100 Years Ago – French Women’s Ideal Man


Feast your eyes, ladies! This is what a highly desirable man in France looked like a full century ago: engineer, aviator, uniform, full head of hear, moustache and beard, Albert Étévé (1880-1976) on his wedding day in 1912

In an article published on the 13th of February 1913, French daily Le Figaro says that ‘despite the progress of feminism, young modern ladies dream every bit as much as their predecessors did of the husband that destiny has in store for them. But how should this husband be? A ladies’ magazine put the question to its young female readers and the result of this survey is perhaps not entirely without interest in 1913; a time when ones thoughts are very much taken up with “the youth of today”.

First of all, the husband of our daughters will not be small. Nobody wants a husband whose stature is not at least “above average”. And the preference is for this this size to be “extended”.

Another delicate point: the husband should have hair and preferably be light brown in colour. Despite current fashions, he should wear a moustache and even the beard is cited as a desirable feature by a lot of young women. Attractive teeth are indispensable and, almost as necessary are eyes which are simultaneously “soft and dominating”. As for lips that are too narrow or “pinched”, it would rule him out of consideration for matrimony, but “accentuated” or irregular physical traits may not necessarily put him out of the running as long as, of course, they reflect noble qualities such as courage, generosity and patience.

And these young ladies who rebuff a husband shaved à l’américaine don’t want an official with whom life would be “narrow” and sometimes “vagabond”. Actors, boxing champions and aviators are equally challenged in this regard: a Jule Védrines (an early famous French aviator) would only have a slim chance of success unless he joined his talents with those of Pierre Loti (novelist and naval officer). They have a weakness for writers, these young ladies to be wed, but it appears that they would also be receptive to proposals from a someone who earned an “honest and comfortable living.”

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