Guest Post: Metrosexuality, is it a choice?
Metrosexuality has become a common term for describing men that aren’t afraid to get in touch with their feminine side. Or at least, that’s the popular conception of metrosexuality, which is primarily defined by the use of moisturisers, excessive hair product, and attention to fashion and the gym. The term came into use in a Mark Simpson article in the early 2000s, and has since become the default way for talking about heterosexual men’s fashion and grooming. However, whether or not metrosexuality is a choice really comes down to the superficial way in which it is defined, some of the reactions to it as a term, and the ways in which it simplifies a more mundane set of trends.
Key Features of Metrosexuality
Some of the key features of metrosexuality include a close attachment by heterosexual men to grooming and to fashion, as well as to visiting hairdressers instead of barbers, and bars instead of pubs. Metrosexual men are also often identified with taking an inordinate amount of care of themselves at the gym, while also being unafraid to experiment with waxing and androgynous fashions.
One of the more typical go-to examples of metrosexuality is David Beckham, whose wearing of sarongs and attention to personal grooming at the early stage of his celebrity became the embodiment of the term. The term also has strong links to ideas of urban consumerism, and the ways in which fashion and grooming items appeal to different genders and ages.
In terms of critics of metrosexuality, many see this overindulgence in style as reflective of androgynous sexuality and confused gender roles. Some see metrosexuality as symptomatic of the decline of traditional male roles and role models in society, as well as part of a more general lowering of moral standards. Most of these criticisms come from conservative voices on the religious Right, with metrosexuality being positioned as breaking with a traditional idea of masculinity, or as being too feminised.
However, these arguments overshadow how much metrosexuality is a choice, but one that is marketed and set up as perhaps being more significant than it actually is. On the one hand, metrosexuality is typically an exaggerated way of labelling any behaviour that is deemed as traditionally feminine, and as displaying forms of weakness. However, in terms of how products are marketed to men, the appeal of metrosexuality is typically linked to increased attractiveness, rather than anything deviant or unusual.
In this sense, metrosexuality is a choice that doesn’t do more than put a label on what has been a much longer term trend. Gender and sexual roles are rarely static, and historical examples like 18th century dandies, and the androgynous fashions of the 1970s in pop music represent just some ways of countering the idea of metrosexuality as a contemporary phenomenon. What metrosexuality instead represents, then, is an already outdated way of trying to take into account the greater visibility, if not the novelty of trends in men’s fashion as just one choice that is taken by individuals.
Rob James is a men’s fashion expert currently working in conjunction with Matrix Uniforms, a leading UK provider of corporate uniforms to almost all business sectors. Rob writes for several publications on a range of subject, primarily focusing on the fashion industry.
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