Why we women love a bit on the side: Thanks to Bradley Wiggins, sideburns are back. Amanda Platell confesses to finding them rather a turn-on



23:58 GMT, 24 July 2012

There are some fantasies that should remain just that — fantasy. A secret embedded in the dark recesses of our minds, never to be revealed.

For me, sideburns have always been one of those. And it’s only thanks to Bradley Wiggins that I can come clean.

Some may swoon at his sporting prowess, those Lycra-clad iron buttocks or the manly wrap-around-you-thighs that would not be out of place in Fifty Shades Of Grey.

Amanda Platell said she can only admit her love for sideburns since the success of cyclists Bradley Wiggins, pictured

Amanda Platell said she can only admit her love for sideburns since the success of cyclists Bradley Wiggins, pictured

But for me it’s all about the sideburns. Only now, following his phenomenal success in the Tour de France, do I feel able to speak out about this.

Some women loathe sideburns, but I never have. I find them damnably, incredibly, thrustingly, timelessly sexy.

I love the way they can take the most modest of faces and frame it with manly intent.

Bradley’s sideburns jut out from beneath his cycling helmet like go-faster stripes — aggressive, masculine, purposeful — all the things we old-fashioned women love in men yet rarely find.

The rise of so-called ‘mummy porn’ and the box office success of male stripper movie Magic Mike — both of which contain decidedly masculine lead characters — prove that women have finally had enough of all these metrosexual wimps with their highlighted hair and skinny jeans.

Today, women are much more into the rugged, handsome knight-in-shining armour look (or, in Brad’s case, shining Lycra.)

When Colin Firth became every housewife’s fantasy after starring in the BBC adaptation of Pride And Prejudice, many attributed it to that famous lake scene.

But where would the smouldering, imperious Mr Darcy have been without his sideburns

Elvis Presley would be 'as unimaginable without his sideburns as he would be without his swivelling hips'

Brad Pitt managed to get his sideburns 'all wrong'

Elvis Presley, left, would be 'unimaginable' without his sideburns, but Brad Pitt, right, got them all wrong, according to Amanda Platell

They were phenomenal, framing an arrogant square jaw and a sneering mouth made for kissing.

Perhaps it’s down to the recession that we now instinctively look for a man who can be a provider, not a preener.

Sideburns signal the re-emergence of the real man — and not a moment too soon.

Of course, there are sideburns, and there are sideburns.

Just one look at Bradley’s bushy pair and you know he doesn’t spend hours sculpting them in a mirror.

Not so in the case of Brad Pitt, or David Beckham — who sported sideburns in the 1990s, yet managed to get them all wrong.

His were too groomed, too intent on giving his face a chiseled look not gifted to him by nature.

They were more facial topiary than manly self-expression.

And the fact we know his body is as plucked and depilated as a Christmas turkey underneath his designer clothes made the sideburns seem a false promise of masculinity.

The same can be said for Russell Brand.

David Tennant falls into Amanada Platell's 'too tidy' category

David Beckham fails to look manly with his sideburns

Both David Tennant, left, and David Beckham, right, fail to achieve the perfect sideburn because they are 'too tidy'

That man spends more hours on his blow-dried brunette locks and perfectly arched eyebrows than Pippa Middleton. And those sideburns look suspiciously dyed to me too.

Bradley would no more dye his sideburns than he would cycle with stabilisers.

Despite the efforts of metrosexual men, sideburns have an illustrious history and were originally a sign of valour, not vanity.

Respected leader Alexander the Great had them, and no one called him a sissy.

I doubt he’d have had a razor out each day sculpting them into perfect columns to terrify his foe.

And he wasn’t alone. Louis-Philippe of France, Charles Darwin, Richard Wagner — they were all extraordinary men with great sideburns.

Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington, strode into battle during the Napoleonic Wars with his fine sideburns then twice into Parliament as British Prime Minister.

Lord Palmerston, also twice Prime Minister, had a ferocious set to match his political courage.

In those days men were men and had sideburns to prove it. Our baby-faced leaders (Dave, George or Nick) could not grow a masterful set of ‘sidies’ between them.

They may be middle-aged men in Lycra jogging for the cameras and trying to hold back the years, but that’s where the similarity with Bradley Wiggins ends.

Liam Gallagher in the 90s showing off his manly sideburns

Actor Colin Firth with his manly sideburns during filming of Pride and Prejudice

Liam Gallagher, left, and Colin Firth as Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, right, both pull off the 'manly' look with their sideburns

The actual word ‘sideburns’ is a bastardisation of the person who first publicly embodied them, the 19th century American Civil War general Ambrose Burnside. His were as powerful and fearsome as a cavalry charge.

Since then they have undergone many manifestations, revived in the Fifties by James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause, one of the most testosterone-fuelled films ever made and one that set Dean up as an iconic example of raw masculinity.

Elvis Presley would be as unimaginable without his strong, black sideburns as he would be without his swivelling hips.

The same can’t be said of poor old John McCririck who looks as though he’s pasted week-old roadkill to the sides of his face.

But even his comic effort is better than the weedy versions grown by metrosexual men trying to compensate for their receding hairlines.

Not to mention Lewis Hamilton’s sideburns, which are so immaculate they look like his pop star girlfriend plucks them into shape every morning, while David Tennant’s are the same: too perfect by half.

The truth is that not all men can carry off sideburns. They have to be big, thick, rough and gruff to look good — like singer Liam Gallagher’s magnificent pair.

When his get too long, I imagine he just breaks the ends off with his bare hands — rather than being trimmed at an overpriced hair salon.

Some may have winced when Bradley Wiggins told how much he had sacrificed to become the first Brit to win the Tour de France.

But for him the chance of national glory, of being the best athlete and man he could, took precedence.

His story will go down in the annals of British sporting history as one of our greatest ever victories.

He’s made cycling cool, and has brought sporting pride to a country desperately in need of it . . . but let’s not forget his other great achievement — making sideburns sexy once more.