It’s Not a Journey: The Endless Trend of Male Vanity

The next time someone tries to con­vince me that Pitt is ‘a really great actor, actu­ally’ I’ll just throw my eyes around the room in a casually-but-profoundly dra­matic fash­ion before fix­ing them on the Fight Club fan­boy — and it always is a Fight Club fan­boy — and say­ing: “THERE you ARE!”

I don’t mean to be bitchy, but… Ab Pitt seems to have all the neur­oses of a Marilyn Monroe about being thought a dumb blond, but little or none of the tal­ent. It’s not the fact this Big Movie Star has done an ad like this at all, or even the bathetic hor­ror of the script – par to the course in per­fume ads – it’s the way he deliv­ers this stinky stuff like it was a Shakespearean soli­lo­quy. We’re laugh­ing at it because we know it will hurt.

Though of course, we’re just jeal­ous. I cer­tainly am. Brad is being so earn­est and romantico not because he’s address­ing you or me or Angelina Jolie, but his reportedly $7M cheque for the 30 second spot – which I sus­pect the dir­ector has taped to the camera.

At the height of her fame method-actress Marilyn was paid only $100,000 plus 10% of profits for the feature-length clas­sic movie: Some Like It Hot. And I rather doubt she received a fee at all for her own posthum­ous Chanel No.5 ad.

The real sig­ni­fic­ance of Brad’s ad of course is that Pitt is the first man to advert­ise the woman’s fra­grance Chanel No.5 – which hitherto has been plugged only by lead­ing examples of the ‘fairer sex’. Leading man Brad has stepped into a role pre­vi­ously occu­pied by lead­ing ladies.

This though is very famil­iar ter­rit­ory though for Brad. Often described as ‘the most beau­ti­ful man in the world’ – i.e. the most objec­ti­fied – he did after all play both Achilles and Helen in the movie Troy. He has the abs that launched a thou­sand sit-ups. And this former model’s own movie career was launched by play­ing a toy­boy picked up and rav­ished by an older Geena Davis in Thelma and Louise (1991), a movie which itself fam­ously reversed the gender roles of the buddy road movie.

Clinching the mat­ter, his hair­styles are dis­cussed almost as much as any act­ress’ – or even David Beckham’s.

Pitt also played, you may remem­ber, the highly, er, aes­thetic leader of a bogus revolt against met­ro­sexu­al­ity and con­sumer­ism in Fight Club.

Oh, and by the way. Pitt is 48 years old. Which makes him even older than me. But in the Chanel ad, even with his gray beard and (elec­tron­ic­ally altered?) grav­elly voice, Dorian Pitt seems no older than about 27 — the same age he was when we first met him in Thelma & Louise. In fact, he looks like a 27-year-old with a stick-on beard pre­tend­ing to be 48.

As he puts it himself:

It’s not a jour­ney. Every jour­ney ends. But we go on.”


A sur­vey released just before Brad’s Bad Marilyn moment appears to con­firm the con­tinu­ing, end­less trend for men appro­pri­at­ing pre­vi­ously fem­in­ine pre­serves that has been going on since at least the 1990s, and which Pitt, whether he wants to or not, has often exem­pli­fied – and encour­aged. “The world turns and we turn with it.”

The fash­ion and beauty spend­ing poll (com­mis­sioned by online casino asked 1000 UK men and women how much they spent on clothes and cos­metic products. The find­ings showed, they said, that ‘men are fast catch­ing up with women’.

  • Women aver­age £2,462 p.a.; men £1,786 (£50 less a month than women).
  • Men and women in London are the most extra­vag­ant, and also the closest to one another in expendit­ure, with women spend­ing c. £2,700 a year; men £2,350, £29 per month less than women.
  • Unsurprisingly, other met­ro­pol­itan areas such as Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle and Liverpool also showed above-average rates of spending.
  • A man who took part in the sur­vey says: ‘I can remem­ber my dad’s cos­metic shelf con­sisted of a bar of soap and a bottle of Old Spice but I have a cab­inet full of products.’
  • A woman says: ‘I have been shop­ping with my boy­friend before and on occa­sions he has been known to spend more than me on hair products. I don’t think men spend­ing more money on clothes and cos­met­ics is a bad thing. It’s always attract­ive for someone to take pride on their appearance.’

