The 'Daddy' of the Metrosexual, the Retrosexual, & spawner of the Spornosexual

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Tag: retrosexual (page 2 of 3)

Retrosexuality isn’t what it used to be

My attention was recently drawn by a concerned member of the browsing public to a piece on, ‘Retrosexuals: The latest lame macho catchphrase’ by Aaron Traister, entertainingly lambasting the ‘new’ retrosexual trend:

I woke up this morning to discover my local paper, the Philadelphia Inquirer, peddling a story about America’s new favorite model of man: the retrosexual. Normally I ignore almost everything in my local paper, but this, in combination with a recent article in the New York Times about the sequel to “The Official Preppy Handbook,” has got my knickers in a bunch.

The retrosexual is a clever play on that other dusty gem of modern trend masculinity, the metrosexual. Unlike metrosexualism, which encouraged men to worry about their appearance and spend copious amounts of money on beauty products and clothes to mask the kinds of insecurities normally pushed on women, the retrosexual trend encourages men to worry about their appearance and spend copious amounts of money on products and clothes to mask more traditional masculine insecurities, like being gay, or a broke loser, or a gay broke loser.

I happen to agree with much of Traister’s trashing of retrosexualism, particularly the way he mocks its central fear of being thought a fag.  But then I would because I’ve already done it. Several years ago. On Salon.  OK, so I stopped writing for them yonks ago, and it would of course be entirely understandable if they were still sulking about this….

But still, Salon writers should perhaps show a little more research – even from just the search box – before lambasting at length ‘the latest lame macho catchphrase’. According to the first usage of the term ‘retrosexual’ in the sense of the ‘anti-metrosexual’ was in an essay (‘Becks the virus’) by yours truly in 2003.  On Salon.

By the following year, 2004, America was having a gigantic national nervous breakdown over metrosexuality and gay marriage and re-elected Bush. I remember it well because it followed the crazy year or so of metrosexmania that swept the US – after my outing essay ‘Meet the metrosexual’ in 2002, and its bizarre appropriation and bowdlerisation by American marketers.  Which also appeared on Salon.

The ‘menaissance’ was mendacious even back in the mid noughties, of course, with its prissy lists of ‘dos and don’ts’, and euphemistic marketing strategies – as I pointed out at the time. But now everyone knows that ‘retrosexuality’, at least when appropriated by the media and marketing business, is just jokey, Mad Men-esque nostalgia for nostalgia – with a trilby cocked ‘just so’.  Or gag-me-with-a-silver-spoon preppy wannabe niche marketing that isn’t to be taken seriously.

In early 2004, with the homophobic anti-metro backlash brewing in the US, I returned to the subject – again, for Salon (‘Metrodaddy speaks!’).  Since I love quoting myself (at length), and since I think this as pertinent now as back then, here’s the relevant section from that auto-interview, which explains the repugnance of traditionalists towards the lack of repugnance metrosexuals generally have towards homoerotics:

Are hetero metrosexuals really latent homosexuals?

MS: Certainly it would make life easier and less worrying for retrosexuals if this were true — and I notice that in certain slightly, shall we say, clenched circles, metrosexual has become another word for “homo” or “fag.” Unfortunately for these threatened types — and also for me — this is just wishful, over-tidy thinking; homophobic housework. Hetero metros are not “really” gay — they’re just really metrosexual. In point of fact, hetero metrosexuals are probably rather less “latent” than retrosexuals. They are, after all, rather blatant — in their flirtatiousness. Their identity is not based on a constant repudiation of homosexuality. What the retrosexual finds repugnant in the metrosexual is his invitation of the gaze — a gaze that is not and cannot be gendered or straightened out. They’re equal-opportunity narcissists.

Homoerotics, rather than homosexuality, is an inevitable and obvious part of male narcissism — just as it is for female narcissism, hence “lesbian chic.” Which is one of the reasons why it has been discouraged for so long. This isn’t to say that most metrosexuals want to go to bed with other men — not even so as to generously share their beauty with the half of the human race so far deprived of it — it’s just that they aren’t necessarily repulsed by the male body in the way that many retrosexuals like to assert, repeatedly, they are. By extension, their interest in women is not necessarily driven by self-loathing or a need to prove their virility; it’s a matter of taste and pleasure. Which I suspect many women find something of a relief, not to mention a turn-on. Though admittedly some women may feel that the metrosexual is too much like competition.

God, I was good back then.  But so was Salon.

