We will start with a disclaimer. Silly season is upon us, and what follows has nothing to do with me — it’s the Internet’s fault. The Internet, you see, and all the lovely people on social media, and Gen Z in particular, have decreed that this summer there’s a new type of handsome man in town, so don’t blame me. Brad Pitt: you can stand down. George Clooney: as you were. You will not for the time being be required, or at least not by Gen Z, the fools.

Why? Because the look of the summer is rat-like. Sample headlines include “All anyone wants is a hot rodent boyfriend”; “Gen Z has spoken and the hot rodent man is in” and “Rise of the hot rodent”. It may blunt your outrage if I tell you that this is, apparently, not an insult but a compliment because it isn’t just about your looks, it’s about your “vibe”.

Of course it is. Either way, the talk of being unconventionally attractive kicked off last year with a tweet that went viral. It stated: “Men are either eagle handsome, bear handsome, dog handsome, or reptilian handsome.” This proved once and for all that there is nothing, including handsome men, that can’t be needlessly complicated on social media. Ryan Gosling, Henry Cavill, Heath Ledger and Timothée Chalamet were each cited as examples of each “look”, and I have no doubt that all those good men and fine actors are, or in poor Ledger’s case were, more than happy to be categorized in this way.

Hot rodent man went mainstream on American breakfast TV. It made it to the big screen this summer, thanks to the film of 2024, Challengers. Starring the not-at-all-rat-like Zendaya, the film features not one but two sexy rodent men in the form of Josh O’Connor and Mike Faist, so take your pick, Gen Z. Knock yourself out. Faist is apparently Stuart Little made flesh.

Alternatively, you might get your rat-like kicks from Barry Keoghan in Saltburn, Tom Hiddleston, Tom Holland, Jeremy Allen White from The Bear, Lando Norris (who? OK, looked him up: a Formula One driver), Tobey Maguire, the footballer Phil Foden or Matty Healy, a singer in a band — I forget which and lack the will to find out, but I do know he had a brief fling with Taylor Swift. As indeed did Tom Hiddleston, come to think of it. No doubt someone, somewhere, but happily not me, is already writing a thesis about this, in spite of the fact that her present boyfriend, an American football player called Travis Kelce, is as far from rat-like as it is possible to imagine.

“Men are either eagle handsome, bear handsome, dog handsome, or reptilian handsome.”

But let us return to our original thesis. Robert Carlyle as Begbie in Trainspotting? Pure rodent. Sean Penn in anything? Rat-like perfection. Adam Driver? Come on in, Mr Driver, your ratty moment in the sun is upon you. I wouldn’t have described Chalamet as rat-like because he looks quite feminine to me, but if you think I have the will to argue with the proclivities of Gen Z and the Internet, you really haven’t been paying attention.

What do these men look like? Think the opposite of David Cameron. Jeremy Hunt, maybe. Generally speaking pale, pinched, small-eyed and lanky. They probably do work out, but they’re definitely not muscly or bulky. Think pointy features. Small mouth. Mussed-up hair of questionable cleanliness. They look like they haven’t seen daylight in quite some time, and possibly haven’t. Their mothers fret that they need feeding up and an early night. They may have the sort of wispy facial hair that I find questionable and Gen Z find highly attractive. I imagine they also populate the grittier parts of town that I find questionable and Gen Z find highly attractive.

The fact that they’re not conventionally handsome — see Brad Pitt, above — is part of their attraction and the good news, of sorts, is that they are the opposite of toxic masculinity in looks, interests and vibe. The latter is, presumably, the most important. Hot rat boyfriends are, I gather, intriguing and mysterious and … you know what? Enough. Over to you. The end.

Hilary Rose is a longtime columnist and features writer at The Times of London