Metrosexuality: Degradation or Evolution? December 03 2004 by Jasmeen Vella Women’s cosmetic products, beauty tips for women, women’s spas, healthy diets and fitness programs for women, women’s latest hairstyle trends… Can you determine the superfluous word in these combinations? You’re right, it’s“women”. We didn’t have the need to specify before as almost everything related to beauty and fashion has always been associated with females. Today, when women emancipation is booming and the line dividing two genders is blurring, the new breed of male species is bushing out, sweeping off the rest of wobbly gender-role structure. These men seem to ignore gender stereotypes and adopt what was traditionally perceived as feminine traits, enjoying designer clothes, pricey haircuts, skin care products, facials and shopping sprees. “Metrosexual”, the phenomenon of the new effeminate type of a man, has been the buzzword of the last couple of years. We owe this new term to British satirist Mark Simpson who coined it in 1994 to describe narcissistic David Beckham and sugary beautiful men with hairless bodies from Abercrombie & Fitch and Calvin Klein underwear ads. According to his description,“The typical metrosexual is a young man with money to spend, living in or within easy reach of a metropolis - because that’s where all the best shops, clubs, gyms and hairdressers are. He might be officially gay, straight or bisexual, but this is utterly immaterial because he has clearly taken himself as his own love object and pleasure as his sexual preference. Particular professions, such as modelling, waiting tables, media, pop music and, nowadays, sport, seem to attract them but, truth be told, like male vanity products and herpes, they’re pretty much everywhere.” But Simpson just introduced the name of the phenomenon that has always had a place in our society. London dandies performing mazurka, musketeers in lace and ruches, fops in tight leggings and powdered wigs from the17th century… The difference of the modern expression of the“trend” is just in the growing quantity of such men. According to the recent study done by Mintel International, 90% of the American men said it’s OK to go to beauty salons and spas. World’s leading designers began to create exclusive“metrosexual” garments. Jean Paul Gaultier’s exotic men’s collection for Summer 2004 was named“Erase Your Prejudices” and included various skirts and dresses. The growing field of men’s cosmetics, including Clinique, Menaji Skincare for Men and Tout Beau Tout Propre by Jean Paul Gaultier, caters products to appearance-conscious males. As showed a Psychology Today survey, 43% of men are dissatisfied with their overall appearance. 63% are unhappy with their abdomen in particular, making abdominal liposuction an especially popular plastic surgery. According to the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the number of lip augmentation procedures in men in the U.S. increased by a startling 421% from 2001 to 2002. An animal-resembling macho-type, prevailing in our society for a few decades and stirring up women’s blood, seems to be yielding its positions to refined aesthete who spends a great deal of time and money on his appearance and lifestyle. Who are these men? Heroes of today or mere victims of the modern fashion and media industry? In some experts’ opinion, they are a fabrication of glossy magazine advertisers who exploit modern male insecurities, making these males’ attention to personal appearance morbid and obsessive. The men’s style press, magazines such as The Face, GQ, Esquire, Arena and FHM, the TV shows like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, where“an elite team of gay men” transforms“a style-deficient and culture-deprived straight man from drab to fab”, and Manhunt: The Search for America’s Most Gorgeous Male Model that“focuses the camera on the ever-neglected world of male fashion models”, serve as the key promotional source of metrosexuality. Some look for the reasons in economics. Good grooming and nice clothes have become a necessary attribute of the business world. Money offers people a variety of things and allows them to take advantage of that. And the last major reason is claimed to be women. As they become more emancipated and independent, they no longer rely on their men as much. Thus, making money for the family stops being a priority for a man and gives him an opportunity to focus more attention on himself. According to Simpson’s article Meet the Metrosexual,“the more independent, wealthy, self-centered and powerful women become, the more they are likely to want attractive, well-groomed, well-dressed men around them. Though not for very long. By the same token, the less men can rely on women, the more likely they are to take care of themselves. Narcissism becomes a survival strategy.” But where is the border between self care and obsessive preoccupation with physical appearance? 30-year-old Karru Martinson, who participated in discussion about metrosexuality along with 11 other“like-minded straight guys who were into Diesel jeans, interior design, yoga and Mini Coopers, and who would never think of ordering a vodka tonic without specifying Grey Goose or Ketel One”, uses three brands of shampoo and three hair grooming products to fix his hairdo, applies a $40 face cream, wears Bruno Magli shoes and custom-tailored shirts. Mr. Martinson lives in Manhattan and works in finance. In his spare time he likes to visit wine bars and enjoys shopping with his female pals who trust his great eye for fashion and style. “From a personal perspective there was never any doubt what my sexual orientation was,” he said. “I’m straight as an arrow.” But Karru also claims that metrosexuality is not only about hair gel, but includes education, professionalism, appreciation of nuances and details, interest in new things, and thoughtfulness. “Men are now feeling some of the pressure to look good and meet a physical ideal that women have felt for a long time,” said Lenka Contreras, director of consumer products practice at Kline & Company. But do all women actually look for such an ideal? Alexa Hackbarth wrote in her article“Vanity, Thy Name is Metrosexual” for The Washington Post: “At dinner the other night, my date listed the calorie count of the main entrees, raising an eyebrow at my chicken Alfredo selection after he had ordered a salad. I saw him check his reflection in the silver water pitcher three times. During dessert, he looked deeply into my eyes and told me he thought what we have together is very special. It was our third date. “It was then that I realized why my dating life has been as mysterious as the Bermuda Triangle since I arrived in Washington. This city, unlike any other place I’ve lived, is a haven for the metrosexual. A metrosexual, in case you didn’t catch any of several newspaper articles about this developing phenomenon (or the recent “South Park” episode on Comedy Central), is a straight man who styles his hair using three different products (and actually calls them “products”), loves clothes and the very act of shopping for them, and describes himself as sensitive and romantic. In other words, he is a man who seems stereotypically gay except when it comes to sexual orientation.” Men should understand that we don’t enjoy a touch of rough dirty hands with nails and cuticles mutilated with teeth, a view of callous men’s heels, naturalness of innate human body odors, and vain exhortations that sandals should not be worn over socks and baseball cap doesn’t go with shoes. We do appreciate clean underwear, unobtrusive scent of nice cologne, joint delight from exquisite cuisine and discussion of art novelties over a glass of French wine. But why such trepidation, rapture and desire run through us when we watch the filthy and sweaty yet courageous and masculine heroes of Troy,Gladiatorand King Arthur or the macho likes of Antonio Banderas and Benicio del Toro? Probably, we do not always want to hear from a man about latest fashion novelties, skin care advice and beauty tips. For that we have our girlfriends. We want to know that when looking into our eyes a man is not enjoying his reflection in our pupils, but is concerned about something deeper than them, and that his mind is focused on something slightly more significant that a dilemma over deodorant brand selection.