Mark Simpson’s Barcelona UOC Lecture in La Vanguardia

A write-up in La Vanguardia of my lec­ture ‘From Metrosexual to Spornosexual — a Permanent Spectacular Revolution’ at the ‘Men in Movement’ con­fer­ence in Barcelona last week, which was organ­ised by the Arts and Humanities depart­ment of Universitat Oberta de Catalunya.

LaVanguardia Simpson Spornosexuals-1

LaVanguardia Simpson Spornosexuals-2

Many thanks to every­one involved for their hard work and kind hos­pit­al­ity. With spe­cial thanks to Dr Begonya Enguix Grau, the driv­ing force behind this timely event — someone who not only knows her anthro­po­lo­gical onions, but also the best places to visit in Barcelona and was great, gen­er­ous com­pany des­pite hav­ing broken her toe the pre­vi­ous week.

She even man­aged to organ­ise warm and sunny weather in late November.

Barca beach tower

Spornosexual Steve Cook on the Meaning of Metrosexual

While prep­ping for my Barcelona lec­ture, ‘From Metrosexual to Spornosexual — a Permanent, Spectacular Masculine Revolution’, this video serendip­it­ously popped up into MetroDaddy’s timeline on Twitter.

It’s an explor­a­tion of the mean­ing of being called ‘met­ro­sexual’ by pro­fes­sional body­builder and pop­u­lar online fit­ness guru Steve Cook, who has his own YouTube chan­nel SwoldierNation where he offers workout tips, vlogs, and totally ‘hench’ eye candy to those who wanna be like him or just wanna be with him.

There’s a whole humpy army of these online fit­ness coaches/ exhib­i­tion­ists today — and accord­ing to my buff and brainy Chilean stand-up chum Villouta, they are mak­ing Men’s Health magazine look lame.

Like most of these YouTube her­oes, Cook is an aesthetic/physique body­builder — that is, one that aims to look hot rather than HUGE. Horny rather than Arnie. Cover model rather than Rambo. He is out and proud about his met­ro­sexu­al­ity, and says he’s been called met­ro­sexual since high school — though not always in a pos­it­ive fash­ion. In the vlog he rather touch­ingly shares with us his extens­ive product stash.

He also gets a ped­i­cure, enjoys the comfy pink ‘girly’ chairs and then con­fronts some rather ter­ri­fied look­ing mall-goers about what they under­stand ‘met­ro­sexual’ to mean. I sus­pect they were as intim­id­ated by his pre­pos­ter­ously good looks, awe­some body and self-confidence as much as the ques­tions. I think I would have fainted.

Reading between the lines, Cook seems keen to emphas­ise that ‘met­ro­sexual’ doesn’t mean ‘non het­ero­sexual’ (he’s a mar­ried, hetero father). But then he does live in America, a coun­try which since the early Naughties has had reg­u­lar nervous break­downs about the pos­sible ambi­gu­ity of met­ro­sexu­al­ity — hence those very American reaction-formations ‘macho­sexual’, ‘uber­sexual’, ‘het­ero­pol­itan’ and ‘lum­ber­sexual’. Which were in some ways oddly ‘gayer’ than what they were try­ing to run away from.

So kudos to Mr Cook for refus­ing to run away from the ‘metro’ tag and hav­ing the cojones to embrace and pamper it instead.

Of course, Cook who was born in 1984, is more of a second gen­er­a­tion met­ro­sexual — that’s to say, sporno­sexual. He has fash­ioned his own body into the ulti­mate access­ory and hot com­mod­ity. A product. A brand.

And I for one am cer­tainly buy­ing. Even if he isn’t so great at research.…

Steve Cook reclining

As ever, though the Brits are ahead of the curve, even if their abs aren’t always Olympian stand­ard. The short but charm­ing video below by Jenny Wotherspoon (accom­pa­ny­ing an excel­lent piece on sporno­sexu­als by Theo Merz in The Daily Telegraph) is com­prised of inter­views with self-confessed sporno­sexu­als from Newcastle, North East England — who aren’t ashamed of their love of lycra, or much bothered their own, more tra­di­tion­ally minded par­ents keep ask­ing them ‘are you sure you’re not gay?’.


