Salon's Sexiest Men of 2013

Don't bother with that other list. These guys are a kind of sexy you can't find at the gym

By Salon Staff

Published November 20, 2013 3:36PM (EST)

Adam Levine? Nick Jonas? Mark-Paul Gosselaar? Oh, People, we thought you had better taste.

Just kidding! We knew you didn't, that's why we started our own "Sexiest" list (though we admit it: this year there's one overlap). The men we've selected this year to counter People's spread make for a diverse bunch, but they do have a few things in common. These are men who over the past 12 months have been impossible to ignore -- not because their well-defined pecs have thrust them into the spotlight, but because they've fought and earned their way there. Many of them have bravely and incisively commented on the world in which we live -- from a comedian with an eye for the absurdities of modern life to a rapper with a flair for devastating storytelling to an activist with a heart of gold. A couple of our picks shy away from politics, personal and otherwise, but make strong statements through their acting ability and athletic prowess (and, yes, we mean they speak directly to our loins). This year, though, there is one trait that defines all of our sexiest men: talent. Is there anything sexier than someone who excels at what he does? Someone who makes an art of what he loves, be it tennis or graffiti?

That's a quality that outshines rock-hard abs any day, although this list sneaks in some of that too.

Dane DeHaan looks like a young Leonardo DiCaprio. His "sexy" bona fides thereby established, we can now move on to the other things we love about the young actor.

He did quiet and brooding in his breakout role as the soft-spoken high school fuck-up with a strong moral compass in "A Place Beyond the Pines," troubled and magnetic in "Kill Your Darlings" and abrasive and vulnerable in "In Treatment." He is, in sum, playing the kind of sensitive, tortured roles that launched the careers of Hollywood's most beloved waifs -- James Dean, Johnny Depp, the aforementioned DiCaprio, and Ryan Gosling, and seems well-poised to follow in their footsteps.

But perhaps the real charm of DeHaan is that, by all appearances, he doesn't take himself too seriously. His Twitter presence consists mainly of sweet shout-outs to his wife, actress Anna Wood, and their dog.

Adding to his appeal, he co-starred in one of our favorite viral videos of the year, a decidedly not-moody and genuinely funny sendup of clueless celebrity mooching.

He's probably going to get a lot more famous in the next year (being part of a multimillion-dollar superhero franchise generally helps with those kind of things), but before he does, do yourself a favor and watch him play "Captain Animal" in this faux Kickstarter-funded, "entirely improvised" "hardcore sex" film, "Snowy River."
Photo credit: AP/Victoria Will

It was only two days into 2013 when the New York Times declared that George Saunders had already written the best book of the year. A stream of effusive praise for "Tenth of December" (including from Salon's Laura Miller) soon followed.

To call 2013 the year that everyone loved George Saunders wouldn't quite capture it, because every year seems to be the year that everyone loves George Saunders. Being so universally regarded as a genius could make the man unlikable, but it doesn't. He really is that good.

It also doesn't hurt that he seems like a genuinely nice guy.

You can gather this from charmingly self-effacing interviews he's given (some over Gchat, no less) or the reflections on his own "failures of kindness" that he shared during a commencement speech earlier this year, but Saunders' empathy -- and often his real sentimental streak -- is on full display in his stories. Spectacularly weird, equal parts savage, playful and funny, they are each imbued with a kind of emotional hum that gives the reader pause, and a sweet little ache.

He also looks great in a beard and poses well with dogs. Really, what's not to love?
Photo credit: Basso Cannarsa

Leave it to Kendrick Lamar to create a song about the perils of alcoholism that at first listen sounds like a party anthem. Similarly, on the track "Pussy and Patron," he begins with masculine swagger only to reveal the depths of his fear and vulnerability. It's that lyrical complexity that will keep you listening to his major label release, "good kid, M.A.A.d city," long after the intoxicating beats lose their novelty. It's no wonder many are comparing him to Tupac Shakur, who famously spawned college courses.

Tremendous talent aside, the Compton-raised 26-year-old won us over by resisting some of the sexism found not only in hip-hop but pop culture in general. In his music videos, women aren't restricted to nearly nude gyrations; they're down-to-earth, approachable and real. They're people you have conversations with. For his "Poetic Justice" music video, he insisted on casting a darker-skinned love interest as a means of better representing, as he put it on Twitter, "every shade of woman ... not jus what da industry thinks is 'Hott' 4 camera." That's not to mention his ode to natural beauty, "No Make-up," in which he raps, "It's the beauty in her/ But when the makeup occur/ I don't see it, all I see is a blur."

He's also resisted homophobia: When asked about gay marriage he said, "That’s your lifestyle; you dig what I’m saying? And people gonna be they own individuals and have they own worlds and I can’t knock it."

That baby face and winning grin don't hurt, either.
Photo credit: AP/Matt Sayles

Julian Castro, the mayor of San Antonio, Texas, has the edge over his twin brother, Joaquín, a U.S. congressman, because of his galvanizing keynote address at last year’s Democratic National Convention. Both brothers look and sound like the future of the Democratic Party -- and both are pretty cute -- but it was Julian we fell in love with as he stood at the podium in Charlotte, N.C., and told the story of his grandmother and his mother raising the pair. It was, he said, proof positive “the American dream is not a sprint, or even a marathon, but a relay.” We think that a rising star who acknowledges the help he’s had along the way from the women in his life and who wants to extend opportunity to all is proof that the opportunity to be an American dreamboat is now extended even to Western municipal politicians.
Photo credit: Reuters/Jessica Rinaldi

As a longtime Shakespearean stage actor, “Star Trek’s” Captain Jean-Luc Picard, and “X-Men’s” Professor Charles Xavier, Sir Patrick Stewart has a broad appeal that spans multiple generations and genres. He’s always been conventionally sexy (Exhibit A), but in recent years, Stewart transformed from an actor to an Internet celebrity by using his Twitter account to play with fans and fuel our fantasies. In 2013 alone, he has performed the quadruple take, much to the amusement of his then-fiancée and his fans,  charmed us with his whimsical marriage announcement in September, and best of all, did it with “X-Men” supervillain and real-life best friend Sir Ian McKellen by his side.