Republican Great White Hope Scott Brown’s Pink Leather Past

A profile on the truck driving Republican Presidential hopeful from Boston Scott Brown in Vanity Fair caused a few chuckles last week with his wife’s cheeky revelation about the pink leather shorts he wore to his first date with her in the 1980s.  Here’s the money shot:

“The pinkish color drained from [Brown’s] face when I asked him about it during a conversation in his campaign office just before we took off in the truck. He clarified that the shorts weren’t something that he went out and purchased — it wasn’t like that at all. ‘I did the couture shows, and instead of paying in cash, they paid in clothes,’ he said. ‘And one of the things I had to wear were leather shorts. And these happened to be pink.’”

It’s certainly a relief to know Mr Brown didn’t buy them – that would be kinda faggy – that instead he was given the pink leather shorts for sashaying up and down the catwalk at a couture show.

How funny to think that the US was the only country that had anything approaching a serious backlash against metrosexuality, back in the mid-Noughties.  Oh, come on now, surely you remember?  That so-called ‘menaissance’?  Those prissy lists of ‘manly’ ‘do’s and don’ts’?  And those completely non-ironic ‘Reclaim your manhood – go shopping in a Hummer’ ads?  It got lots of coverage  in the press at the time.  Supposedly metro was out and retro ‘regular guys’ were back in.  Oh, and George W. Bush was re-elected in part on an anti-gay marriage anti-metro ticket (his Democrat opponent was portrayed by the Republican machine as a girly-man metrosexual passifist).

And yet,  just a few years on, faux Texan ‘bring it on!’ George Bush has been replaced by a svelte mixed-race President who starts every day with a workout, who ran a campaign based on slogans printed in the GQ font, and who is, for all Michelle’s prettiness, something of his own First Lady.

And now the great white hope of the Republicans, who whipped Obama’s skinny ass in a Democrat stronghold, is a former Cosmo centreforld and male couture model who liked to wear pink leather shorts because they showed off his tanned legs.

But perhaps the most interesting thing about Scott Brown’s very successful 1980s male modelling career, looking at the pictures, is this: he wouldn’t get the work today.  He’d have to do hardcore gay porn.  And certainly not Falcon or any respectable studio – no, Scott would have to do fetish/extreme stuff.  Fisting in black (not pink) leather, that kind of thing.  Or cash-in on his surname.  And he still wouldn’t get paid very much.  Though they probably would let him keep one of the XXL toys.

I’m not being bitchy.  No, really.  I’m just being realistic.  And anyway, it’s not about him; it’s about us.

He was nice enough looking in a wooden sort of way, but since the 1980s an entire generation of young men have been raised to be male models – and they work at it a lot harder than Scott evidently did.  They also look at themselves a lot harder.  Scott had it relatively easy because there was much less awareness of what was ‘desirable’ in the male body back then – amongst women and men.  Young men as a sex hadn’t learned to desire to be desired.  That was still officially women’s role.  And because there was probably also rather more in the way of stigma attached to his profession there was even less competition.

Yes, it looks like Scott had a pert bum and what they used to call back then a ‘hunky’ physique – but today it would be a case of ‘Don’t call us dear, we’ll call you.’  Such is the choice available of absurdly desirable, obscenely fit young men, I doubt anyone would even bother to tell him what he so obviously needed to do: get down the gym and take steroids and crystal meth.  (And if you work really hard and you’re really lucky you’ll end up on Jersey Shore.)

His body looks far too natural to be credible today as a idealised male image: the lack of porno pecs, a six-pack and ‘cum-gutters’ is heinous.  The untrimmed, un-waxed body hair is grievous.  The unbleached teeth unforgiveable.  He wouldn’t make the audition for today’s male Cosmo – Men’s Health – let alone the cover.

In fact, the most buffed and pumped thing about the young Scott Brown to our critical 21st Century eyes is his hairdo.

Damn Right Your Dad Swallowed

You may remember I couldn’t resist poking fun a while back at Canadian Club’s ‘Your Dad Wasn’t A Metrosexual’ poster, the one with with the tag line ‘Damn Right Your Dad Drank It’.  It turns out there were several instalments in that faux retro campaign, including ‘Your Dad Never Tweezed Anything’, the very appetising ‘Your Mom Wasn’t Dad’s First’, and the positively lipsmacking, ‘Your Dad Had a Van For a Reason’. (I kid you not.)

It appears that the campaign received some bad press in Canada, and I wasn’t the only one that couldn’t resist sending it up.  Fresca has kindly drawn my attention to this project by Michelle Koenig-Schwartz in which she invites people to creatively deface the ads – the ‘Your Mom Was Your Dad’ poster below is one of the contributions. Others include a picture of two naked twinks snogging under the headline ‘Your Mom Wasn’t Your Dad’s First.’  I’m not sure that I share the sense of outrage that some people seem to have over the ads, but they were certainly asking for a good kicking.