Mark Simpson at Men in Movement, Barcelona

I will be in Barcelona this week for an inter­na­tional work­shop organ­ised by the University of Catalonia, titled ‘Men in Movement: Transforming Masculinities in Politics, Care and Media’.

There will be a range of very inter­est­ing, esteemed and know­ledge­able con­trib­ut­ors, and I will have the slightly unnerv­ing hon­our of present­ing the open­ing lec­ture, ‘From Metrosexual to Spornosexual: A Spectacular, Permanent Revolution’, on Wednesday 18th November at 6pm. So I’ll be sure to show plenty of slides and video clips of much hot­ter chaps than me.

The fol­low­ing day at 15.30 I’ll be on a panel dis­cuss­ing Men and Representations, present­ing a short, mostly clean talk prob­ing ‘Mainstream Male Anal(ity)’.

Entrance is free (Captain Peacock).

Habitual Voyeur

Is it just me?

We all look but only some of us see’ is the slightly pre­ten­tious tagline for this new ‘Home Alone’ TV ad for the UK house­hold fur­nish­ing store Habitat, part of their #HabitatVoyeur campaign.

Perhaps I’ve been doing too much ‘voyeur­ing’ online, but what I see when I look at the begin­ning of this ad, before the cam­era pulls back, is an aroused young man enjoy­ing a hard fur­nish­ing — the head thrown back, the open mouth, the ecstatic boun­cing, the Habitat pil­lows in the background.

Mind you, given the per­vey con­ceit of the cam­paign — gawp­ing through people’s win­dows, and the fact the pre­vi­ous ad had us spy­ing on a couple snog­ging on an expens­ive sofa - maybe I’m not see­ing too much. Maybe I’m see­ing exactly what I was sup­posed to see.

Perhaps that’s why, when the cam­era dol­lies out and reveals the chap is, in fact dan­cing around his retro-hipster stu­dio flat in his red socks and pants rather than doing a reverse cow­boy, he appears to know­ingly tease us by doing a spot of twerking in the full-length mir­ror before bop­ping into the bath­room, backwards.

Either way, I don’t think I’ll be dream­ing of that cof­fee table.

The Dazzling Bi-Brilliance of Tom Hardy

By Mark Simpson

Inee lahvelee?”

So says pretty much every­one in Legend about Tom Hardy’s looks. And the latest re-telling of the story of Ronald and Reginald Kray, the sharp-suited, impeccably-groomed, glam­or­ous gang­ster twins who ruled 1960s London’s under­world, is a mostly enjoy­able movie which often glad­dens the eye (even if it makes you wince a bit dur­ing the viol­ent scenes).

How could it not? After all, it stars not one, but two Tom Hardys – he plays, as every­one must know now since it’s the whole con­ceit of the movie, both twins.

Despite this, it does man­age to get a little bor­ing some­times. Legend makes the mis­take of think­ing that we’re more inter­ested in ‘Reggie’ than ‘Ronnie’ – because he wasn’t the mad, ‘gay’ one.

So it has a from-beyond-the-grave voice-over ostens­ibly provided by Reggie’s first wife, Frances Shea (Emily Browning) who com­mit­ted sui­cide in 1967, two years after their mar­riage. The nar­rat­ive focus of the film is essen­tially on what it por­trays as her doomed attempt to ‘save’ Reggie, domest­ic­ate him and make him ‘nor­mal’ – and how this even­tu­ally kills her. But no one, apart from Frances, wants him to be nor­mal (and maybe she didn’t either: her fam­ily dis­putes the film’s vic­timy por­trayal of her). Certainly the audi­ence doesn’t, they just want him to get busy with a ball-hammer.

