-- If youd rather go shopping for the latest styles in GQ magazine than go fishing or to a NASCAR race, you might be a metrosexual...
-- If youve ever considered getting a Brazilian bikini wax down there, you might be a metrosexual...
-- If you... well, you get the picture -- for men, being a metrosexual is the flip side of you might be a redneck. Especially here in Northern Michigan where the urban environment of the metrosexual is a rare and far between thing.
In fact, much of the metrosexual trend seems to have blown right by Northern Michigan. But for a humorous primer on the subject, check out The Reluctant Metrosexual: Dispatches from an Almost Hip Life, by Peter Hyman, a paperback published by Villard Books.
WHAT IT IS
In a series of essays on Internet dating, Mexican vacations, leather pants, massage with a happy ending, women who vomit on the first date, group sex and other trendy topics, Hyman has some wry fun spoofing the urban male lifestyle of the 90s. Hes a slightly gayish-looking straight man living in a Queer Eye for the Straight Guy world, cynically aware that the whole metrosexual thing is just a marketing ploy akin to the Gen-X craze of the early 1990s.
For those who arent up to speed, Hyman offers a definition:
metrosexual met.roh.SEK.shool.ul n. (1994): a dandyish heterosexual narcissist in love with not only himself but also his urban lifestyle; a straight man in touch with his feminine side.
Metrosexuals are distinguished by their interests in style, good grooming and the pleasures of the urban lifestyle. Unfortunately, Hyman notes, men with these attributes have been slapped with a marketing label to identify their slot as consumers.
A straight man cannot exhibit good taste in design or home furnishings, or the competence to dress himself in something other than golf shirts and pleated Dockers, without social theorists and the advertising industry boxing him into a corner and pinning him with a label that functions as the cultural equivalent of a scarlet letter N (for NARCISSIST, or NAME-BRAND NERD), he writes.
Thats why few, if any, men refer to themselves as metrosexuals. Hyman himself admits that he latched onto the term primarily for marketing purposes to give his book of essays a hook.
WERE THE NEW WOMEN
But whether you care to admit your membership or not, the fact remains that the metrosexual lifestyle is a real phenomenon. Heterosexual men are borrowing a sense of style from the gay culture in the same way that early white rock & rollers such as Elvis Presley borrowed from the music of black America.
The term metrosexual was coined in 1994 by Mark Simpson, a British queer theorist who used the word to satirize the phenomenon of strays -- gay-acting straight men who, with their disposable incomes and consumeristic obsessions, were shopping in record numbers in London.
That revelation produced books such as The Metrosexual Guide to Style: A Handbook for the Modern Man, and scads of magazine articles and chit-chat on the new man on daytime TV talk shows.
The trend dovetailed with the claim in the mid-90s that men are the new women, meaning that men had broken with macho traditions and are suddenly just as concerned with their bodies, clothing and grooming as many image-conscious women. Going to the gym has become a major priority for many men, as has close attention to hair styles and adorning the body with tattoos and piercings. Todays emphasis on male beauty harkens back to ancient Greek ideals depicted in nude statues of buff gods and athletes.
Why is metrosexuality happening now? Hyman wonders. Experts suggest it coincides with an explosion in male vanity -- men apparently care more today about the way they look than ever before -- which has been gaining momentum over the past 15 years.
You dont have to look far for signs of the metrosexual trend. This summer, for instance, it was reported that a number of male movie stars and pop singers are having the hair removed from between the cheeks of their rear-ends in what sounds like an especially painful wax job.
Mark Wahlbergs ad for Calvin Klein boxer briefs in the early 90s got men suddenly very concerned over the state of their abs.
The development of mens skin care products and cosmetics revives notions of the 1700s when men wore powdered wigs, hosiery and makeup.
Facials, manicures, pedicures and other spa services for men.
In an ironic twist, spoofing redneck culture by wearing trucker hats, chain wallets, Hooters T-shirts and mullets.
Ultimately, its all about shopping, Hyman says.
The metrosexual revolution is not so much an uprising as it is a more efficient way to sell expensive face creams, allowing marketers to trade on good, old-fashioned insecurity (a method that has been successfully imposed on women for decades). Men with disposable incomes who like to shop, it seems, are this years black.
A law school dropout, former Vanity Fair staffer and confirmed heterosexual, Hyman wants what every metrosexual yearns for: a model/Fulbright scholar girlfriend, the job with generous stock options, and the well-appointed 2BR w/vu on New Yorks upper West Side. Instead, he routinely finds himself single and unemployed in his closet-free walk-up and the last woman he liked, got back together with her lesbian lover.
Even in Northern Michigan, its not hard to find men who fit the bill described above, although their digs may be centered in downtown TC or Petoskey, rather than Manhattan.
Ultimately, being a metrosexual is about a mans freedom to express his creative/feminine side... along with that shopping thing.
Metrosexuality, in its highest form, is supposed to represent the freedom for the straight male to tap his creative and sensitive wellsprings, without fear of reprisal, Hyman writes. As the rigidly constructed roles regarding masculinity are loosened, those gray-area feminine behaviors become more acceptable.
So go ahead and drink the Kool-Aid of metrosexuality without guilt. Enjoy that fruit-based facial and eucalyptus steam bath. Shop for your flat-front trousers and Italian tassel loafers with a carefree spirit. Ride your Vespa helmet-free with an American Spirit clenched between your teeth. Consider a new pair of black leather pants. As a metrosexual, youve got permission to act on your impulses.