Again, noth­ing very new here (and the quotes do sound a tad hack­neyed). Just, fur­ther evid­ence that des­pite the reces­sion the ‘trend’ of met­ro­sexu­al­ity has hardened into an epoch — that nev­er­the­less some are still in ter­rible denial about.

A spokes­per­son for concluded:

It’s becom­ing increas­ingly accept­able for men to use cos­metic treat­ments. Even macho film stars are advert­ising skin cream, and whilst it would be dif­fi­cult to ima­gine a world where guys spent more money on look­ing good than women do, but who knows where the age of met­ro­sexu­al­ity will lead us?’

I ima­gine when he men­tioned ‘macho film stars’ he had in mind Gerard Butler as the bearded face of L’Oreal, not Brad Pitt. But in regard to his last poser, it’s not entirely impossible that for younger people liv­ing in met­ro­pol­itan areas, that world may have already been delivered by met­ro­sexu­al­ity. Or very nearly.

These days, work­ing out is often at least as import­ant a way of ‘look­ing good’ for males as fash­ion­able clothes and cos­met­ics — but isn’t covered in the sur­vey. In fact, many men invest more heav­ily in their bod­ies than in their ward­robe — which tends to be rather skimpy.… And gen­er­ally it seems men are more into work­ing on their bod­ies to ‘look good’ than women are.

So if you were to factor in aver­age spends on gym mem­ber­ship, fit­ness equip­ment, and par­tic­u­larly sports sup­ple­ments such as cre­at­ine and pro­tein drinks (a boom­ing mar­ket), the gap between men and women’s aver­age spend on ‘van­ity’ might shrink again. Currently the gap between male and female spend­ing on ‘look­ing good’ is reportedly only £29/month in London. That’s less than most monthly gym memberships.

£29 also hap­pens to be about the price of a yearly sub­scrip­tion to the best-selling men’s magazine, Men’s Health. The November UK issue of which car­ries the res­ults of another sur­vey, this one study­ing MH read­ers’ favour­ite sub­ject: them­selves.

One of the ques­tions asked read­ers who had their ideal body. The answers were:

  • Tom Hardy 42%.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo 32%.
  • David Beckham 26%.

Somewhere David Beckham is cry­ing into his low-carb lunch. Interesting to note though that Brad Pitt doesn’t make the list at all, when once he would prob­ably have dom­in­ated it – after all, Men’s Health has built a global empire out of mod­ern man’s yen to have abs — and thus be worthy of love. And abs didn’t exist, remem­ber, until Brad Pitt inven­ted them in the 1990s.

Perhaps though Brad is relieved to be out of the run­ning. Or maybe he’s relieved and heartbroken.

Tom Hardy, the Brit Brando with the volup­tu­ous pecs and the pouty lips, seems to have won the hearts of Men’s Health read­ers. I don’t blame them. And I sus­pect Tom’ doesn’t either. Probably they were seduced by his body in Warrior and his motto in Inception: “Don’t be afraid to dream a little big­ger darling”. Actually, in a bet­ter world that would be the motto of Men’s Health magazine.

Interesting that a third would want a body like Ronaldo’s – des­pite Ronaldo’s offi­cial des­ig­na­tion in the UK as Most Hated Footballer. It rather con­firms my sus­pi­cion that us Brits are just jeal­ous of him.

It does seem a little odd though that there are only three men in the whole world whose bod­ies Men’s Health read­ers want/aspire to – and nearly half of them want just one body in par­tic­u­lar. (There’s no indic­a­tion of whether they were given a mul­tiple choice or just came up with the names themselves.)

Other find­ings include:

  • 37% of MH read­ers spend 4–6 hours in the gym a week — while 30% spend more than six hours there.
  • 46% want to improve their abs. 42% their upper body, and 12% lower body.

Chicken legs, in other words, are de rigeur with MH readers.


Tip: Lee Kynaston

Chris Evans is Captain Cocktease

You know how every­one com­plains that the best bits of a movie are in the trailer these days? Well, in the case of the new super-hero block­buster Captain America the ONLY bits are in the trailer.