Stewart’s humor and apparently winsome spirit are only part of his sexiness, though. Having grown up with an abusive father, he is also a longtime anti-domestic abuse activist, working with U.K.-based charity Refuge. At Comicpalooza in Texas this year, Stewart delivered a swift, impassioned response to an abuse survivor. "As a child I heard in my home doctors and ambulance men say, 'Mrs Stewart, you must have done something to provoke him. Mrs Stewart, it takes two to make an argument.' Wrong. Wrong. My mother did nothing to provoke that and even if she had, violence is never, ever a choice that a man should make. Ever."
Photo credit: Shutterstock/s_bukley

The easy-on-the-eyes Novak Djokovic consistently occupies the very top tier of tennis with his aggressive style of play. He’s just as brash off-court; a New Yorker profile this summer made it clear that the Serbian Djokovic has, because of his dress and his manner, been something of a pariah in the stodgy, “dignified” tennis world. While some of his impersonations of his competitors may have crossed a line, his energy and fierce will to win have us rooting for him -- not least because he’s come tantalizingly close but fallen short in the U.S. Open and Wimbledon this year. Let us be your cheering section, Novak!
Photo credit: Reuters/Lucas Jackson

Looks are overrated. Not that Bansky is a bad-looking guy. It's just that we don't know – or particularly care. This fall, the British graffiti artist/full-time provocateur took his act to New York City and rapidly became the biggest thing to hit the town since the cronut. He had a slaughterhouse truck full of stuffed animals drive around.  He put a romantic image on the Hustler club.  He sold some works in Central Park for $60 a pop.  He made a few hundred thousand bucks for Housing Works (though the charity then experienced some problems with the buyer). In short, he had fun. He reminded the art world that making things is supposed to be joyful and subversive and weird, and he let the whole great unwashed denizens of the city in on the joke. We wouldn't know you if we passed you on the street, Banksy, but you're a good time. And that is very, very sexy.
Photo credit: Reuters/Brendan McDermid

It seems like the next logical step for Ronan Farrow, the wunderkind child of actress Mia Farrow and Woody Allen: At 25, the the multitalented Rhodes scholar and Yale Law grad has been a human rights activist, a writer, a former Obama aide. Next, Farrow moves to MSNBC as a television anchor for his own news program.

Not to mention he is the “possessor of alabaster good looks,” as the New York Times puts it. Adding to Farrow’s rare level of physical and intellectual attractiveness is the aura of mystery that the media (or, perhaps, his mother) has built around him: Mia recently said it’s “possible” that legendary singer Frank Sinatra is Ronan’s biological father, not Allen, from whom Ronan remains estranged.
Photo credit: AP/Gary He

It's OK if you're only just discovering him now, thanks to his breathtaking, buzzy turn in "Twelve Years a Slave." Just know that Chiwetel Ejiofor has been quietly amassing one of the most impressively diverse résumés in acting for over a decade now.

The 36-year-old Londoner has played a Nigerian cabbie in "Dirty Pretty Things," a cool interstellar hit man in "Serenity," and a drag queen named Lola in "Kinky Boots"  -- and made of them intriguing, fully realized human beings. Whatever the accent or however he's dressed, he always brings a soulful intensity, a deep intelligence to everything he touches, a result of meticulous preparation and keen instinct. He gets our sexy vote for making us care about his characters, again and again, and for looking as good in sky high heels as he does bantering with Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show." After spending over a decade on the fringes of Hollywood, he's finally right where he's supposed to be: a full-fledged leading man.
Photo credit: AP/Carlo Allegri

And the winner is ...

It takes talent to turn the worst of bureaucratic nightmares and customer service horrors into a laughing opportunity, and that is Kumail Nanjiani's specialty. The 35-year-old Pakistani-American has played a series of hilariously maddening characters on "Portlandia": a cellphone salesman, birthday-loan officer, power employee and waiter -- all of whom present their customers with an endless string of questions to answer and hoops to jump through. It takes something beyond talent to make the worst of modern American life -- namely, our absurd overabundance of choice -- look sexy. It's in his sly smile, puppy-dog eyes and expressive caterpillar brows. But mostly, it's in the razor-sharp intelligence with which he skewers the way the world is now.

And the world is taking note: His Comedy Central special "Beta Male " premiered this summer and the network also picked up his show, "The Meltdown With Jonah and Kumail." He's been on "The Colbert Report," "The Late Show With David Letterman," "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon," "Conan" and "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" Kumail's also made Variety’s "10 Comics to Watch," the Hollywood Reporter's "10 Rising Comedy Talents" and New York magazine's "10 Comedians That Funny People Find Funny." Raised in a conservative religious tradition he has since moved away from, he often uses his unique perspective to great comedic effect on Twitter. To top it off, he's a video game nerd who hosts a podcast with his wife, whom he first met as an audience member at one of his stand-up gigs. Which -- no disrespect to their marriage -- seems like an especially brilliant ploy to sell tickets to his shows.

Read Salon's interview with Kumail here!

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Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated Kumail Nanjiani's religious upbringing. He was raised by conservative religious parents.

Salon Staff

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