Have you ever wondered what the term “metrosexual” means, where the expression originated, or whether or not you, yourself, might be considered one? Well, for starters, don’t get alarmed.
It’s not necessarily a derogatory dig. And the word is not new by any stretch of the imagination. While it may seem as if it’s only been in use for the last decade or so, the fact is it’s been around for 25 years now.
Yes, it’s hard to believe, but we humans have relatively short memories when it comes to time spans. In this look at the subject, we’ll define metrosexual and give you all the lowdown on it to get you up to speed.
Back in 1994, writer Mark Simpson was the first to coin the term. It’s actually a combination of the words “metropolitan” and “heterosexual.” On the topic, he wrote in an article for British newspaper “The Independent” that:
“Metrosexual man, the single young man with a high disposable income, living or working in the city (because that’s where all the best shops are), is perhaps the most promising consumer market of the decade. In the Eighties, he was only to be found inside fashion magazines such as GQ, in television advertisements for Levi’s jeans or in gay bars. In the Nineties, he’s everywhere and he’s going shopping.”
It wasn’t long, though, before the term was associated with men who were considered effeminate for not being rugged manly-man types.
Their crimes? This one is a combo platter.
Any man who took particular care of his appearance, used beauty or anti-aging products generally associated with women, liked to shop, and/or sported meticulously kept facial hair was and still is pegged as metrosexual.
The good news?
It’s far more accepted, and could almost be considered the norm for Millennials.
In Europe, where males preen with the same frequency as females, and they pride themselves on being natty dressers, the term means less than nothing. They are comfortable in their sexuality and therefore tend to question it less.
But here in America, a country founded on trailblazing pioneers and rugged individualists, being metrosexual is still a bit suspect by some folks—especially in more rural areas.
Perhaps that’s why so many men who fall into the category are urban dwellers. Maybe not by birth, but they hightail it to larger cities where their fastidious natures aren’t nearly so stark in contrast.
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Further Defining Metrosexuality
But it isn’t just about outward appearance and catalog shopping that earns one the label. It’s also about being informed in areas like art, culture, and interior design. It’s really nothing new.
When you think of it, much of the aristocracy throughout history could certainly be defined as being metrosexual. Nowadays, with more disposable funds and free time, it’s easier for the masses to assume the role. It’s become so prevalent everyone has weighed in on it.
The Urban Definition of Metro
When posting on the topic of how to define metrosexual, one Urban Dictionary contributor had this to say:
“A new name for something quite old. Men with taste & style who know about fashion, art, and culture have always existed. In past centuries, these kinds of men were in the upper crust of society (more leisure time). Technology has enabled men with more leisure time, so less wealthy males can now fuss over their looks and aesthetics almost as much as women.”
They went on to make a comparison to James Bond. And when you pause to mull it over, to a large extent, 007 is a pretty good example.
Besides being a man of refined tastes and style, he can also muscle his way through any given situation, and he still manages to do it with panache. He’s a ladies’ man, not a sissy man. And therein lies the confusion for a lot of people today.
Men who are defined as being “metro” are often wrongly confused with being gay. This is incorrect. They’re hetero. They just share some of the same interests and characteristics as feminine gays.
But being in touch with your feminine side as a male has always been viewed skeptically. Regardless, it doesn’t make it accurate. Here are some of the other markers that have—rightly or wrongly—been attributed to the metrosexual segment of the population.
According to Simpson’s initial evaluation of metro males, they likely fit into one of two classes of narcissism: they’re in love with themselves, or they love the idea of what they might become someday. Who doesn’t dream of self-improvement?
2. Worse than Women
When it comes to getting ready, they spend more time doing so than their sisters, mothers, girlfriends, or wives.
3. Do these Jeans Make Me Look Fat?
They’re every bit as concerned with fit as fashion itself. That means they’ll turn around for a posterior looksie just as quickly as a woman to ensure a more flattering fit with those designer duds.
4. Beauty Regimen
Metro guys know the importance of a good hydrating regimen and regularly apply moisturizers and conditioners just like the ladies.
5. Developed Wardrobe
They know how to coordinate a wardrobe and are not ashamed of it. You won’t catch them wearing the wrong loafers to any event.
Other marks of a true metrosexual man include:
- Manscapers — There’s seldom a hair anywhere on their body that hasn’t been carefully attended to.
- Attention to Detail — They are meticulous by nature.
- Looking Good — It’s all about being well-groomed and looking good.
- Personal Pride — It’s also as much about looking good to themselves as it is to look good for women.
- Physical Fitness — Like a lot of gay males, metrosexuals tend to keep themselves more physically fit than other heterosexual men.
- In Tune — They are more sensitive than their testosterone-driven kinsman.
- Shopping — It’s not a four-letter word or dreaded event but a pastime.
The Resurgence of Barbershops
More appropriately termed as men’s stylist salons, if you hadn’t noticed, barbershops are on the rebound. Yes, they’ve made a comeback.
But they’re not the buzz-cut joints of yesteryear where you basically had three choices for a cut, and the end result was pretty much the same. Instead, haircuts are as creative as you want them and shaves are primarily out. Manicured beards are in.
Many of them offer beer and wine, and cigar smoking is pretty standard. As far as services and products, they now feature a myriad of conditioners for both facial hair and the hair atop your head.
The Day Spa Barber
Some shops even offer the latest waxing techniques, just like in a women’s salon or day spa.
In fact, that’s pretty much what they amount to: a day spa for men without all the Zen music and fancy Queen Anne décor. But pastels aside, this is currently a booming business all across the country.
Another point of note is that the owners or these establishments and their crews are all hetero, not gay, as some might wonder. This stereotype is another common misconception about male hairdressers, but that’s another story.