What every­one – or was it just me? – wanted from Legend was a gayer ver­sion of Hardy’s best per­form­ance as Britain’s longest-serving solitary-confinement mus­cu­lar psy­cho­path in Bronson (2008) – which come to think of it was pretty gay any­way. And you do get some of that when ‘Ron’ is on cam­era: Hardy’s ‘fat poof’ is often fright­en­ingly funny.

But I put the names ‘Reggie’ and ‘Ronnie’ in quotes because at a visual level Legend isn’t about the gang­ster twins, or London in the 1960s. It’s about Tom and his very ‘hot’, very 21st Century, very nar­ciss­istic on-screen sexu­al­ity – split into two halves, mad, ugly, gay ‘Reggie’ – and straight, pretty, sym­path­etic ‘Ronnie’, which fight it out for dom­in­ance in this psy­cho cos­tume drama.

That’s why every­one talks about how ‘lahvelee’ ‘Reggie’ is. Reggie Kray cer­tainly wasn’t bad look­ing for a gang­ster, and he scrubbed up very nicely, but he was def­in­itely no Tom Hardy (and Hardy, son of South West London bohemi­ans, is def­in­itely no Cockney). It’s also why we mar­vel at how ugly Tom man­ages to make him­self as ‘Ronnie’ – so that when ‘Ronnie’ says that ‘Reggie’ got all the looks we actu­ally find ourselves agree­ing instead of laugh­ing at the in-gag.

Any film about the Krays would struggle to remain focused on the Krays with Hardy in it. He’s proper Hollywood. But with two Hardys it stands no chance – the twins, their story and the myth­o­logy end up spit-roasted by Hardy’s double-ended cha­risma and great per­form­ances (even though his ‘Ron’ did look a bit like a David Walliams char­ac­ter sometimes).

So it shouldn’t per­haps be sur­pris­ing that the ques­tions get a bit per­sonal. Hardy, 37, who is mar­ried (to a woman), fam­ously ‘shut down’ a gay reporter at a press con­fer­ence for Legend recently when he con­tras­ted his char­ac­ter Ronnie’s open­ness about his sexu­al­ity with what he called Hardy’s ‘ambigu­ous sexu­al­ity’ as sug­ges­ted in pre­vi­ous interviews.

What on earth are you on about?’ retor­ted Hardy, clearly annoyed, even­tu­ally cla­ri­fy­ing the ques­tion him­self: ‘Are you ask­ing me about my sexu­al­ity?’ ‘Sure’ replied the reporter. ‘Why?’ asked Hardy. When no reply came, Hardy dis­missed him with a curt ‘Thank you’.

The inter­view the reporter had in mind was a can­did one Hardy gave a gay magazine in 2008 (to pub­li­cise RocknRolla, in which he played a gay gang­ster) where he acknow­ledged he had exper­i­mented sexu­ally with men when he was younger: “‘As a boy? Of course I have. I’m an actor for f***‘s sake. I’m an artist. I’ve played with everything and every­one,” he said. “But I’m not into men sexu­ally. I love the form and the phys­ic­al­ity but the gay sex bit does noth­ing for me.”

After a back­lash from some of the gay com­ment­ariat to Hardy’s rather more clenched response to the 2015 press con­fer­ence prob­ings, Hardy stated:

I’m under no oblig­a­tion to share any­thing to do with my fam­ily, my chil­dren, my sexu­al­ity – that’s nobody’s busi­ness but my own. And I don’t see how that can have any­thing to do with what I do as an actor, and it’s my own business.”

Despite the appar­ent use of his fam­ily and chil­dren as sexu­al­ity shields in that sen­tence, the gist of it is true. I also have some sym­pathy for Tom’s piqué at being asked about his ‘sexu­al­ity’ (which always means non-heterosexuality) at a crowded press con­fer­ence, being a mar­ried Hollywood heartthrob these days. Moreover, the seven-year-old inter­view quotes from the earlier part of his career don’t actu­ally demon­strate that his own sexu­al­ity is ‘ambigu­ous’ or that he is now hid­ing any­thing – at most he stated that he was bi-curious when younger but is no longer.

