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METRO IS MASCULINE?

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One of the most fascinating, yet often overlooked details of our society is the way men dress. Lately, I have heard new words thrown around like, Metrosexual; a twenty-first century term generally applied to heterosexual men with a strong concern for their appearance, or whose lifestyles display attributes stereotypically attributed to gay men. In current years, it appears that many more men are becoming "fashionable" and put careful thought and consideration into the way they dress. Because of the seemingly gay persona exuded by these straight males, it is almost difficult to decipher a gay and a straight man when walking down the street. However, those who are metrosexual heterosexuals don't seem to mind the fact that they may be portraying similar attributes of stereotypically gay males, as growing numbers of men are hopping on the hypothetical “metro-train”. This is a large step for our society considering that not to long ago, it was largely frowned upon to be gay. It seems that even those who do oppose the gay lifestyle can agree that they generally do one thing extremely well; dress to impress. Being fashionable is no longer a stereotype defined strictly by women and gay men. Clothing styles for men are ever-changing, but most recently is the development of the confident, fashionable, twenty-first century, metrosexual male who appears to be in for the long-haul.

There increasing numbers of men in today’s society who take pride in their appearance, however there is no particular cause we can pinpoint for the occurrence of these new metrosexual males. Today, for men -- particularly young men -- it is always a question of swish or swagger. As author Calvin Sandborn says, society used to assign certain characteristics to men, including power, aggressiveness, professional success and autonomy. Other, shall we say, swishier traits were expected only of women. However, during the twentieth century, women have fought against suppression and inequality. The new female image has challenged tradition. Women have realized and pursued their right to be equal to men. In recent years women have become increasingly more powerful, educated, and affluent. You could always find some exceptions, but while catching up with or surpassing men at school and at in the job market, young women have dumped much of the feminine to embrace the masculine traits that stereotypically represent success. The modern woman has left some young men wondering what it means these days to be a guy. 'Men are in and out of relationships, and it forces them to work harder at their appearance because they have to be on the lookout for a partner.' Equally, the society that today's young men grow up in is markedly more feminised than that of previous generations. 'Men socialize more with their female friends, they're quite likely to work for a female boss, and they may earn less than their partner. As women become more dominant, men left to explore their softer sides (Eshun). Metrosexuals bend the gender role freely, as do women. A preppy guy in high school might pair a lime-green Polo Ralph Lauren shirt with light yellow J. Crew pants, a Lily Pulitzer belt and Rainbow flip-flops. Lots of guys gel their hair and wouldn't think of going out without fragrant cologne. Body waxing is a booming business among men in their late teens and early twenties, and exfoliating creams for men often sell for fifty dollars and more (Stepp). In this day and time, it is hard to say what constitutes as masculine. Writer for Men’s News Daily, Tom Purcell, is appalled at the current rise of metrosexual males. He says, “We must go back a little ways to see how the American male has ended up in such a pathetic state. Some feminists weren't content to improve equality and opportunity for women. No, they wanted to destroy the enemy and the enemy was the American male.” Though Purcell’s American male may be lost, it does not necessarily mean men are less masculine. Since the compliment of masculinity is femininity, it only makes sense to determine the masculinity of a man with his ability to find a feminine counterpart, an interested woman. It may be logical to assume the new, more masculine twenty-first century woman, could call for a more feminine male. Therefore, a more feminine male may controversially be, by definition, more masculine. The balance between fashion and masculinity reached by the new metrosexual male may be the natural equilibrium, caused by the rise of strong, independent, stereotypically masculine career women.

Metrosexuals may appear unusual to some people because of how different men’s style was as our generation was growing up. If you think about it, every generation has its own style, whether the style is derived from the past, or if it is new. The past generations have had their own unique styles, but typically men’s apparel is generally aimed towards practicality. However, this was not always the case. There are many practical items once considered unmanly, that are commonly worn by the most masculine males of today. You can go as far back as Frederick William, an 18th-century Prussian king and father of Frederick the Great, who beat his son for wearing gloves in cold weather because it was "an effeminate behavior, worthy only of a Frenchman"(Derksen). Contrarily, today it would be considered wise to wear gloves, as they are far more practical than freezing your fingers off, or tearing up your hands. When the helmet first showed up on football fields, Yale's three-time All American from 1889-1891, Pudge Heffelfinger said, "None of that sissy stuff for me"(Stewart). It appears anything that would cause males seem more vulnerable was ruled emasculate, regardless of safety and practicality. Today, men use many of these once unacceptable items daily; the reason being, they are practical and beneficial, and therefore one can overlook their, by tradition, emasculating qualities. Style is always changing depending on what works with current conditions. Perhaps the reason for the metrosexual male is similar. New research proves that people naturally work harder when they’re around a good-looking person. There’s an inherent desire to be near well-groomed people and to please them (Trump). “The existence of a beauty premium in the labor market and the male-female wage gap suggests that appearance can matter in the real world”(Andreoni 73). The need for males to compete not only with the beauty of each other, but also the beauty of women could be the cause of the new more feminine, pampered male. It is more practical to have a good job and be a valuable asset in the work place, and it’s a proven fact that looking your best helps. The metrosexual male is not necessarily less masculine, as a man’s ability to provide is more attractive and masculine to women. Being metrosexual allows him greater opportunities for success in the workforce.










