Cruxnews.com By Michael S. Rose
A new breed of man has arrived, one that has evolved well beyond the knuckle-scraping Joe American of years past. He’s called the “metrosexual.”
Trend-spotter Marian Salzman has news: A new breed of man has arrived on the continent, one that has evolved well beyond the knuckle-scraping Joe American of years past. He’s called the “metrosexual.” Young, single and hopelessly self-absorbed, he chafes against the restrictions of traditional male roles—he does what he wants, buys what he wants, enjoys what he wants, regardless of whether some people might consider him unmanly along the way. As a casualty of feminism, he’s also low on self-esteem, which makes him Madison Avenue’s latest milch cow.
Salzman, author of Buzz: Harness the Power of Influence and Create Demand, was the spokeswoman behind last year’s study by advertising giant Euro RSCG that allegedly examined the “attitudes and ambitions of 21st century man.” Although the New York-based market strategist can be credited with importing the catchy new buzzword “metrosexual” to North America from the British isles, where it has been sliding off the lips of London’s hippest for nearly a decade, she is not responsible for putting a name to this new breed of hyper-consumer she’s now promoting. That distinction goes to British columnist Mark Simpson, who Vogue has called “the gay anti-Christ”—and meant it as a compliment.
According to The Word Spy, a website that tracks the use of trendy new words, ‘metrosexual’ is defined as a “dandyish narcissist in love with not only himself, but also his urban lifestyle.”
According to Simpson, a metrosexual can be either gay, straight, or bisexual. All that “orientation” stuff is irrelevant, says the gay anti-Christ, because above all—and this is the important part—the metrosexual “has clearly taken himself as his own love object and pleasure as his sexual preference.”
Although Simpson uses the term metrosexual with tongue-in-cheek, Salzman takes it seriously—and is determined to cash in on the new breed. After all, that’s her job. To this end, she’s redefined the metrosexual as decidedly straight. There’s a reason for this. Fashion profiteers are now setting their sights on the straight male, who has long been the most difficult consumer to reach.
According to the Euro RSCG report entitled “Metrosexual Man Embraces Feminism,” the ideal straight dandy describes himself as easygoing, caring, and open-minded. He’s sensitive, in touch with his soft and emotional feminine side, and not afraid to manicure his appearance to show it. You’ll find him primping and pampering himself at his vanity case. He sees nothing wrong with getting a facial, a pedicure, or a tummy tuck. He prefers beauty salons to barber shops, cosmetic fragrances to cologne, Weight Watchers to pumping iron, and hand moisturizer to soap (it’s too harsh on his skin). He loves to shop, wear Diesel jeans, and have long conversations about thread counts. If he’s one of the bolder in the crowd, he might powder his face, wear eyeliner, or polish his nails.
Don’t believe it? Take for example the most oft-cited metrosexual pinup, David Beckham, England’s all-time greatest soccer personality. Beckham wears fingernail polish, braids his hair, and even poses for gay magazines—all the while maintaining his definitive heterosexuality, with a fashion-plate wife at his side to prove it.
Inspired by Beckham’s boundless narcissism, Salzman is doing a bang-up job of promoting her new marketing stereotype in the U.S. An article in The New York Times, reporting on Euro RSCG’s alleged trend analysis, not only gave its imprimatur to the newly imported buzzword and Salzman’s Madison Avenue interpretation of it, but also issued a clarion call for straight dandies to come out of the closet and accessorize.
The Times takes androgynously named Karru Martinson as the exemplary metrosexual. The 30-year-old Manhattan nobody unabashedly reveals that he “uses a $40 face cream, wears Bruno Magli shoes and custom tailored shirts… His hair is always just so, thanks to three brands of shampoo and the precise application of three hair grooming products: Textureline Smoothing Serum, got2b styling glue and Suave Rave hairspray.”
Right-minded persons will recognize this for what it is: the glorification of narcissism used as a manipulative marketing tool. But that’s hardly anything new. Women were the first obvious targets of the self-improvement marketing strategies that reduced the human person to mindless consumers infatuated with themselves and alienated from their families. Gay men, who provide the prototype for metrosexuals, were the next obvious target. Marketed by the purveyors of consumer culture as the sensitive man par excellence, the dapper gay proved to be a willing, even enthusiastic, participant in his own exploitation. The crusade has now shifted onto the straight dandies of the 21st century, who like Karru are willing to play right along, swapping their masculine integrity for fragrant glossy magazines and overpriced grooming products that promise perpetual enslavement to an unhealthy preoccupation with the self.
Male-targeted vanity products are already lining the shelves in fashionable spots across the nation, just waiting to be discovered by metrosexuals emerging from the closet to adopt the neurotic consumer strategies of style-conscious gay men and fashion-obsessed women. There’s all-body deodorant spray that promises to make men smell better than their mothers on Easter. There are close-shave razors, skin moisturizers, hair rinses, and—apparently—styling glue. As a last resort for the aging metrosexual who has progressed beyond the help of whale sperm dermo-care, there’s always plastic surgery procedures for men—lip and chin augmentation, abdominal liposuction, and laser skin resurfacing are the most popular. The Times reports that these vanity procedures for men have increased threefold since 1997, though it’s left to the reader to speculate whether it’s the homosexuals or the metrosexuals who are entrusting their flesh to the scalpel.
Cable television is also well-ahead of the curve, leaving viewers to wonder whether the mass-media is mirroring this anti-culture or actually manufacturing it. (By the same token, one wonders if Salzman and her Euro RSCG are responsible for spotting trends or creating and marketing them.) In addition to socially decadent TV programs like Bravo’s gay dating show Boy Meets Boy and ShowTime’s Queer as Folk sitcom, both of which glamorize the stylish urban gay male, the pioneering Bravo network has made it big with Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, a makeover program in which, according to the network, an elite team of gay men known as the Fab 5 set out each week to “transform a style-deficient and culture deprived straight man from drab to fab in each of their respective categories: fashion, food and wine, interior design, grooming and culture.” In just 24 hours, a mediocre straight guy gets reduced to a light-in-his-loafers metrosexual while the eyes of a nation look on.
Once all the hype is stripped away, however, the bottom line is this: the metrosexual is nothing more than a feminized man—effete, insecure, and socially emasculated—seeking to re-empower himself in a world in which the sexes are artificially converging. Forget the Marlboro Man with square jaw, broad shoulders, and five o’clock shadow. The intentionally effeminate metrosexual is another fruit of the postmodern sexual assault, specifically an assault on masculine integrity, but no less an assault on human sexuality in general. In a word, the complementarity of the sexes, male and female, is being eroded by cultural influences in the world of fashion marketeering. If the industry has its way, man as unequivocally male and masculine will become as rare as the definitively female and feminine woman.