That said, Legend is a film which makes his on-screen sexu­al­ity into a busi­ness. Show busi­ness. The drama of the movie is Hardy’s bi/two-sexual cine­matic per­sonae. Legend is a bit like Top Gun, but with ‘Tom’ play­ing both Ice Man (Val Kilmer) and Maverick – where Ice Man wins (and Kelly McGillis kills herself).

Reggie’, Hardy’s straight half, aspires, some­what, to nor­mal­ity; ‘Ronnie’, Hardy’s gay half, rev­els in devi­ancy and keeps drag­ging ‘Reggie’ back to the bent and crooked – and mak­ing sure they never part. That’s why Ron is por­trayed as openly — and unam­bigu­ously - homo­sexual (“I’m a ‘omo­sexual”, “I prefer boys”) not inter­ested in women, when in fact he described him­self as bisexual (and mar­ried a woman while in prison). Reg is por­trayed as straight, when he seems to have also been bisexual, but not so openly as Ron.

Yes, sexu­al­ity is a con­fus­ing busi­ness. No won­der the movie sim­pli­fies things – just like the pop­u­lar press.

Reginald reportedly ‘came out’ in a let­ter pub­lished shortly after his death. Here’s how it was covered in a UK tabloid the Sunday People in 2000, head­lined: ‘REGGIE KRAY CONFESSES FROM GRAVE: I AM GAY’:

GANGSTER Reggie Kray has made an amaz­ing con­fes­sion from bey­ond the grave — his hard­man image con­cealed that he was GAY.

Reggie poured out his darkest secret in a let­ter writ­ten as he faced black­mail over his homosexuality.

He handed me the aston­ish­ing two-page admis­sion in a prison vis­it­ing room and asked for it to be pub­lished after his death.

So there you have it. Reggie was a self-confessed (dead) GAY homo­sexual. Except he wasn’t. The very next sen­tence in the same report reads:

The once-feared East End crime boss wrote: “I wish for the pub­lic to know that I am bisexual.”

Gay’ and ‘homo­sexual’ are often mixed up with ‘bisexual’ in the accounts of the twins’ lives, because cul­tur­ally we tend to mix up ‘gay’ and ‘bi’ when talk­ing about men. Although atti­tudes are chan­ging, we often still too often think of male bisexu­al­ity as ‘gay’ or ‘homo­sexual’ or ‘queer’ (because it’s ‘emas­cu­lat­ing’ – e.g. ‘once-feared’). Whereas female bisexu­al­ity tends to be thought of as het­ero­sexual (because it’s ‘hot’, or because female sexu­al­ity is ‘com­plic­ated’). And as Hardy him­self has dis­covered, admit­ting to a bi-curious youth can mean that you are assumed to be at least bisexual or ‘ambigu­ous’ in the bed­room as an adult.

I don’t claim to know any­thing about Hardy’s ‘real’ sexu­al­ity – I’m totally out of the celebrity sex gos­sip loop, which frankly, is usu­ally myth­o­logy and fantasy any­way, even and espe­cially when provided by other celebs. Likewise, ‘gay­dar’ is a very faulty instru­ment indeed, prone to squeal­ing feed­back and hair-raising short-circuits. (And unlike it seems almost every­one else on the planet, I have no inform­a­tion and no opin­ion on the other Hollywood Tom’s ‘real’ sexu­al­ity either.)

Besides, a few slutty selfies aside, I’m much more inter­ested in Tom H’s on-screen sexu­al­ity. Which is radi­antly, brazenly bi-responsive. It’s not ambigu­ous – it’s ambi­sexual. Hardy’s dazzling bi-brilliance lights up the screen – it is what makes him such a cha­ris­matic, watch­able actor, in the mould, dare I say it, of some of the greats, such as James Dean and Marlon Brando (cutely, Tom is the same titchy height 5’9”, as Marlon).


