Michael? Don't think so... Ewan, then? No. Tom? No. Brad? No, no, no. Annalisa Barbieri explains
Michael Hutchence's status as "sexiest man alive" need not be challenged. A few years ago, Steve McQueen and Kurt Cobain were both voted as such, despite being rather dead. Sexiness doesn't heed such boundaries, au bloody contraire. But then, being thought of as sexy is a curious thing.

There is no formula for acquiring sexy status (if there were, Paul Daniels wouldn't have the problems he does), sexiness either oozes out of you or it oozes out of someone else. While what makes a girl sexy is fairly simple - long legs with well-worn knees, biggish breasts prone to erect nipples, subscription to Sky, large office desk - just what is it that makes a chap sexy? This is where many men, in attempts to be sexy (which are intrinsically flawed), get it very wrong. Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and any boy band may be sexy to teenagers but they are too clean cut, too handsome to be properly sexy. This is also why most male models are so not sexy. They can never give you dirty, knowing looks and are too busy looking perfect to fling you against a wall and take you.

Having a certain dirtiness (mentally, not sartorially speaking) is definitely sexy and when that is coupled with a shy but fierce romantic passion bottled up all those years - oh my! For months did I sleep with the window open after watching Gary Oldman play Dracuuuuula hoping he would fly in.

Being funny is sexy, because being really funny also involves a certain amount of intelligence, which is, of course, very sexy. Steve Coogan has a certain sex-symbol status (although not when playing Alan Partridge) but he also has a reputation as a sex maniac, so there is an added dimension here. And for ages, until he started doing those Kentucky Fried Chicken ads, I thought Ryan Stiles was sexy indeed (all that improvisation on Whose Line is it Anyway?)

George Clooney does absolutely nothing for me, but I can see why some women like him. He is lovely to look at and has a hint of naughtiness about him. But he is not quite the full biscuit sexy. He also looks like he could turn into George Hamilton in later life, if he is not careful, which is surely a minus in anyone's book. But being really sexy has nothing to do with what you look like, it is to do with how you are and this is best illustrated by my Mr Jack Nicholson story.

A friend of mine once recounted having to serve Nicholson when he came into the designer menswear shop where she worked: "He came in and I thought, 'He's not that sexy.' But then, as I led him up the stairs to the upper sales floor, he touched the small of my back with one hand, lifted up his sunglasses with the other and looked me straight in the eyes. His eyes were incredible, like lasers and he said, 'So, Gillian...' I very nearly fainted."

Jack scores high in the sexy stakes, but then, he is naturally sexy and he knows his stuff. Touching the small of someone's back is a very intimate and confident thing to do. Confidence is sexy, it smacks of taking charge (sexy) and being so overcome with a need to touch you that they just can't help it (very sexy). (Of course, if you are Paul Daniels, there is no point doing this.) Then he puts off the moment of staring straight into her eyes, thus building tension (sexy), but then a) looks straight at her (really very sexy) thus making her feel like she is the only woman in the world (fantastically sexy) and then b) remembering and using her name! This is so sexy I may have to take a break here.

A little vox pop I conducted. Sandra, 24: "Being a good dancer is really sexy in a man. And them talking to you like they are really interested." Hannah, 34: "Men who genuinely like women are sexy." Patricia, 31: "Power. And the ability to focus and concentrate. I knew this guy for ages and thought he was quite nice, but when I saw him working and concentrating... I just wanted to shag him." Nina, 37: "Focusing on you. And big hands."

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