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Dayton Schlosser born in 1976 is the hottie model of A&F (2001). The American model and tae-kwon-do athlete, perhaps one of the most beautiful in Abercrombie and Fitch history – young, sexy and muscled.
Most models make their entrance onto the fashion scene via a talent search or a casting office, or by being pulled aside in an airport lounge or off a city sidewalk- by agents who swear profusely that they aren’t sniffing on them. Circumstances suggest the sexy rather than the cerebral.
But when Dayton Schlosser, who is one of fashion Guys for the autumn 2001, made his entrance onto the figurative catwalk, the setting was in fact intellectual, or at least bookish. He was exiting an ivied building at the Governor Durnmer Academy in the prepschool-rich comer of Massachusetts north of Boston. It was July of 2000. Dayton had just graduated from Salem State College and was teaching summer school before assuming a full-time position in the English department at Whittier Regional Technical High School in nearby Haverhill.
“I was walking outside with some students,” Dayton says. “It was drizzling. All of a sudden, this guy comes up to me and starts asking about modeling.”
The man in question was Sam Shahid, whose company handles Abercrombie & Fitch’s advertising. He was at the school with photographer Bruce Weber to shoot one of the company’s quarterlies. Shahid took Dayton-who, it turned out, had made an unsuccessful stab at modeling a few years earlier–over to the photographer within hours, the young teacher was stripped to his skivvies, being shot on the school lawn while his students watched wide-eyed. We are worlds away from the prep-school days of A Separate Peace or The Catcher in the Rye, when the idea that an instructor would remove his blazer and tie, even while sleeping, was unthinkable.
Flash-forward a year, to New York, where Dayton is one of the men of the moment, with a face that, because of its appearance in campaigns for Abercrombie and for Chaps, is leaving its mark. Dayton is extremely companionable. He is not simply one more genetically blessed, verbally stunted guy who gravitated toward the fashion world to get laid. In person it is not only the face, with its ruddy coloring (a product of German and Hungarian lineage), or the body (made by years of skateboarding and martial arts) that makes an impression. It is Dayton’s romantic spirit.
Dayton has an enriched imagination. Since fourth grade, he has steeped himself in Roman and Egyptian mythology and in Joseph Campbell’s work on the hero, and he has explored the normally nerd-associated region of Dungeons & Dragons. These things combine to lend Dayton an aura of the all-American boy, at least in its Caucasian version, with its secret bonds of male comradeship, its prizing of self reliance and Willpower, and an exaltation of purity of thought: Dayton has even tattooed “FXE” prominently on his back, which stands for “straight edge” and means that he has pledged himself to sobriety. (He’s also a vegetarian.) As I walk around Manhattan streets with him, noticing some passersby rationing the number of hungry glances they aim in his direction, and others, Eke a gay gang we encounter one day outside a Chelsea coffee shop, appraising him ravenously, this Tolkien fan seems as chaste as a hobbit-a handsome hobbit.
But Dayton’s no boy scout. You sense that he could hold a monumental grudge, that his open mood conceals an occasional Heathdiffian brood. In his pictures-if not in his person, where he’s so polite and enthusiastic, you’d feel guilty for tendering a proposition-there is an awareness of sex just under the diffused, dreamy sensuality. He conveys both “the savage and the civilized”-a phrase once used by Balzac to describe Hawkeye, the Deerslayer of James Fenimore Cooper.
Invokeing the 19th-century author is for two reasons. First, family. Dayton, who grew up in Merrimac, Mass., and survived the early stresses of a household with pre-AA parents and two younger brothers, was, he thought until recently, named after an ancestor who governed New York around the Fenimore Cooper era. And second, since Dayton has made such a study of the hero, who better to mention in an account of him than one of the first great white heroes of American storytelling?
The Dayton dichotomy-not just the ability to reflect both the savage and the civilized but his charmingly balanced appeal to men and women, gays and straights-was immediately obvious to Abercrombie’s Shahid, who says, “Dayton reflects his generation, which makes relatively few separations in terms of identity.”