There’s a rather ridicu­lous Romeo & Juliet scene in Legend where a drunken ‘Reggie’ pro­poses to Frances through her bed­room win­dow at the top of a drain­pipe. But thanks to Tom’s tender tal­ents, instead of scoff­ing at the chees­iness of it, you find your­self hop­ing, when the hard man fishes out the engage­ment ring, that he doesn’t fall and hurt his lahvlee face.

Regardless of his private sexu­al­ity, the ‘busi­ness’ of Hardy’s on-screen sexu­al­ity in many of his other movies is def­in­itely not mono­sexual, depend­ing as it does on a cer­tain homoerotic-homosocial appeal, and a ‘hard man’/‘soft man’ ten­sion, andro­gyny even. In addi­tion to his early Band of Brothers/Black Hawk Down fresh-faced, all-boys-together sol­dierly roles, he’s, as we’ve seen, played a gay gang­ster before. In Inception he psych­ic­ally ‘cross-dressed’ and delivered some won­der­fully camp lines with pan­ache: “Mustn’t be afraid to dream a little big­ger, darling.”

In Warrior (2011) he played a heavily-muscled young MMA fighter forced to wrestle his equally fit brother in a Speedo – but with a happy end­ing. Even the bottom-feeder com­edy This Means War (2012), in which two CIA killers com­pete for the same girl, was primar­ily about the pas­sion­ately Platonic romance between him and Chris Pine, an actor who seems to be 70% hair and 30% teeth. It was only Hardy’s sym­path­etic skills as an actor and his dazzling bi-brilliance that made you care about their rela­tion­ship, Pine or that atro­city of a movie at all.

Hardy has a spe­cial pro­cliv­ity for play­ing ‘hard men’ who are soft and recept­ive inside. It’s what makes him such an entran­cing sight on the sil­ver screen, for men and women alike. It’s all there in his sweetly enga­ging face and twinkly eyes, with those big kiss­able, suck­able lips – atop his street-fighter body (young Brando had an angel’s face on a stevedore’s body). Perhaps because of his appre­ci­ation for ‘the form and phys­ic­al­ity’ of mas­culin­ity, Tom is the kind of bloke a lot of straight lads would ‘go gay’ for – and plenty of gay ones would go even gayer for. A man’s man in the mod­ern sense of the phrase. Hardy’s career has been made at the place where desire and iden­ti­fic­a­tion meet.


There is a magical kind of mis­recog­ni­tion involved in going to the movies: you see, espe­cially when younger, the movie star as your ideal­ised self. Your twin who is identical with what you should be, rather than what you are. In the dark­ness of the cinema, the bril­liant shadow on the screen becomes your real, long lost twin – you sit­ting in the dark are the false, found one.

Which brings us back to the sexu­al­ity of Legend and the doubly-doomed nature of the deceased wife attempted-redemption storyline. Twins are by their very nature ‘homo­sexual’ that is ‘same-sexual’ – at least to non-twins look­ing in. They share the same con­cep­tion, the same womb at the same time, the same birth, as wells as usu­ally the same infancy, potty-training and child­hood, and the same puberty. Intimacies far bey­ond those of lov­ers. Identical twins also reflect one another, in a nar­ciss­istic fash­ion. In a sense, they are born with the life-companion every­one else has to search for – and they can also watch them­selves star­ring in the movie of their own lives.

So no won­der the Krays’ bio­grapher recently claimed that the twins had sex with one another when adoles­cents. Or, as the Daily Mail head­line put it: ‘THEY FOUGHT AS ONE. THEY KILLED AS ONE. BUT DID THE KRAY TWIN’S UNCANNY BOND LEAD THEM TO BREAK THE ULTIMATE TABOO?’.

Whether or not it’s true, it’s some­thing that should def­in­itely have been included in Legend. Tom-on-Tom action should not have been restric­ted to those fight scenes….


