Johannes Huebl, the German New York-based model who is married to reality TV socialite Olivia Palermo, likes to go to parties. It would seem he would show up to the opening of an envelope, albeit a gold-embossed envelope.
Whether attending social events with Palermo or a circle of male friends that includes actor Chace Crawford and the designer Valentino or being a brand ambassador for whisky and shoes, Huebl is always immaculately groomed when he mixes business with pleasure.
Huebl is an example of a “Brocialite,” the 21st century guy equivalent of the female socialite. That there are more of them than ever demonstrates the male socialite has finally come of age.
Millions of long-suffering wives and girlfriends over the years will testify that guys finding ways to have fun away from the office is hardly a new phenomenon. Yet the 20th century was synonymous with the age of the female socialite – think of Babe Paley, Patricia Buckley and Brooke Astor. Or consider the differing perceptions of Jackie Onassis, whose socialite credentials are still spoken of in awe, and her son John F. Kennedy Jr who was never able to live down the “playboy” tag until his death in an air crash more than 15 years ago.
Aside from an addiction to going out and being attached to their tech devices, Brocialites vary in style and profession. Alexander Gilkes, the English owner of online auction website Paddle8, is a prominent Brocialite. So is Andrew Warren, the grandson of legendary fashion designer David Warren who Instragrams his way through town when he’s not hiring Tiffany Trump to model at his fashion shows.
Warren gets defensive about his prolific Instragramming, “I don’t think I should be judged for posting a photo like eating caviar at Claridge’s in London,” he said recently, “while it’s okay for someone to post a picture at McDonald’s.”
His friends Peter Brant Jr. and Harry Brant, sons of billionaire businessman Peter Brant and his model wife Stephanie Seymour, are bright young Brocialites. I witnessed the Brant brothers’ brocialism in action at a Dolce & Gabbana party in May 2013 when they were excitedly exclaiming how much they were looking forward to the impending visit of Prince Harry- a royal Brocialite, although he’s calmed down his partying ways in recent times- to their father’s Greenwich Polo Club.
Despite his gilded upbringing, Peter Brant Jr. hasn’t had it easy of late. He was arrested in March for assaulting a cop at New York’s Kennedy Airport and accused of “using obscene language and making unreasonable noise”.
Other London Brocialites include James Middleton, cupcake-making brother of Kate Middleton, Robert Sheffield, brother-in-law to British Prime Minister David Cameron, and Dave Clark, boyfriend of Princess Beatrice, who promotes Uber in the UK.
Brocialites are keen on being seen in public but less excited about being heard. Take Todd Kingston Plummer, a distinctly minor Brocialite. By night Plummer covers the social scene for various media outlets; by day he is a law student at St John’s University School of Law. He currently combines fashion and the law by interning at Prada.
Judging by his social media presence, Plummer is more passionate about his party coverage (“Still so proud of my @TeenVogue debut”, he tweeted recently) than he is about a lifetime in property law. He declined a request to talk about Brocialism.
Other Brocialites were more forthcoming. Kipton Cronkite runs an art advisory business and got into the gossip columns for his short-lived marriage to much older real-estate broker Larry Kaiser. “It’s less stiff being a male socialite now,” he says, “and that’s because of a combination of things, ranging from people being more comfortable about gay marriage to men not being as stuffy on how they are dressing.”
Cronkite highlights winter cultural extravaganza Art Basel in Miami Beach as illustrating the emergence of the Brocialite. “At Art Basel last year, you didn’t just see Jay-Z, you saw the celebrity DJ Martin Garrix,” he notes. “An increasing range of male socialites wanted to be part of a scene that combined celebrity clients and contemporary art.”
One prominent partygoer, a luxury event planner, spoke to me on condition that he wasn’t named. He said every effective Brocialite needs to strategize his socializing: “I won’t stay longer than an hour at a party unless I’m making future business connections and having a great time.”
He adds: “When I arrive at event I’ll find out who is worth meeting, look them up on Google Images and introduce myself. If I don’t feel like staying at a dinner, I’ll make sure my picture gets taken and leave.” He prefers charity benefits and hedge fund dinners because “you meet people there who actually have the money that everyone else always talks about”.
He cited Fabian Basabe as a cautionary Brocialite tale on how not to take Manhattan. Basabe was a leading New York “It Boy” a decade ago but his quest to become a reality TV star foundered and he left New York for Miami where he now works as an art consultant. In a bizarre blog written during Art Basel last year, Basabe confessed: “I would like to personally apologize to Mr. Alan Faena for mooning the Damien Hirst piece in the lobby of his breathtaking hotel…I drank too much and made an idiot of myself. Mr. Sylvester Stallone would never have done that.”
Euan Rellie, a New York-based British banker who has been on the social circuit for two decades and who calls himself a “semi-retired Brocialite”, says the game has changed for guys, but only up to a point: “The concept of male company is more important than ever. You used to go to a gentleman’s club to get away from your wife to enjoy the company of other men but these days you have to find other ways of doing that.
“I organize boys nights out all the time and my banker friends enjoy it because it’s an excuse to drink too much, go to a nightclub, hang out together and wink at girls across the dance floor but stop short there.”
Rellie, married to designer and writer Lucy Sykes, particularly enjoys being the straight guy at fashion parties since “straight men are an endangered species and that’s a fun role to play”.
The Brocialite needs to be a “social snowball,” according to Rellie, and command a coterie of friends without being boring: “Having excessively stringent political views is a disqualifier to being a Brocialite. You can have informed, punchy and mild provocative views but if you only like Republicans or Democrats, you’re not doing the job properly.”
Aside from being able to summon three attractive women at a moment’s notice or befriending the doorman in your city’s hottest nightclubs, Rellie argues Brocialites need to hold down good jobs: “You are not a proper Brocialite if you are just staying at home and doing nothing. You can’t be a film director who hasn’t directed a film – you’ve got to have some kind of career.”
Nonsense, says veteran society photographer Patrick McMullan. “You absolutely not do need to have a job [to be a Brocialite],” he says. “Many of the best male socialites work 1-hour days.” McMullan notes: “It has always been in vogue for men to be seen together – look at the Kings of Hollwood photo [Slim Aarons’ 1947 photograph featuring Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, James Stewart and Van Heflin].
“But with a lot of couples now the man is more social and more concerned being with the right people at the right places. In this online world it’s no longer good to not have a profile and for business to not be seen.”
In addition to recently receiving an Oscar for his performance in “The Revenant,” Leonardo Di Caprio earns the accolade of the ultimate Brocialite in the eyes of Euan Rellie. “He fulfills every single one of the criteria, particularly the coterie of male friends and access to pretty girls,” Rellie says of the environmentally-obsessed bachelor whose circle of friends includes fellow actors Kevin Connolly and Lukas Haas. “He is the patron saint of Brocialites.”
But while the role of the man about town has changed, McMullan reckons one eternal truth remains the same: “If you’re a guy at a party, being pictured with a beautiful woman still helps. You don’t have to wear lamé, but you should stand next to it.”