Youthsplaining: The History and Resurgence of the Himbo
All hail the Himbo
He’s got brawn but no brains.
He’s Fred Jones from Scooby-Doo and Hercules from Disney’s Hercules. He’s Friday Night Lights’ Tim Riggins and Channing Tatum in Magic Mike. He’s Kronk from The Emperor’s New Groove. He’s an oblivious walking six-pack.
He’s a Himbo. They’re all Himbos, and currently, the internet is enamored with them.
But before we get into why we love the Himbo, we must first go through the long, storied history of the not-so-bright beefcake.
What’s a Himbo?
Merriam-Webster defines Himbo as an “attractive but vacuous man.” Simply put, it is of course a portmanteau of the words “him” and “bimbo.”
The first known use of the word was in a 1988 Washington Post article by film critic Rita Kempley titled “THE HIMBO ALL POWERFUL AND ALL BEEF! IT’S THE REEL MEN!!!” (Caps very much theirs, weirdly.) Prior to that, the word “bimbo” was used to describe both women and men but was predominately used to label attractive, ditzy females. As beefcakes like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone started gracing screens, the word was born to more succinctly characterize the seemingly brainless hunks.
“Their chest measurements rival Dolly Parton’s. Their brains would embarrass a squid. They ballyhoo Maidenform undies, do nude scenes and are wildly popular with both girls and boys. They come in two varieties — greased and armed-to-the-teeth or moussed and undressed-to-die-for. They’re bombshells with a Y chromosome,” Kempley declared. “Bimbo begone! Hollywood has blessed us with the Himbo.”
Later conversations surrounding the archetype tried to further distinguish between different types of Himbos: the Neanderthal juice-head kind and the sweet, nicer types who are just sorta useless. In a 1994 interview, sociologist Michael S. Kimmel claimed that the Stallone and Hasselhoff Baywatch types are the “man’s man” Himbos, and men like Italian model Fabio are the woman’s Himbos. While this point is weirdly gendered and maybe sexist, it highlights the broad Himbo spectrum and explains why beach-bum surfer-types like Woody Harrelson and Keanu Reeves were also classified as Himbos — “kinder, gentler” Himbos — but Himbos nonetheless.
In a 2012 GQ article, writer Lauren Bans discussed the “Golden Age of Himbodom” that was happening in entertainment at the time, coinciding with the rise of the female gaze and unapologetic, vulgar female protagonists. She cites characters like New Girl‘s Schmidt, Parks and Recreation‘s Andy Dwyer, John Hamm in almost every role besides Mad Men, along with, of course, the cast of the striper blockbuster Magic Mike starring two quintessential Himbos, Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey, as all fitting into the archetype.
“Hollywood has signed on to the idea of ladies as the crass sexual aggressors, and our pretty, vulgar leading ladies need subjects to crassly sexually aggress. Which means there’s no need for the male co-star to be anything more than a handsome, unselfaware dolt,” wrote Bans.
But the modern Himbo is unlike the Himbos before him. The Himbos that are currently being revered are not total brainless idiots or even particularly sculpted brainless idiots. They are simply attractive men who aren’t the sharpest, are a little klutzy and goofy but are well-intentioned, genuinely nice guys. Their simpleness is what makes them desirable. While they might not spend their days discussing Russian literature or theorizing about the cosmos, they have no qualms about helping you move or taking your dog out to pee in the middle of the night.
This is why Urban Dictionary’s definition seems to be the most accurate definition of the term as it’s currently being used: “Generally, a large (broad, tall, or buff) attractive man, who tends to be not very bright, but usually extremely nice and respectful. Think Kronk from The Emperors New Groove, or maybe a golden retriever.”
Why are we talking about them now?
Recently, the term came booming back into the zeitgeist thanks to a semi-viral tweet from one Twitter user who claimed the term Himbo was “ableist.”
The tweet sparked tons of responses, largely ones in disagreement. One Twitter user explained that the Himbo is “not defined by the presence or absence of ‘intelligence,’” but by his gullibility, optimism and unquestionable loyalty that is often fallible. While someone else noted the distinction between a Himbo and a regular, stupid man. A super hot idiot can just be an asshole (think The Bachelor, Love Island and Too Hot to Handle types), while a Himbo is empathetic, and is always trying to do the right thing.
So do we love the Himbo?
Yes, we love the Himbo. He’s a harmless hottie who reminds us that it’s perfectly fine to want someone who isn’t the smartest person in the room. Because being a simple, good-natured and respectful human being is way hotter.
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