In another sign of evolution, his students–even at Whittier, the technical high school where he has been teaching-have not been struck dumb by having a model-god in their midst. Dayton loves to talk about the 15-year-old student who spotted his potential before he did: “She came up to me one day and said, ‘You look like an Abercrombie model.’ At the time I said, ‘Yeah, right.’ But she had the last laugh.” Dayton says that even most of his male students have been cool about his second career, as have his fellow teachers. Disappearing are the days when guys associate male beauty with being a “fag.” When such sentiments do pop up, the teacher says he tries to use the moment to turn perceptions around. (Dayton’s story, in fact, is a reminder of how, after parents, teachers exert perhaps the strongest direct influence on teenagers’ attitudes toward gay people.)
“I remembered one day,” Dayton says, “when I was teaching Homer, and a few of my students balked at learning that Achilles and Patroclus were not only warriors but intimates. Kids have this contemporary tendency to suspect deep feeling of any kind.” He mentions something similar in another conversation, regarding the Roman poet Catullus, not a name that usually arises in a fashion context: “Catullus could scoff at authority in a very modem way, but underneath that runs this current of intense emotion.”
Except for his taste in music (Iron Maiden, Judas Priest), Dayton is an anomaly in the 2001 class of male models. He recognizes this standing-apart. “When I walk into a casting and see 30 great-looking guys and lots of air-kissing going on with whomever is doing the casting, I think, That’s cool, but what am I doing here?” he says.
Th more you measure his response to a variety of situations, the more he reminds me of great 1970’s Guys such as Joe McDonald, for whom modeling was a career that emphasized both innate good looks and acquired good taste. But Dayton is not, as McDonald was, gay. (His girlfriends name is Jana Dixon; she teaches elementary school physical education and is a talented triathlete.) To readers who are issuing sighs of disappointment at his straightness, people tempted to reverse the gender context of Joe E. Browds last line in Some Like It Hot and reply, “Nobodys perfect.”
The fact that for years top models have tended to be straight is in one sense a dispiriting commentary on fashion, a business driven significantly by gay creative talent but at the level of model selection still gnawingly homophobic. And I must also point out that, as in Hollywood, some successful in-front-of-the-camera talents claim to be straight and then stumble drunkenly into gay dubs late at night looking to do more than dance. Models and actors, in other words, are still ill at ease being openly gay.
And yet in Dayton’s case that his sexuality is assured, if not his attractiveness, is beside the point. If you spent five minutes with him, you would see that he has wrestled with his identity as profoundly as most gay people do theirs. Dayton mentions a moment when he was 15 and he and his skateboarding buddies started talking about things gay. ‘At first, we thought that homosexuality was just about the sex, but then one of the guys said, ‘No, it can also be about a profound emotional attachment between two men. ‘That really sent my head for a spin. I had to think hard about what it meant when I felt dose to someone but didrit want to sleep with him. What did that mean about my own sexuality?” That we now live in a culture where sensitive straight guys ask these questions has a lot to do with the growth over the past two decades in the medWs homoerotically charged images of men.
Guys like Dayton grew up in a world where Bruce Weber and Calvin Klein had already begun making the Boy Beautiful more acceptable. “Maybe it’s not politically correct to say it,” comments Shahid, “but Dayton and his kind represent a great crossover, a stretching of boundaries.” Shahid adds that Dayton understands and embraces anyone who responds to him positively. Moreover, he says, “Dayton’s genuinely poetic. Thats very rare.”
Being relaid Shahids comment to him, Dayton reacts with neither false modesty nor with the make-me-retch groan favored by high school students. (Dayton’s students, by the way, may be feeling a little abandoned these days. Dayton is checking out Los Angeles this fall and is wondering about acting. “I am not,” he assures as some skeptically to the news, “giving up teaching. I’ll always have that gene in me and will certainly be back in some kind of classroom soon.”) No, Dayton reacts to Shahid’s compliment by blushing. He replies, “I’m a very corny person.” Which leads to a pondering final question: Will he stay that way?