woman: There are a lot of men that are hot but not bright, but there are not a lot of men that are hot, not bright, but can fulfill a woman emotionally — be funny, be nice, be good at whatever, and then they became a good boyfriend.
Parker: You had to try.
Woman: You had to try, exactly.
In the New Year, the Cut podcast will be going on hiatus for a bit. No worries, the show will return. However, myself and Jazmín Aguilera will not. In the meantime, Cut editor Lindsay Peoples Wagner will continue the In Her Shoes franchise, interviewing her favorite people. It has been such a joy sharing our stories with you and bringing in such talented voices, and the show looks forward to exploring even more.
For more from the New York Magazine audio team, subscribe to Cover Story, a new investigative podcast whose first season explores the darkest corners of the psychedelic revolution.
So until then…
The Cut podcast is made by myself and Noor Bouzidi.
Edited by Jolie Myers.
Mixed by Alex Higgins.
Our executive producers are Hanna Rosin and Nishat Kurwa.
Special thanks to Jazmín Aguilera, the fabulous Kelly Prime, Allison Behringer, Alice Wilder, Kerensa Cadenas, Schuyler Swenson, Brittany Luse, and Avery Trufelman.
The Cut podcast is made possible by the team at New York Magazine. Subscribe today to support all their work.
I’m B.A. Parker. Thanks for listening.