Which makes me wonder whether all this attention might well be exactly what the wannabe Mad Men at the ad agency responsible wanted – the ‘Damn Right Your Dad Drank It’ campaign has apparently begun again, with posters announcing, ‘Your Dad Didn’t Wear a Bridge’. Whatever that is supposed to mean.

But it’s always fun defacing ads, so what the hell?

Canadian Club. Damn Right the Metro’s Dad Didn’t Drink it.  It tastes of synthetic provocation.

Your Dad Wasn’t a Metrosexual: But His Best Buddy Was

Mmmmm. Retrosexual masculinity. Served in a rocks glass. Effortless. Unselfconscious. Dated.

It tastes just like your… dad.

Unlike you, of course. You moisturize. Go to the gym. Watch what you eat. Fret about whether you’re worthy of love. Worry about what masculinity actually means. And taste of tea-tree oil and lavender.

If only we could bring those days back! When you could operate heavy machinery and speedboats pissed out of your mind. When no one thought you might be homo. When the only magazines you bought were Popular Mechanics and Penthouse. When women couldn’t keep their hands off you even though you had no dress sense, smelt bad and your hair was full of lard.

And when toned, topless, tweaking 1970s hustlers checked themselves out in rest room mirrors while waiting for their next married punter. (Yes, that picture caught my eye too.)

Canadan Club: for the the man who, like most men today, is on the outside looking in. Aching to be sold back by advertising the very thing that advertising has deprived him of. How many of the men reading this ad today even speak to their dad, or know what he drinks?

As I have pointed out before, it’s a measure of how self-conscious and mediated masculinity is now that ‘real guys’ whatever they were are now just another annoying fad. Faux retro.

On the rocks.

Tip: Fresca Davis

The Sun newspaper: Retro or Metro?



So, Cilla, which of our lovely lads is the public going to plump for?

Will it be ‘Dave’ the retrosexual PE teacher from Liverpool with a pint, who only uses aftershave his mum bought him for Christmas ‘on special occasions’ (but seems to be rather fond of hair product)? Or will it be ‘Joe’ the metrosexual Accounts Manager from Essex with a glass of Chardonnay and perched on an Ikea stool (I know where it’s from because I have one) who spends £350 a month on clothes and goes to the gym every evening because he’s going on a ‘lad’s holiday’ with fifteen mates and they’ve got a bet on for who ‘looks best on the beach’?

Yesterday’s Sun ran a ‘Hetero or Metro?’ competition, supposedly prompted by the popularity of the unreconstructed (and impressively ugly) sexist police character in BBC 80s ironic nostalgia drama series ‘Ashes to Ashes’. According to the Sun he makes women ‘quiver’.

Probably because a) he’s safely in the 80s and b) they can’t smell him.

For just 10p you can cast your vote for the ‘hetero’ or the ‘metro’. (It costs nothing to show them your indifference.)

One of the many ironies of this exercise is that ‘Joe’ their sportswear clad ‘hetero’ ‘real man’ looks a lot like a lot of gay men these days, especially the ones you find in Central Station or in Triga videos. But then, after all, he’s a PE teacher. Are any of them straight?

Because the Sun is, like the rest of the media, part of the metrosexual consumer conspiracy, the competition is of course men-daciously loaded in favour of the retrosexual (bigger picture, first billing, biased intro).

In case you needed reminding that actually there’s no contest and that, whatever it pretends, the Sun is really rooting for metrosexuality, today’s paper has a male workout spread giving advice on how men can look good on the beach, or in underwear ads. A spread aimed very much at ‘Joes’ – who, of course, have more money and neuroses to spend than PE teachers from Liverpool. Even the Soaraway Sun’s family holiday guide in the same edition are illustrated with a scrummy ‘daddy’ with perfect pecs, skin, hair and teeth.

Whatever the outcome of the poll, Joe has already lost.

But the triumph of metrosexuality is not without rather queer contradictions and ironies. In the very same edition of the Sun, a news story tells of a gay BMW salesman taking his former employers to court for harassment and humiliation over his sexuality. Amongst his claims is that when he wore a pink shirt to work male colleagues jibed ‘Hello sweetie!’. Rather than reprimand them, his boss sent him home to change his shirt – whereas the same colour shirts worn by his straight colleagues went unremarked.

Perhaps they taunted and excluded the gay because he reminded them what their pink shirts were all about. What they were all about.

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