In this age of flourishing technology, our society has become extremely media driven. The reason for metrosexuals cited by some professionals is the popularity of makeover shows such as Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and style icons such as David Beckham. It is so easy for famous people to promote any of their entrepreneurial endeavors. Everyone is a brand, and their images are everywhere. In 2004, even musical artist Sean “P-Diddy” Combs finally earned respect in the fashion industry when The Council of Fashion Designers of America named Combs the top menswear designer of the year for his Sean John collection at its annual awards show. He beat several famous veteran designers like Ralph Lauren and Michael Kors. Since 2004, it seems famous people are cashing in on the fact that they can sell anything to men if they can make it look cool, and define it as masculine. Less extreme cases of this are apparent in our countries past. Even Wristwatches were at first considered effeminate because proper men only carried pocket watches. When World War I fighter pilots adopted them for tactical reasons, they suddenly became acceptably masculine (Brink). Fighter pilots were highly respected and looked up to by Americans, the same way we look up to celebrities depicted in the media today. We looked up to them, and they made wristwatches cool. Similarly, through the media celebrities are also able to manipulate their new styles and goods unto us. It is possible that today’s metrosexual male has been an effect of consumer capitalism. When observing Diddy’s campaign ads for his men’s line, Sean Jean, it is obvious his marketing contributes to the new fashion sense among modern males. Fellow musical artist, Nelly, was chosen to head the campaign for Diddy’s new Sean Jean underwear line. Diddy had only good things to say about Nelly joining the Sean Jean family, “He has the attitude, the swagger, and most of all the physique that our customers can both aspire and relate to. And let’s be honest, all of the ladies out there are going to be thanking us for this campaign. The images are so strong; they speak for themselves” (Nelly For Sean Jean). This so-called swagger is exactly what men following the new fashion trends are giving into. They are aspiring to be like the masculine images created by celebrities in the media, who are just trying to sell their products. The media and men like Diddy have made it, not only ok for males to care, but expected of males to care more about their appearance. They have successfully created an image for men to aspire to, and have convinced the world that it is a desirable attribute to women as well. Now, there are so many styles to choose from that men are just doing the same thing women do; taking parts of the styles they like and making them their own. It may be weird to think that guys care about their appearance since most men haven’t put much thought into it in the past. Even established cosmetics companies are targeting males more than ever. “Scenting the growth in demand among younger men, cosmetics giants such as L'Oréal and Nivea have been rushing to stock the shelves of Boots with male hair and face care products”(Eshun). Men have recently adopted fashionable grooming as a huge part of their lives, thanks to the media who has men convinced they can look more masculine through the purchase of nicer clothing and products.




The definition of masculinity has changed over time, as well as the fashions of men. It appears that the relation between fashion and masculinity has gone from very distant affiliation, to them being compliments of one another. Caring about fashion once was once considered an inclination among only gay men and women. Today however, the very straight, very fashionable metrosexual male is prevalent in society, and thriving! Perhaps this is because the new metrosexual male is more appealing to independent females of the twenty-first century, who have added traditionally maculine traits to their career facade. Or, it is possible that expediency in the job market has lead males to assume a more refined daily routine. Recent studies have shown attractive, well-groomed people are hired more often for leadership positions in a company. Of course, the metrosexual male could be an effect of consumer capitalism. We should not ignore the fact that everywhere we look the media is showing us how men should live their lives, what clothing and products to buy, and force upon us their impression of what is considered masculine. Either way, in the world we live, it is proven that metrosexuals are able to achieve better employment and are generally more attractive to the opposite sex. It could be, that Metro is the new definition of Masculine.



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MarinaOreo said...
Feb. 20, 2010 at 12:59 pm
Wow. Amazing. If you aren't a journalist, you definitely should be.
 
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