Anyone who has done yoga, stepped on a cardio machine at the gym, or flipped a tractor tire over repeatedly at CrossFit owes a nod to Physical Culture. The idea had bubbled up previously but began coming together as a movement in the mid-1800s as people realized that sitting at a desk all day probably wasn’t that good for you. Because 19th century Europe, all of this got tied in fairly neatly with nationalism and we’ve never quite escaped a sense that the physical fitness of the people is a reflection of the health of the nation. Physical Culture and the various ways it’s been en vogue or out of fashion for the past ~175 years is fascinating and you can learn more from Dr. Warty’s paired courses “Physical Culture: an anthropology of manly strength and nations at war” T, Th 8-10am and “Squat more, fleshy thing, I am disgusted by your weakness” M, W, F at the same time. Or of course you can check Wikipedia for the ultra abbreviated version or The Art of Manliness for a sweeping gloss of the issue.

One of Mizer’s models

Because it’s Manly Mondays, we’re mostly here for the skin and so we turn to the case of Bob Mizer. Mizer was a Los Angeles based photographer with ready access to the burgeoning muscle culture of Muscle Beach in Santa Monica in the mid-1940s. He founded the Athletic Model Guild, which published Physique Pictorial one of the earliest beefcake magazines of the post-war period. By the mid-1950s the implication of nudity under the posing pouches he was using on his models had drawn the ire of the USPS and he was charged with obscenity and did a 9 months stint in a work camp. The obscenity charge only served to make him more well known and he became a primary source for photographic records of muscle culture in Santa Monica/Venice Beach through the ’60s and ’70s. You’ve potentially seen some of his art with old photos of the Governator showing off.

Unforutantely for you all, copyright is a strange beast and I’d prefer not to get trampled under foot, so I’m just going to send you looking elsewhere including a fairly Safe For Work Bob Mizer Foundation Kickstarter campaign from 2012 to help raise money for properly archiving some of Mizer’s work. The less safe for work, but safer-than-a-Mapplethorpe-exhibition, galleries hosted by the Bob Mizer Foundation, and of course potentially NSFW depending on your Safe Search settings: GIS or Bing Images.

Also bonus footage from Muscle Beach back in the 1950s heyday that has nothing to do with Mizer, but is part of his milieu.