Bomb-Damaged London & Its Bomb-Damaged Kids

Saw Hue & Cry t’other night on the telly­box for the first time since I was a nipper.

This recently digit­ally restored kid-oriented Ealing Comedy presents as its cli­max a London-wide mobil­isa­tion of boys (and a few tom-boys) for a ‘big adven­ture’ – beat­ing up bad­dies that the police had failed to nab, or even notice. I always loved that kind of film – in which kids show-up the groan-ups, and also give them a good hiding.

Officially the first Ealing com­edy, it was dir­ec­ted by Charles Crichton (who went on to dir­ect The Lavender Hill Mob) and shot in 1946, just as the Welfare State was being foun­ded and the hor­rors of the past were being swept away by the post-war Labour admin­is­tra­tion of Clement Attlee – who had him­self swept away Winston Churchill (the war­time leader who was not nearly so pop­u­lar as offi­cial his­tor­ies like to tell us).

Maybe it’s because I’m now the middle-aged enemy, but watch­ing it today, Hue & Cry seems really rather dis­turb­ing to adult, con­tem­por­ary health & safety sens­ib­il­it­ies. All those kids in rags run­ning around in bombed-out houses, wad­ing through sew­ers and get­ting into fights with cops and rob­bers? Someone call social services!

The sainted Alistair Sim (and no, I didn’t write that book about him) makes an appear­ance as the enjoy­ably eccent­ric and laugh­ably timid author of the ‘blood and thun­der’ comic book stor­ies that the bar­row boy prot­ag­on­ist (played with enthu­si­asm but little skill by Harry Fowler) is obsessed with. Scarf-wearing Sim lives at the top of a German expres­sion­ist spiral stair­case, his only com­pan­ions a cat and the Home Service.

But it is bomb-damaged, bank­rup­ted London that is the real star of this movie – shrouded in steam and smoke, with chim­neys, spires and dock der­ricks the only things troub­ling the still-Victorian sky­line. Digitally-restored and viewed on HD widescreen, the past seems almost unre­cog­nis­able – even the past in the form of vaguely remem­ber­ing watch­ing a scratchy print of it on 1970s TV.

Bomb-damaged London is pop­u­lated, in its bomb-craters and burned-out shells, by its bomb-damaged cheeky-chappy lads and lasses. Intentionally or not, beneath all the jolly cock­ernee japery, Hue & Cry presents a kind of comic-book PTSD in which the appar­ently orphaned and trau­mat­ised chil­dren of the war can’t stop fight­ing a global con­flict that is already over. Note the sur­pris­ing sad­ism of some of the fight scenes, in amongst the slap­stick (does that bad­die really need his head banging on the ground that many times?).

After the clip above ends, the Cockney hero fin­ishes off the mini-tached, side-parted, long-fringed evil-genius (played con­fus­ingly by the later Dixon of Dock Green) after  a lengthy show­down in a bunker-esque bombed-out ware­house – by jump­ing onto his prone stom­ach from the floor above. With great rel­ish. In an earlier scene the gang tie up a glam­or­ous female vil­lain and set about tor­tur­ing her to extract the iden­tity of her crim­inal boss (her ter­ror of mice turns out to be the key to her interrogation).


The real ver­sion of this world is the one that twins Ronald and Reginald Kray, born in 1933, grew up in: the semi-feral East End gang­sters fam­ous for the viol­ence, sad­ism and ter­ror tac­tics they employed build­ing and main­tain­ing their under­world empire in the 60s – a par­al­lel demi­monde that was both part of and also an affront to the ‘white heat’, glam­our and shiny mod­ern­ity of ‘Swinging London’. The Krays were the sewer rats of social mobility.


Like the tear­away in Hue & Cry they also couldn’t stop fight­ing the war that they grew up with – but were only inter­ested in their own war, no one else’s. When they were con­scrip­ted into National Service in the early 1950s they decided the British Army was their enemy. By employ­ing all kinds of fiendishly child­ish and invent­ively sav­age tac­tics (Ronald being proper psychotic prob­ably helped) they won, and the British Army, like the cops and the bad­dies in Hue & Cry, beat a hasty retreat from the onslaught, giv­ing the twins dis­hon­our­able discharges.