But WHAT bits they are! At around c. 1.40 mins Chris Evans’ oiled bazookas burst out of the instant stud machine he’s been strapped into by the German-Jewish Frank-N-furter. Everyone’s jaw in the lab slaps the floor as the cam­era trol­leys in for a wor­ship­ful close-up on those shiny, massive melons.

Lab 1

Injected with gal­lons of ster­oids and popped in the gimp microwave the skinny nerd’s buns have risen, trans­form­ing him, not into an ulti­mate fight­ing machine but into the ulti­mate Men’s Health cover model. And in just a few moments instead of the sev­eral months it usu­ally takes every­one else using gear — or the seven days that Charles Atlas prom­ised. Isn’t this every boy’s met­ro­sexy dream come true?

So I eagerly coughed up £8 to see more of his super tits last night. But I was robbed. Turns out that this is the only time Evans’ gets his tits out in the whole movie. What a con! What a TEASE!

What’s more, this scene comes very early on in the film, and is its cli­max — in every way. Unfortunately, there’s another hour or two to go, in which our hero tedi­ously battles the evil Nazi bad guy, fully-clothed – and wear­ing that daft hel­met. Desperately try­ing to prove he’s not, as Tommy Lee Jones’ hard-bitten old Colonel char­ac­ter dis­misses him after he has done one too many pro­pa­ganda shows, a ‘chorus girl’.

But he so IS a chorus girl. No one went to see Captain America because they wanted to see him throw­ing his stu­pid boun­cing dust­bin lid around (has there ever been a more rub­bish super-power? Or a camper one?) Male, female, gay, straight, young, old, animal and veget­able they ALL went to see his TITS.

And I’m not even men­tion­ing the ter­rible script, total lack of any plot – or cred­ib­il­ity – the com­pletely life­less dir­ec­tion, and the ter­rible act­ing (Evans’ body may have been injec­ted with ster­oids but his face seems to have been injec­ted with Novocaine). It is, after all, a super-hero movie.

Towards the end of this very long, very dis­ap­point­ing, very chaste movie date, Nick Fury played by Samuel L. Jackson in a dash­ing eye-patch, tells a defros­ted Evans run­ning around Times Square (finally levered into a nice tight t-shirt — but it’s much too little much too late): ‘You’ve been asleep for 70 years, Cap’n.’

YES!’ I felt like shout­ing at the screen in my local cinema, ‘AND SO HAVE WE!!’

Chris Evans Tits

Men’s Health Staff Celebrate News That Narcissism Is No Longer an Illness

I jest of course. The staff at Men’s Health wish they looked like that.

Even if I’m sure quite a few of them dance like that – when the read­ers can’t see them (Don’t Ask Don’t Tell may be about to be repealed in the US Armed Forces, but not any time soon at Men’s Health pub­lisher Rodale Inc.).

The top­less, some­what top-heavy chaps mim­ing to Kylie in the vid are actu­ally mod­els from a gay porn out­fit. The clip is called ‘A Tribute to Kylie’ – but should prob­ably be called ‘A Tribute to My Tits’.

Then again, lots of things today should prob­ably be called that, includ­ing Men’s Health, Strictly Come Dancing, and Mikey Sorrentino’s wan­nabe nar­ciss­ists’ self-help book, Here’s the Situation.

Get outta their way!

Especially now that nar­ciss­ism is offi­cially no longer a men­tal ill­ness.  Earlier this month it was announced that the next edi­tion of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual, the bible of ther­ap­ists and psy­chi­at­rists, would no longer include nar­ciss­ism in its list of per­son­al­ity disorders.


Final Triumph of Metrosexuality: Men’s Tits More Popular Than Women’s

Men's Health

It’s offi­cial. Men’s tits are now more pop­u­lar than women’s. With men.

Men’s Health, the met­ro­mag with the pec-fest, ab-tastic cov­ers is now the best-selling men’s magazine in the UK, selling more than 250,000, com­pared to 235,000 for pre­vi­ous best-seller so-called ‘lad mag’ FHM with its fam­ous cover babes sport­ing udders almost as big as those of Men’s Health models.

