Forget about the alpha male. The internet’s new favorite heartthrob is the “Cinnamon Roll Man”

Shy, thoughtful and easy on the eyes. This new crop of heartthrobs is challenging classic male stereotypes

By Joy Saha

Staff Writer

Published November 18, 2023 1:30PM (EST)

Timothée Chalamet | Cinnamon Rolls (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Timothée Chalamet | Cinnamon Rolls (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

In The Onion’s 2014 satire piece, “Beautiful Cinnamon Roll Too Good For This World, Too Pure,” a simple cinnamon roll is hailed as a gentle creature of sorts. Its mere existence is rather ethereal. After all, the cinnamon roll, The Onion wrote, is “too pure for this world, too perfect.” 

“Look at this angelic confection. Never in my life have I laid eyes on such an immaculate swirl, nor glimpsed a crust as delectably golden brown in hue,” exclaimed one awestruck, albeit fictitious, witness of the aforementioned pastry. “Alas, we toil in far too cold and dark a world for such cinnamoned purity as this, such perfection, whose rich, buttery brilliance conjures the divine.”

The cinnamon roll soon became more than just a delectable sweet treat — it was also a newfound persona. Drawing inspiration from The Onion’s spoof and the roll’s physicality (a bit hard on the outside, but soft and sweet on the inside), romance novelists concocted a new kind of male protagonist known as the “Cinnamon Roll Hero.” The Cinnamon Roll Hero is thoughtful, but complicated. He’s the kind of man who’s no stranger to a life of pain and suffering. But at his core, he’s one big ol’ softie.

Most recently, a variation of the “Cinnamon Roll Hero” has been used to describe a popular subset of Hollywood heartthrobs. Dubbed the “Cinnamon Roll Man,” the persona spotlights a new brand of A-lister men who abandon the testosterone-fueled alpha male stereotype rooted in toxic masculinity. In other words, the “Cinnamon Roll Man” holds a “passion for high culture, ethical collaborations and beautiful clothes, while still loving their mums,” as said by The Daily Mail.

The epitome of “Cinnamon Roll Man” is arguably former One Direction frontrunner Harry Styles. Following his boy band departure, Styles arose as a global superstar, producing hit single after hit single and attaining a vast fanbase. Many of his stans are tweens and young adults, who pledged allegiance to him during his X Factor days. Others are a bit older, specifically in their 40s.

We need your help to stay independent

“The broad appeal of Styles, oft cited as a swirl of Jagger’s sex appeal and Bowie’s gender-bending, has been well documented,” wrote Michelle Ruiz for Vogue. In the past few years, Styles’ androgynous fashion sense has been at the center of immense praise (and criticism). When Styles graced the December 2020 cover of Vogue in a Gucci dress, people went completely berserk, hailing the showcase as “groundbreaking.” Despite the praise, Harry remained humble when speaking to Vogue about his solo shoot: “There's so much joy to be had in playing with clothes. I've never thought too much about what it means — it just becomes this extended part of creating something.”

On top of being a ladies man, Styles is a momma’s boy. He shares a close relationship with his mother, Anne Twist, and sister, Gemma. There’s also “his seemingly cosmic, intergenerational bond with Stevie Nicks; and his presence at a Christmas carol sing-along at Joni Mitchell’s house,” Ruiz added. Not to mention that Styles featured Shania Twain (even invited her for a duet of “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!”) at his first headlining set at Coachella in April of last year.

In this day and age, when dating app failures are a common tale and misandry is a kind-of social media trend, seeking out men who are caring, respectful, in tune with their emotions and easy on the eyes is like searching for a needle in a haystack. Yes, the bar is quite literally in hell, which is why men who exceed the bare minimum are (rightfully) idolized.

Want more great food writing and recipes? Subscribe to Salon Food's newsletter, The Bite.

Those standards apply to celebrities too. In addition to Styles, another so-called “Cinnamon Roll Man” is Timothée Chalamet. The “Call Me By Your Name” star stole hearts with his infectious charm, smoldering looks and sensitive demeanor. Chalamet also has a way with words. At the 2022 Venice Film Festival, he spoke about his dislike of being chronically online: “To be young now, and to be young whenever — I can only speak for my generation — is to be intensely judged.”

There’s also Irish actor Paul Mescal, who first graced our screens as shy boy Connell in the hit television adaptation of Sally Rooney's “Normal People.” Mescal’s relationship with former partner Phoebe Bridgers and fellow “Normal People” co-star Daisy Edgar-Jones were also of public interest. And his recent campaign with Gucci is, well, incredibly swoon-worthy.

Thanks to Pinterest and TikTok, aesthetic culture has become rampant, almost epidemic-like. Much of the focus is placed on women — cottagecore (which celebrates countryside living) regency-core (which romanticizes the United Kingdom's Regency era), coquette (which spotlights hyperfemininity) and succubus chic (which embodies the modern day femme fatale) are just a few prevalent aesthetics that come to mind.

As for men, the alpha, beta and sigma males are long-standing (although problematic) “boy” aesthetics that continue to be running jokes online. So long are the worst aspects of stereotypically masculine attributes. And long live the Cinnamon Roll Man!

By Joy Saha

Joy Saha is a staff writer at Salon. She writes about food news and trends and their intersection with culture. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park.


Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Alpha Male Cinnamon Roll Man Commentary Harry Styles Heartthrob Paul Mescal Timothee Chalamet