Macho is out, and the well-dressed, wine-savvy, salon-visiting, body-conscious, gourmet cook is in.
This brave new breed of men, who are in touch with their feminine side while decidedly straight, represents a growing population segment termed “metrosexuals.”
Overseas, the poster-boy for metrosexuals is soccer star David Beckham. One of England’s biggest celebrities and married to Victoria “Posh Spice” of Spice Girls fame, Beckham eschews the macho image of many professional athletes.
He cares for his hair and skin. He’s fashion-conscious, soft-spoken and caring. And he’s emerging as the No. 1 role model for British males.
Once, this type of lifestyle would have been considered in line with homosexual males, but sexuality is becoming less relevant in the worlds of fashion, housewares and entertainment.
Decidedly less macho, the metrosexual male doesn’t mind being admired by gay and straight men alike.
Australia’s metrosexual poster boy, swimmer Ian Thorpe, told ABC Radio last year that he was flattered that the gay community identified with him, but he was, in fact, heterosexual. Thorpe classified himself as “a little bit different to what most people would consider being an Australian male.”
These differences in the 21st century man manifest themselves in many ways, according to The Age, an Australian publication. The metrosexual man goes to a hairdresser, not a barber. He doesn’t use soap because it is too harsh on his skin. He visits the gym rather than playing sports and even vacillates back and forth about what to wear.
Ella Bache cosmetics says men make up as much as 40 percent of their salon customers in some areas.
WordSpy.com defines the metrosexual as, “A dandyish narcissist in love with not only himself, but also his urban lifestyle.”
Writer Mark Simpson, who is credited with first using the word in print in 1994, meant it at the time as satirical term about the effect of consumerism, and especially glossy men’s magazines, on traditional masculinity.
“The typical metrosexual is a young man with money to spend, living in or within easy reach of a metropolis—because that’s where all the best shops, clubs, gyms and hairdressers are,” Simpson wrote last year.
Futurist Marian Salzman co-opted the term as the next big thing in marketing. The chief strategy officer for Euro RSCG Worldwide, a communications group stationed in New York, tackled the issue of the neutered modern male in her recent study, “The Futureless Gender.”
Marginalized by the women’s movement, portrayed as useless in TV sitcoms and told by scientists that his Y-chromosome is in decline, Salzman says the metrosexual male is a sitting duck for marketers poised to capitalize on his low self-esteem and then bombard his with products and services to “re-empower” him.
“As marketers, all of us need to wake up and really recognize that advertising right now treats men like buffoons,” Salzman said, quoted in the East Carolinian. It doesn’t treat them like caring, sensitive co-parents and partners.”
Advertisers are already starting to take note. Even beer and car ads are abandoning the “tough guy” image.
“We have certainly seen a change towards more segmentation (of the beer market),” Lion Nathan’s premium marketing director, Paul Foster, told The Age. “There’s still that ‘hardcore’ masculine image at the core end of the market, (but) there’s also a lot more progressive market segments.”
And marketing experts say car advertising has begun to place more emphasis on the people driving and their feelings, rather than the car’s specifications.
In a study about the evolution of men’s behavior and roles in the last 50 years titled “The Future of Men: USA,” Euro RSCG Worldwide used the metrosexual moniker to denote “a segment of men who have embraced customs and attitudes once deemed the province of women.”
The survey revealed that 89 percent of men felt good grooming was essential for men in the business world today. Fifty-nine percent of men identified themselves as a “gadget lover,” 46 percent said they got “great pleasure from making and maintaining a nice home,” 40 percent considered themselves big sports fans, and 38 percent considered themselves “foodies.”
Men today “are more involved with family life, and I think they can now express their emotions more,” according to Randall Cross, an advertising sales rep from Chicago quoted in the East Carolinian.
Asked by the East Carolinian what most surprised her most in the study, Salzman said: “I think the degree to which men had made peace with sort of their female side. The fact that they wanted to partner with one lover and raise happy and healthy children as their key priorities. And that there’s no interest—even if they could have all those things—to still have sort of a same-time-next-year love affair.”
Just because they’re more sensitive doesn’t mean today’s men have given up their athletic side, Salzman said. “I think guys will still be guys. There’s just a new definition of what constitutes a guy today.
Salzman cites actors Brad Pitt and George Clooney as metrosexual-type celebrities.
Jodi Mathews is news writer for EthicsDaily.com.