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The Girlfriend Glow-up
Credit: Getty Images, channingtatum/Instagram

Have you seen it? 

It's all around us — an intangible shift in celebrities like Ben Affleck, Channing Tatum, and Tom Holland. It's a subtle metamorphosis, so understated that it can creep right up on you if you're not paying careful attention. 

One day you're posting Sad Affleck memes and cracking jokes about Dunkin' addictions. The next, Ben's out here looking like this: 

The Girlfriend Glow-up
Credit: Getty Images

I'm talking about the phenomenon known as the Girlfriend Glow up. 

By now, we're all familiar with the infamous collage of Brad Pitt evolving into each of his '90s and '00s girlfriends, seemingly absorbing their aesthetics via proximity. But the modern girlfriend glow-up goes beyond a haircut or T-shirt. It's a vibe. Sorry to use the most tired noun of the 2020's, but "vibe" perfectly encapsulates the changes we see in men like Affleck, Tatum, and Holland. It's more than just an evolution in their aesthetic expressions. It's spiritual. It's a way of being.

Correlation does not equal causation, blah blah disclaimer, but when you control for other factors, the "new girlfriend" variable is hard to ignore.

Was it Zendaya, or did Tom Holland just rewatch Halloweentown II: Kalabar's Revenge before attending a photocall for his film Uncharted last month? Was it Jennifer Lopez, or did Ben Affleck wake up one sunny day in September, four months into his reunification, and decide that his tired T-shirts and dad sneakers were best replaced with a fitted suit for a paparazzi stroll? Was it Zoë Kravitz, or did Channing Tatum discover tumblr before agreeing to a pose like this for a high fashion magazine editorial? If the timeline fits ...

The Girlfriend Glow-up
Credit: Getty Images

Kravitz and Tatum began seeing each other last summer, visiting museums and traipsing around the city together like a pair of NYU art students. (Will we ever learn what made Kravitz laugh like this?) Of the three men, Tatum's glow up is most subtle, a true testament to the shift in vibe. His shaved head, his penchant for T-shirts and jeans, his love of sneakers — all were, and remain, staples in his aesthetic. But he's slowly gone the way of ironic hypebeast, swapping skinny jeans for tailored Dickies, backwards trucker caps for slouchy beanies, work boots for Converse. Seeing the star against the backdrop of New York City lends streetwear cred, too.

Like Affleck's, Holland's glow up is easier to spot. Zendaya and Holland confirmed their relationship in the summer of 2021 after years of speculation. In his first press tour as Zendaya's other half, Holland pulled out all the stops, going above and beyond the requisite suit and tie at premieres and photo calls for his new film, Uncharted. Think: a sleeveless pinstripe suit jacket, shaggier hair, monochrome ensembles, and many a black turtleneck.

I am not the first, nor will I be the last, to assume that credit is due to the girlfriends in this situation. Lopez, Kravitz, and Zendaya are each masters in the art of image-making, influencing millions across the globe each time they step outside the house. So of course it makes sense that their influence would spill over onto their partners. They are yielding their power wisely, and for the greater good. 

The Girlfriend Glow-up
Credit: Getty Images

It's easy to imagine subtle encouragement ("You don't need the gel, babe," Zendaya may have said, "your hair looks great without it.") that isn't overbearing. Because at the end of the day, these men still look like themselves — just a more confident, more cultured, more in-love version of themselves. Compare this to the radical transformation of Julia Fox. During her brief relationship with Kanye West, Fox says the rapper chose every detail of her ensembles for her, calling her his "muse" in order to dismiss the alarmingly controlling behavior. J.Lo and Kanye are not the same. 

You, if you have a partner whom you occasionally shop for and make slight grooming suggestions to out of the goodness of your heart and for the goodness of your feed, and Kanye are not the same. There is nothing wrong with helping the light of your life shine as much as you do.