Gay Guys or Metrosexual Men?
Recently, one of my good friends was talking about a man she had seen in a bar.´ He was beautiful, perfect. Just too perfect. He was obviously gay, so I didn´t even ask if he was single.´
Sound familiar? In these times of image obsession and hunger for instant fame, the pressure is on everyone (women) and men to look like an extra from a J-Lo video. This however, has not always been the case.
The ´traditional´ stereotype of men was very different sixty years ago, where a bar of soap and a cut throat razor were the men´s two main grooming aids. Industry was different then also. Women were pseudo ´Stepford Wives´ going to the modern offices of the day to use typewriters and take short hand, whilst the men slogged and sweated to earn a hard days crust, many in manual or heavy labour industries.
Now, in the ´good old days´ one thing was a certainty. If you looked different or dressed differently then you were possibly ´ a bit funny.´ This antiquated portrait of openly gay men, who were almost always employed in theatre, fashion or creative industries, was not a positive one. These men also held court to, or encouraged entourage to an array of accepting and flamboyant female admirers who relished in the camp ceremony of it all, encouraging them to ´be themselves´ and ´be proud.´ Perhaps the only way they felt they could achieve this was to amplify any femininity they felt they possessed. Maybe from insecurity, maybe from a desire to be noticed (from other potential suitors, or to crave the monster of attention.)
Time moved on, so did society. Then, we had revolutions. We had free love and self-expression. This is perhaps why the 1960´s were such a big deal. This was not an emancipation of men and women; it was the liberation of society. With this liberation brought a key, a key to open many locked minds. To try drugs, to experiment with the same sex, to write poetry or whichever snapshot of ´bohemia´ they wished to indulge in. With liberation and education came progression. Many of these men from ´traditional families´ whom were expected to ´get to work´ were now going onto higher education, graduating and leaving factories and overalls for offices and suits. With positions of management came obligations of image maintenance. Men were now starting to get haircuts, visit tailors and pay attention to fingernails.
And so the cycle was initiated. Then, another advent happened. The celebrity status. We have models, movie stars and sports persons thrown into the equation, and, in no other sector is this more obvious than football. Today´s players are more famous off pitch than on pitch, with their legacy of glamour, style, fame and fortune. The purpose of them is to not only follow trends, but to set them which constantly lead to moments of classical elegance as well as borderline ridiculous. All in the name of image. The earliest example of this was Liverpool F.C´s ´Spice Boys´ back in the 90´s which saw the advent of the possibly first mainstream metrosexual ´bromance´ unions forming between the likes of Jamie Redknapp, Robbie Fowler and co.
Then, on the other hand there were, and still are Brand Beckham. David and Victoria are still going strong 17 years on. The ultimate style couple, who played with fashion and image to the delight of the nation.
However, you do not have to be linked to your opposite sex ´beau´ to command respect. One of the hottest and most recent partnerships in America is the ´bromance´ which is a close, non-sexual relationship which two men can share. A sort of mutual adoration (stemming from the compound of ´Brother´ and ´Romance.´ One obvious example is Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.
The exposure to men in fashion these days is overwhelming. From specific fashion week collections (Milan for example hosts two fashion weeks every year, exclusively dedicated to men.) Add to this the boom of male beauty spa´s (sorry, grooming salons) which now integrate seamlessly into the urban sprawl of pretty much every capital city in Europe, if not the world.) Interestingly enough, the top three treatments are body waxing, eye brow plucking and eye lash tinting. (Don´t worry, I am guilty of having all these three done at some point also, after all it is important to look good, isn’t it?)
As quoted in 2013 by Cosmetics Business, the male beauty industry in the UK is now worth £707.5 million and now one out of every 2.62 men use some form of beauty product, endorsed more frequently by celebrities.
The city boys and young professionals, with generous disposable incomes and exposure to such decadent markets of lifestyle and luxury, promising them looks, love and success if they choose brand X, or spray cologne Y before going to the office.
So, what can we say about ´gay´ men who ´look´ straight (or ´straight´ men who look ´gay´.) Really, it´s best not to assume. While celebs will sell us their lifestyles and designers will seduce us with new collections and ways to be noticed, metro sexuality in whatever form it takes is not going to go away soon. And fundamentally, whether you ´look´ gay or straight, does it really matter? Inside the exterior image lives a person with a spirit and a soul. Everyone deserves a platform to express themselves and who they are without let or hindrance.
Whatever your view on this story, one thing is for certain. For the male aesthetic, the future´s looking pretty!