Metrosexual is a term coined in 1994 (along with the noun, metrosexuality) by British journalist Mark Simpson, who used it to refer to an urban male of any sexual orientation who has a strong aesthetic sense and spends a great deal of time and money on his appearance and lifestyle.
He is the fashion - conscious target audience of men's magazines:
- The promotion of metrosexuality was left to the men's style press, magazines such as The Face, Gentlemen's Quarterly, Esquire, Arena and FHM, the new media which took off in the 1980s and is still growing (GQ gains 10,000 new readers every month). They filled their magazines with images of narcissistic young men sporting fashionable clothes and accessories. And they persuaded other young men to study them with a mixture of envy and desire.
- Some people said unkind things. American GQ, for example, was popularly dubbed "Gay Quarterly". Little wonder that all these magazines - with the possible exception of The Face - address their metrosexual readership as if none of them were homosexual or even bisexual.
Outside Britain, in its soundbite diffusion through the popular media, metrosexual has congealed into something more digestible: a heterosexual male who is in touch with his feminine side - he color coordinates, cares deeply about exfoliation, and has perhaps manscaped.
While included in the original definition, gay men are not "metrosexual" in common usage, since such interests are stereotypically considered gay. When used in this way, "metrosexuality" could be considered a type of cultural appropriation of gay culture by straight men. On the other hand, the existence of the term at all suggests an increasing awareness of the possibility that stereotypical behavior cannot be used to read a person's sexual identity.
In major urban areas such as San Francisco, Boston, NYC, and Seattle, the metrosexual may be seen as a modern day fop or dandy. Like Victorian-era gentlemen, metrosexuals are sometimes considered especially masculine in the sense that they can relate to and empathize with women in an attempt to foster a relationship (or a sexual tryst) with them.
In some circles, however, metrosexual is used to refer to a closeted gay man. This usage developed as a rejection of the idea that style-conscious men could be straight, and as a focus on the cultural cues by which gay men have sometimes been identified.
Evolution of usage
The origin of the term traces to a 1200 word article titled "Here come the mirror men" dissecting the new urbane man by Mark Simpson, published on November 15, 1994 in The Independent, a major British daily. Barely any usage of the term in print publications can be found in the same decade. Beginning around June 2003, the term frequently appeared in the British press. A June 22, 2003 New York Times article titled "Metrosexuals Come Out" inaugurated fashionable usage of the word in the American media. The rising popularity of use followed the increasing integration of gay men into mainstream society and a correspondingly decreased taboo towards homosexuality (and, by extension, the appearance of homosexuality or effeminacy). Over a short span, Canada introduced and enacted into law, same-sex marriage legislation, the US Supreme Court struck down anti-sodomy statutes as unconstitutional in Lawrence v. Texas, and gay characters and themes, long present on TV shows like Will & Grace, made further inroads. In particular, the Bravo network introduced Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, a show in which stereotypically style - and culture-conscious gay men gave advice to their heterosexual counterparts.
Retrosexual: The Anti-Metro
A retrosexual is a man with a generally poor sense of style -- not necessarily a boor; rather, someone who rejects being finicky about physical appearance. It is the opposite of a metrosexual.
- Beckham is the uber-metrosexual, not just because he rams metrosexuality down the throats of those men churlish enough to remain retrosexual and refuse to pluck their eyebrows, but also because he is a sportsman, a man of substance â€” a "real" man â€” who wishes to disappear into surfaceness in order to become ubiquitous â€” to become media.
The retrosexual lifestyle is most popular and societally accepted among men aged 18-24. However, the term is rarely used as a self-descriptor by such men, as they tend to prefer such terms as "real man", "old school", or "masculine" and see "retrosexual" as symptomatic of the very pretension they reject.
A man who rejects casual sex as mindless and immoral may also be known as a retrosexual.
Media explaining the term often rely on citing a few individuals as prime illustrations. David Beckham has been called a "metrosexual icon" and is often coupled next to the term. Amply referred to individuals usually include actors such as Brad Pitt and George Clooney but even Donald Rumsfeld has been mentioned as a metrosexual in "an antediluvian way". Historical figures would include George Armstrong Custer who luxuriated in resplendent clothing.
- Simpson, Mark. (November 15, 1994). "Here come the mirror men". The Independent (London), p. 22.
- Chrisafis, Angelique. (June 16, 2003). "Spot the salmon pink shirt". The Guardian (London), p. 6.
- Dowd, Maureen. (August 3, 2003). "Butch, Butch Bush!" The New York Times, p. E11
- "Meet the Metrosexuals" Mark Simpson writes about metrosexuals in a 2002 Salon piece.
- "Gay or Straight? Hard to Tell" (New York Times, June 2005)
- "Metrosexual Tarot: 'Queer Eye' collides with The Occult" (Yahoo! Pick of the Day, December 2004)
- "The Metrosexual Defined; Narcissism and Masculinity in Popular Culture" Article exploring the commercial and sociological aspects of the metrosexual
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