They then employed much same tac­tics on rival London gangs, effect­ively elim­in­at­ing the oppos­i­tion. When this ter­ri­fy­ing comic-book duo were finally sen­tenced in 1969 to thirty years max­imum secur­ity chokey for murder, the judge dryly observed: ‘soci­ety has earned a rest from your activ­it­ies’. Ronald died in prison in 1995, aged 61; Reggie in 2000, aged 66. But they had already been immor­tal­ised on the big screen in the rather good 1990 film The Krays, played by broth­ers Gary and Martin Kemp, work­ing class London lads who achieved riches and fame by being pop stars in the hit band Spandau Ballet in the 1980s — rather than by switchblades and gangs.

Another work­ing class pop star, Steven Patrick Morrissey, had a year earlier ana­tom­ised the highly homo­erotic hero-worship of the Krays and the per­ni­cious glam­our of viol­ence in his single ‘The Last of the Famous International Playboys’.

For all their crimes, ‘Ronnie and Reggie’ are almost as fondly-regarded in British cul­ture as an Ealing com­edy, and argu­ably most of the UK gang­ster movies made in the 1990s and Noughties that fol­lowed The Krays were car­toon­ish homages to the ter­rible twins. They were cer­tainly com­ical, even when they didn’t intend to be.

Their story has now been revis­ited again in a recently-released UK film Legend, star­ring Tom Hardy play­ing both roles. I’ve seen it and will offer you my pearls about it shortly. Suffice to say that it’s not so much about Ronald and Reggie, or about class, or about London in the 1960s.

It’s all about Tom — and the 21st Century’s obses­sion with male sexuality.

Lucozade Ad Warns How Beards Make Everyone Look The Same

Even if they are wear­ing numbered, different-coloured shirts.

Well, can you come up with a bet­ter explan­a­tion what the rugger-buggery is going on in this slightly creepy latex-laden ad for Lucozade Sport ‘Strictly for the Home Nations Only’?

Pegged to the 2015 Rugby World Cup in Twickenham and star­ring big buff bearded England cap­tain Chris Robshaw and chums, I’ve watched it sev­eral times and it still makes no sense to me. Maybe it’s because I don’t fol­low rugby. Or maybe it’s because I’m not an advert­ising cre­at­ive who pre­tends to fol­low rugby.

The altern­at­ive explan­a­tions seem kinda kinky-gimpy. Are we meant to won­der what really went down in the back of that minivan when those norty Wallaby wan­nabes were cornered in the under­ground car park? By those strap­ping England lads wear­ing muscle-tees and expres­sion­less faces? All that bad act­ing should def­in­itely carry a Triga warning.

Yes, of course, the ‘straight’ sub­lim­inal com­mer­cial mes­sage here, hedged around with mis­fir­ing humour, is that if you drink Lucozade Sport, a sug­ary ‘recov­ery drink’, you will look like Robshaw. This is gen­er­ally the way the sup­ple­ments industry works — some ads more expli­citly than oth­ers. But I’m not sure that ‘accept­able’ mes­sage isn’t drowned out here by more disturbing/confusing ones. Masculinity as male imper­son­a­tion — a Mission Impossible. (This, after all, is what team sports fans are doing when they wear a rep­lica shirt.)

I admit I’m biased: the recent fash­ion for styled-beard-with-styled-hair looks to me like a hairy onesie, a mul­let mask. One that I ima­gine wear­ers peel­ing off at the end of the day, breath­ing a sigh of relief, apply­ing lots of wet wipes to their face and neck — and leav­ing it to soak in a bucket by the bed.

Mind you, I still totally would ‘wear’ Robshaw.

PS This web ad below from the same cam­paign is also v con­fus­ing — but who cares?