The Rise of Metro
The point is, more and more men are ascribing to the lifestyle, and we really shouldn’t be surprised. For the last few decades, we’ve been encouraging little boys to refrain from bottling everything up inside.
We are teaching them to not only be more in touch with their emotions but that there’s nothing wrong with having them, either.
We teach children nowadays to be more accepting and less judgmental. To be more respectful of others’ feelings. The bottom line is that we’re teaching them to be more sensitive and introspective.
Between that, more time/money, and the media, movies, and television setting examples of what to wear and whom to emulate, the results were inevitable. And not that any of this is a bad thing.
Remember, there have always been men who have leaned that way. Now, with gender roles dissipating, they don’t have to hide it or “Butch” up for fear of ridicule or reprisal.
About 10 years after the word first surfaced in the American vernacular, the “New York Times” did a piece on unabashedly metro males. Which, by the way, we should add that most are.
The article focused as much on the metrosexual male as it did on the fact marketers everywhere wanted to cash in on the increasing trend.
As it turns out, dapper Dans were even recruited for focus groups to determine shopping and other consumer patterns.
History of Metrosexuality
This was back in 2003, the same year “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” debuted. At the time, the cable network described the show as five gay men ”transform a style-deficient and culture-deprived straight man from drab to fab.”
Apparently, it wasn’t trendy or edgy enough to have a group of metrosexual guys guiding a fashion-challenged straight through the process of dressing himself.
Products for Metro Men
Since then, branding for men’s products has taken off like no other point in history. Just think of all the Axe products, male-specific moisturizers, facial treatments, and men’s styling gels we’re bombarded with daily.
The advertising has been so relentless, it doesn’t even raise an eyebrow anymore. We’ve more or less grown accustomed to it.
But it’s really not any different to a time when advertisers tried to sell men on the concept of deodorant, which was thought of as a woman’s toiletry for decades. Thankfully, they eventually got on board with it.
Cosmetically Building the Metro Man
This newfound embrace of vanity among men has even gone so far as to include record numbers of cosmetic surgeries to enhance appearance. Besides rhinoplasties and facelifts, men are having implants placed in their chests, lower legs, and upper arms.
Why, you might ask?
To give the appearance of more muscular pecs, biceps, and calves. They’re even going under the knife for butt implants. Seems women aren’t the only ones who want to look shapely anymore.
The Truth Behind the Definition of Metrosexual
The “Times’” piece went on to reveal the truth behind Mark Simpson’s remarks on the subject. With a sense of irony, what began as mockery for the marketing community turned into a very real and profitable segment of consumerism for them.
“Paradoxically, the term metrosexual, which is now being embraced by marketers, was coined in the mid-90’s to mock everything marketers stand for. The gay writer Mark Simpson used the word to satirize what he saw as consumerism’s toll on traditional masculinity. Men didn’t go to shopping malls, buy glossy magazines or load up on grooming products, Mr. Simpson argued, so consumer culture promoted the idea of a sensitive guy — who went to malls, bought magazines and spent freely to improve his personal appearance.”
Embracing the Metrosexual You
Whether you identify yourself as such, how you define metrosexual is up to you. You don’t necessarily have to share all of these traits to be considered so and be comfortable with it.
And you have good reason to be comfortable with it. Honestly, not everyone is looking for an emotionally stunted he-man type for a life partner or even a fling.
There are plenty of women who not only don’t have a problem with metro males, they actually prefer them. A guy that’s in touch with his feelings who happens to be straight is considered a real catch.
Single women everywhere—including those on dating apps—will appreciate your attentiveness, grooming habits, and attention to detail.
Early Examples of Metro Men
For some early examples of metrosexual guys that got the chicks through their suave fashion-sense, well-maintained skin, and shiny locks, think Don Johnson as Sonny Crocket in “Miami Vice” and his partner Ricardo Tubbs.
These two could have been the poster duo for the expression back in the mid ‘80s and early ‘90s before Simpson became flippant about it a few years later.
They were considered virile hunks and trend setters wearing linen suites and Gucci loafers without socks—setting off a debatable trend that some men insist on clinging to today. They were also capable of being sensitive. Another plus.
But the point is they were guys that other guys admired and wanted to be. Especially Gen Xers, whose own kids, Millennials, would one day follow their fathers’ subtle, subconscious cues.
The Metro Generation
Gen Y may opt now for a full, luxurious beard that is neatly trimmed over a two-day stubble, but maintenance and the time put into creating the effect is still the same.
It’s about appearance and being comfortable in your own skin. It’s also about effort, which is something a lot of non-metro heteros don’t always do.
So, there’s another obvious advantage metro guys have over other straights.
And if you’re looking for even earlier examples, you could turn to Fred Astaire or Cary Grant. Grant, the ultimate heart throb in his day, had it all as far as women were concerned.
Dapper and stylish both on and off screen, they were also often rumored to be gay as a result of their tendency toward well-cut clothing and impeccable grooming. Both men married and were ultimately fantastic role models for generations of men to follow.
The Grandfather of Metrosexuality
If you’d like to learn more about the man some have dubbed as the “grandfather” of the movement, there’s a lot to be gleaned on Mark Simpson on sites such as Wikipedia.
The info site describes how it wasn’t until the early 2000s when Simpson revisited the subject with “Salon” that the term gained global popularity.
At the time, Simpson was quoted as describing footballer David Beckham as “the biggest metrosexual in Britain” and provided an updated definition of the term to the interviewer.
While it was even snarkier than the first go around, very few men would deny that there are far worse things than being compared to an athlete and sex symbol such as Beckham. Another role model to many young men, they’d take that as a compliment.