The truth is of course is that FHM is as much a met­ro­mag as Men’s Health (or ‘Men’s Hypochondria’ as I like to call it). It just used the ‘lad mag’ tits-and-booze for­mula as a beard for its met­ro­sexu­al­ity. When it was attacked by female journ­al­ists for being ‘sex­ist’ FHM’s pub­lish­ers secretly cheered because this meant that these mass-circulation magazines ped­dling male van­ity, fash­ion and self-consciousness might be mis­taken for some­thing traditional.

The real money shot in FHM – and the reason for its very exist­ence – was never the ‘High Street Honey’ spreads but rather the pages and pages of glossy ‘high-value’ ads fea­tur­ing pretty male mod­els in vari­ous states of designer undress.

But fif­teen years on from the launch of the first ‘lad mag’ - and also fif­teen years on from my first use of the word ‘met­ro­sexual’ in an art­icle for the Independent which pre­dicted that male van­ity was ‘the most prom­ising mar­ket of the dec­ade’ - the mois­tur­ised future has arrived.  A gen­er­a­tion of young men have grown up with met­ro­sexu­al­ity, see it as ‘nor­mal’ — and don’t need the hys­ter­ical het­ero­sexu­al­ity of lad mags.

In a sense, lads mags have done what they were inven­ted to do: met­ro­sexu­al­ize men on the sly.  So they aren’t really needed any more.  And argu­ably, post YouTube/iPhone, magazines in gen­eral aren’t needed any more either.

Men’s Health by con­trast was always the most nakedly metro of the met­ro­mags - and as a res­ult of those cov­ers the most openly nar­ciss­istic and homo­erotic. In a post metro world, men are most inter­ested in them­selves — and can down­load hard­core porn 24–7. So they choose the life­styles mag that puts men’s (shaded) tits and abs on the cover, rather than hid­ing behind women’s.  (In one issue earlier this year, hav­ing noth­ing bet­ter to do on a train jour­ney, I coun­ted 73 male nipples and 4 female ones, the lat­ter partly obscured by ‘superfoods’).

But no revolu­tion is ever com­plete.  And everything is rel­at­ive. Precisely because every­one knows what it is, Men’s Health are still try­ing con­vince you that none of their read­ers are gay or bisexual — or even met­ro­sexual.  Instead the deputy editor reas­sures The London Times all their read­ers ‘have kids or want to have kids’, and and are ‘het­ero­pol­itan’ — an uptight mar­ket­ing inver­sion of the word ‘met­ro­sexual’, with HETERO in place of any­thing ambigu­ous and with that dan­ger­ous ‘sexual’ part sur­gic­ally removed.

As I noted a couple of years ago in a piece lam­poon­ing their prissy denial, I sus­pect that most of even their straight  read­ers (and most of their read­ers are prob­ably straight — just not very nar­row) are way ahead of them. But then, mar­ket­ing tends to be instinct­ively dis­hon­est even if there’s no par­tic­u­lar reason to be any more.

Whatever, I think it will be a while before male homo­erot­ics and ster­oids, those unspoken staples of every single issue of Mens Health, get a strap­line on the cover — even if female-on-male strap-on sex appar­ently already has (see the cover pic­ture at top).

By the way, a sim­ilar trend has emerged in Australia, with MH also out­selling FHM down under.  This recent piece in The Age, com­plete with rather amus­ing mock-up of what a men’s mag might look like in the not-too-distant future (which I thought for a moment was an pub­lic­a­tion cur­rently avail­able), provides a rather bet­ter ana­lysis of what’s going on than much of what appeared in the UK press.

Shame then that The Age, along with its sis­ter pub­lic­a­tion The Sydney Morning Herald, ‘bor­rowed heav­ily’ from — or in Australian: pla­gi­ar­ised — my 2002 Salon essay ‘Meet the met­ro­sexual’  for a fea­ture it ran in 2003 called ‘The rise of the met­ro­sexual’ — with no men­tion of me or my Salon essay they thieved from.  I’ve yet to receive an apology.

I sus­pect I’ll get a column in Men’s Health before I do.

Tip: Sisu