Metrosexual typically refers to a heterosexual man who is concerned with fashion, image, and living a trendy urban lifestyle — characteristics typically associated with fashionable, urban Gay men.
Roots: The Aesthetic Movement
Metrosexuality could be viewed as a twentieth and twenty-first century incarnation of the aesthetic movement championed by Oscar Wilde in the nineteenth century. During the movement, British heterosexual men became more interested and invested in appearance and the arts, also reflected in decadence, the French equivalent of the aesthetic movement, and dandyism, a movement that spanned the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in France and England.
Origin of “Metrosexual”
The term “metrosexual” was coined by British writer Mark Simpson in an article published on November 15, 1994 entitled, “Here Come the Mirror Men.” Simpson describes the metrosexual man as having plenty of disposable income and living in the city center in order to have access to the best shops and salons. According to Simpson, the metrosexual is highly influenced by consumerism and wants to have (or to be) what is presented to him in magazine and television advertisements. Pandering to this particular audience, advertisers and designers used the image of the metrosexual as the symbol of masculine chic. In addition to fashion and self-care (salons, spas, gyms and male beauty products), metrosexuals also tend to follow pop culture reflected in music, television, and the arts. The most renowned metrosexual icon for Simpson was British soccer player and model, David Beckham, who Simpson describes as “über-metrosexual” because Beckham was stylish, masculine, and athletic.
Usage of the term grew in 2002 after a second Simpson article published on www.salon.com entitled “Meet the Metrosexual.” In this article, he expands the definition to include homosexuals and bisexuals as well. However, he notes that sexual preference is irrelevant, since metrosexuality has more to do with leading a narcissistic lifestyle that it does with sexual orientation. “He might be officially gay, straight or bisexual, “ says Simpson, “but this is utterly immaterial because he has clearly taken himself as his own love object and pleasure as his sexual preference.”
In the same way the word “gay” has gone international in reference to non-heteronormal gender expression and sexual orientation, “metrosexual” has leaped beyond the English-speaking world to become a part of international urban folk speech. Some examples of its adaptation into other languages are métrosexuel (French), metroseksueel (Dutch), metrosexuell (German), metrosessuale (Italian), metroseksualny (Polish), and metroszexuális (Hungarian). There are written equivalents in languages such as Japanese, Chinese, Arabic, Russian, and Greek that do not use the Roman alphabet, and the translation may sound nothing like the original term. “Metrosexual” is spelled exactly the same in Spanish as it is in English.
Less visible as a cultural phenomenon is female metrosexuality. In “Meet the Metrosexual,” Simpson asserts that television shows such as Sex in the City have promulgated an image of the metrosexual woman. Where male metrosexuality is passive and self-absorbed, female metrosexuality is active and somewhat predatory. The male metrosexual prefers to be the soft-spoken, fashionable object of affection, while the female metrosexual finds fulfillment in being assertive and domineering. Like her male counterpart, the female metrosexual is also concerned with physical appearance and image.
In Japanese pop culture, identities akin to metrosexuality in terms of gender have been expressed in terms of food preference. Straight men who abstain from sex with women and resist a macho image in favor of style are called soushoku danshi (Japanese: “grass-eating” or “herbivorous boys”), and Straight women who are more assertive are nikushoku joshi (“meat eating” or “carnivorous women”).
Metrosexuality, Sex, and Being Gay-Friendly
In recent years, the term “metrosexuality” has also been used to connote more than just an aesthetic lifestyle, but a sexual one as well. In Great Britain, metrosexuality has come to represent a new type of sexual identity, a polysexual one as opposed to a fixed Gay or Straight appellation. Today, the internet is riddled with quizzes intended to indicate just how metrosexual one is, based on what one buys, what one does with one’s free time, and with whom one engages in sex.
One outstanding characteristic of metrosexuality is a pervasive rejection of homophobia and Gay-bashing. Both male and female metrosexuals not only invest in the perceived Gay aesthetic, they also reflect the LGBTQ ethos of tolerance and appreciation of orientation, gender, and sexual physiological diversity. It is expected that metrosexuals will have Gay friends and feel comfortable in Gay bars, even if they choose not to frequent such establishments.
Flocker, Michael. The Metrosexual Guide to Style: A Handbook for the Modern Man. Ambridge, MA: Da Capo, 2003.
Simpson, Mark. It’s a Queer World: Deviant Adventures in Pop Culture. New York: Haworth, 1999.
Simpson, Mark. (July 22, 2002). “Meet the Metrosexual.” www.salon.com. http://dir.salon.com/story/ent/feature/2002/07/22/metrosexual/, accessed July 2010.