Last week I found myself chatting between sets, as you do, to a young, buff, absurdly attractive straight lad in a gym in the North East of England. He told me wanted to move to Miami. Why Miami? I asked. “I wanna be in Jersey Shore!” he said, (which, confusingly, is now set in Miami). “It’s fookin’ great!!“
But now the lad – who would give Mikey ‘Situation’ Sorrentino more than a run for his protein shakes – doesn’t need to move at all. Because Jersey Shore is coming to him. MTV’s most popular ever series is being shot in the North East – as ‘Geordie Shore’.
Some years back I was asked by the Guardian which city in Europe was the most metrosexual. ‘Newcastle’, I replied, without any hesitation. I suspect they thought I was pulling their leg. They were probably expecting Stockholm or Milan, or some such. But I was quite serious. Lads in Newcastle are the tartiest you could ever hope to find, spending more on their appearance than men in any other part of Europe. Not because they are wealthy, but because they live with their mam or in relatively inexpensive accommodation and hence have a high disposable income – which they tend to blow on looking good, being noticed, and having a good time.
In Newcastle lads will check one another out (just as David Bowie said they would) and comment: “That’s a mint shirt/trousers/shoes man, where did you get them, like?” But probably they know already. Newcastle is also home you see to the largest shopping centre in Europe – helpfully called the Metrocentre. Just in case any Geordie metros didn’t know where they should be spending their Saturdays. And Sundays.
The North East, once a workshop to the world, with a famously macho, hard-drinking, buttoned-down, cloth-cap culture was de-industrialised by Thatcherism in the 1980s (and looks set to be hard hit by Maggie Cameron’s new wave Tory cuts). And it was around the same time the old order was being deliberately demolished that the Metrocentre was built. The North East learned that hard taught lesson about the victory of consumption over production very well indeed.
Now lads work on their bodies instead of ships or the coal face. And, if they have a job, often work in ‘service’ industries. Like gyms. Or call centres. And tanning salons. Tanning salons are very, very important in the sunless North East. GTL is already a way of life here. Perhaps because the loss of male semi-skilled jobs for life has rendered them less appealing to women as life-long partners, young men have tended to become decorative and fun-promising instead. Certainly, their bodies have.
Geordie Shore won’t be the first time that Newcastle has made it to reality TV of course. C4’s Big Brother depended on a steady supply of Geordies shunted down the East Coast Main Line – particularly Geordie metrosexuals – for most of its ten-year run. It remains to be seen though whether the rest of the UK will be quite as keen on undiluted Geordies in their natural habitat.
Or understand what the fook they’re talking about. Man, pet.
I think Mark S. and Mark Walsh have nailed it — the working class is the inspiration, and/or end consumer of all authentic fashion. The fashion that matters.
My idol Nudie, said he sometimes regretted calling his business “Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors” because he was was doing the equivalent of haute couture . . . but did he? Did he? Naaahhhhh.
If you have ever mucked a stall, to ride your horse into an dirt arena like a Rhinestone Cowboy to the cheers of an adoring crowd, you understood what it was really all about. . . Muscle, dirt, sweat, and a kind of glamour that is earned — and then for the hell of it, you gild the lily. It just doesn’t get any better.
Mark W: It does seem somehow in the US that a flashy body is somehow more tasteful than flashy clothes. That this is also ‘authentic’, whereas fashion isn’t.
Addendum: Even way before I saw the”stretch to fit” jeans, denum jeans which are pretty severely trashed: ripped up, discolored, were very much in style and often very expensive: considering what you get.
Certainly the middle class sensibility, in which most everyone, gay or not, is deeply intrenched, encourages their extra funds to go into house payments.
@The Honourable Husband:
I passed a mid-high priced clothing store on my way from the gym, and noticed that “Lee” has revived an early totally gay “stretch to fit 501” genre of jeans. These were the only thing to wear in the 80’s in San Francisco and othe major gay cities, because after getting wet, they stretched neatly around one’s neatly sculpted bottom half, not to tight or loose–just right. These were inexpensive,
but again right on the track of most of America’s revived metrosexuality which-it occured to me, has much more to do,not with anything expensive but, moreso, appearance which is work intensively desirable. Basically, what a well turned out dude wears is a sheath of muscle, covered by a tight T-shirt, jeans and tennis shoes which can be the most expensive thing. Because the hair is pretty unifomly short, the look that guys are after-especially gay- is really the old “clone’ look.
While guys will wear Italian cloths, they are usually Somalians, or Ethiopians.
Granted, Italians make the very best fabrics, the people who wear them often want to look more wealthy more than they do beddable.
Of course money is spent on tanning parlors, hair cuts, skin lotions, and certainly gyms and trainers, unless you have to dress well for work-no one in the U.S does it for going out.
HH: One of the reasons I think working class men are more open/prone to metrosexuality is that they are used to the idea of owning nothing except their own body. So they invest in that – and use it to gain social capital. Even just at the level of pictures of their sculpted chests and designer tatts on FB. They also spend money on flash clobber because they are ‘low status’ (and perhaps living with their mam). So they have to have ‘front’.
It’s quite possible that if they had enough money for mortgages, pension schemes, property portfolios and proper middle class respectability they might not be nearly so tarty. Or Sicilian.
Mark, you’ve written quite a bit about metrosexuality and consumerism. But there’s a small bit of Metrosexuality that I don’t recall you deconstructing.
Metrosexuality ain’t cheap. But it’s cheaper than actually investing in shares or houses or raising children. It soaks up a lot of spare cash that young men might otherwise put to (forgive me) responsible adult pursuits.
Thus, Staten Island and Newcastle fit the bill. Full of mildly employed men, with enough time for the gym and enough dosh to pay six pounds for a beer and fifty for Issey EDC, but not so wealthy that they’re tempted to take on a mortgage for a semi.
The metrosexual and his finances…indeed, the metrosexual and work. It begs a post-crash analysis.
One thing you have touched on, though, is the fact that Italy remains the spiritual home of the metrosexual, and Italian men who metrosexualise most handsomely.
Are Geordies the Sicilians of the Realm? Do New World Geordies take on the same character as the New World Italians of Jersey Shore?
BTW, they’re filming the fourth series of JS in Italy as we speak. You should hop a train and weasel your way onto the set for an interview.
This should be interesting as I wonder what the old school (dads, grandads) think of them.