In case regular old Saint Nick wasn’t good enough for holiday shoppers, this year, Toronto, Canada’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre has introducing a new archetype: Fashion Santa. Paul Mason is a tall, thin, white-bearded fashion model who’s dressing in designer duds by John Varvatos, Hugo Boss, and Salvatore Ferragamo, among others, for a new twist on getting your photo taken with Santa. For every selfie taken with him as Fashion Santa, a character Mason developed, and posted on Twitter with the hashtag #YorkdaleFashionSanta, $1 is being donated to the SickKids Foundation (up to $10,000).
It’s hard to argue with charity, right? Well, I’m going to be a grinch, albeit a Jewish one, and do just that. I’m all for enjoying holiday shopping, which can be especially stressful at this time of year. But is it necessary to make Santa “hot?” Why is Santa swapping red velvet for a red leather jacket? Yes, I know the short answer: capitalism. This campaign has obviously put the mall, with Mason as its star, on the map with international coverage of their bearded holiday helper, but is he really part of the spirit of Christmas? Or is he a special gift to beleaguered parents exhausted after schlepping their kids around the mall, designed to elicit statements like this one on Twitter:
No matter how often I stare at Fashion Santa, he just doesn’t look like “Santa” to me. He looks like a hipster silver fox...which is totally fine. (And yes, I know that Santa used to be skinny, but it’s 2015, and the three main characteristics we associate with Santa are his white beard, his belly and his red suit; Mason’s only got one of those characteristics.) On the one hand, sexy Santa costumes have traditionally been women’s purview. So now, perhaps, the tables are turned, and women are openly lusting after this bearded model, whose whole purpose, after the charity angle, is to be ogled. But still, Fashion Santa raises the question: why do we need to sexualize Christmas?
Yorkdale certainly isn’t the first to fetishize Santa Claus. There are sexy Santa boudoir photo shoots. There are enough many sexy celebrity Santa photos to create multiple bold name lists. But even those seem different than Fashion Santa, who seems like he’s trying just a little too hard.
I’m more on the side of Jezebel’s Kelly Faircloth, who wrote in a chat amongst the site’s editors, “Honestly I would fuck a jolly fat grandpa Santa before fucking a sexy hip Santa.” I’d say the same thing, not just because I think fat guys are sexy, but because Fashion Santa looks like he wants to be picked up, whereas regular Santa seems like he’d be making his way toward the milk and cookies and might get surprised if you snuck up on him naked.
Even Santa fetishists would likely reject hipster Santa. One told Vocativ that Santa’s appeal is that he’s “perfect combo of a lumberjack’s facial hair and a trucker’s gut.” Paul Mason, not so much. He looks good for a 51-year-old, I’ll give him that, I just don’t think Santa needs a makeover or an update, certainly not such a drastic one. While he’s received almost universal acclaim online, I’m not the only one who’s not so impressed with Fashion Santa. On “The Today Show,” Savannah Guthrie recounted Matt Lauer’s reaction: “This is ridiculous. You don't mess with Santa.”
Please note that I’m not saying the image of Santa is somehow sacrosanct. But when a Sydney shopping center introduced “hipster Santa” in 2013, at least they were offering up a full-fledged parody, telling the press he was the, “Contemporary answer to traditional Christmas. He’s not big on flying reindeer; he prefers his fixed-gear bike. And don’t even think about leaving him out milk and cookies; he only accepts coconut water and gluten-free macarons.” Portland, Oregon lived up to its Portlandia reputation this year with its own version of Hipster Santa, complete with man bun. Making fun of Santa is one thing, but simply parading around a hot guy with a white beard in expensive clothing for photos ops seems a little ridiculous, even if it is for a good cause. Does the world really need a SILF?
Fashion Santa has certainly managed to turn heads, and clearly is making shoppers smile, which I do consider a good thing. But maybe next year Santa can go back to being fat and jolly?