Mind the gap
Gap-toothed women are in vogue.
MUCH like her shiny hair and warm eyes, the space between Geneva Aguirre’s front teeth has always been a part of her look.
When she was little, Aguirre used to stick a flavoured tooth pick in the gap – just because it would fit and no one else could do it. It made her unique.
It wasn’t until Aguirre noticed iconic gap-toothed model Lauren Hutton in the pages of her favourite fashion magazines that she realised her smile was not only unique, but maybe even beautiful.
“I guess I’ve always thought of it as a cool thing,” says Aguirre, 48, of Concord, California.
These days, so does the beauty industry. Gap-toothed models were all over the runways at this season’s Paris Fashion Week. Instead of fixing their teeth, some of Hollywood’s freshest faces, like Anna Paquin and Elizabeth Moss, proudly sport a midline diastema, the dental term for the gap.
And last month on America’s Next Top Model, host Tyra Banks sent a 22-year-old contestant from Boise, Idaho, to the dentist to widen her gap. The beauty blogosphere has been buzzing ever since.
Men sport the gap, too, but culturally, there has always been a mystique about diastematic women. In Ghana, Namibia, and Nigeria, a gap in women’s teeth is a sign of beauty and fertility, says Bernice Agyekwena, a Ghanaian journalist and Gates Fellow of African Agriculture at the University of California Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.
“Some women even go to the extent of creating an artificial gap in their teeth because they want to meet the traditional standards set for African beauty,” she says.
In the Western world, our fascination dates back to the Middle Ages, when Geoffrey Chaucer wrote in The Canterbury Tales of the gap-toothed wife of Bath and her lustful ways.
But, experts believe our new interest in the diastema represents a backlash against unattainable beauty standards and an obsession with perfection.
“I think for so long the look was cookie-cutter beauty and it doesn’t stand out,” says Heather Muir, beauty news editor for Allure magazine in New York. “We’re shifting to a more quirky beauty, and I think that includes women who have very fair skin, many freckles, or frizzy, big hair.”
Two gap-toothed models in particular, Jac Jagaciak and Lindsey Wixson, caught Allure magazine editors’ eyes during the Paris runways, Muir says. She also calls attention to recent ads by Chanel, Marc Jacobs, and Miu Miu. All feature models with gaps between their teeth.
“This could be a confidence booster to a lot of girls out there who are 12 or 13, and mortified because they have a gap,” she says. “Now’s the time to let whatever is interesting about your look shine through. Embrace it.” Sylvia Lan of Santa Clara, California, has always embraced her diastema. So have the lovestruck men who mention it before asking her out. “They seem to think it’s sexy,” says Lan, a 40-something who works in sales. “Go figure. Instead of looking at my chest, they’re looking at my teeth.”
Recently, at a wedding in Hollister, California, she was surprised when a woman with her teenage daughter in tow approached Lan to point it out.
“Look,” the woman said, “She’s beautiful and she has a gap!”
Lan reassured the girl, who was selfconscious about hers. “I told her a healthy white smile is more important,” Lan says. “As long as she could not drive a Mack truck through it then she’d be fine. And that the boys love it.”
Les Blank sure did. His interest in gap-toothed women began in the eighth grade, with a smiling beauty he admired from a distance. In 1987, the El Cerrito, California, director made GapToothed Women, a documentary homage to gap-toothed women living in the Bay Area. Hutton is also in the film.
“They have an attractive, outgoing personality that’s warm and vital,” says Blank, who interviewed 100 women for the film. “The whole world is so full of artifice that I think people just want to see something natural and real.” – Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
Some of Hollywood’s freshest faces, like Anna Paquin, sport a gap.
French singer and actress Vanessa Paradis, and Johnny Depp’s partner, is another wellknown gaptoothed celebrity.