Editor’s Note: This post is a part of What's A Man, a series exploring masculinity in India, in collaboration with Dr. Deepa Narayan. Join the conversation here!
Metrosexual is a portmanteau of a metropolitan male of any sexual orientation who spends time and money on their external appearance, cultivates an aesthetic lifestyle, and won’t hesitate to burn a hole to get that Prada suit. This term was first used by British journalist Mark Simpson and caused a stir in the marketing industry that used it to appease fashion-attuned men to mint some green. In the early 2000s, David Beckham was epitomized as ‘the biggest metrosexual man of Britain’ owing to his voguish lifestyle.
The term has been metamorphosed several times to suit cultural approbation attached with sensitivity towards gender and sexual identities. It was not uncommon to browbeat a man for his clothing choice if it were anything out of the spectrum of their lumbersexual peers, nevertheless donning a hot pink tie today does not end with a black-eye from the neighborhood bully.
It must be noted here that dressing up in a certain way would generate insensitive slurs from disgruntled homophobes a decade ago (which happens even now). Still, a few centuries ago, a well-groomed man was a matter of pride. Louis XIV, the king of France, was known for his flamboyant lifestyle. His portrait paints a picture of a man who left no pumice stone unturned to look like the sun shines for him even though his vanity came at the cost of exaggerated taxes from peasants until they were siphoned dry.
The label of metrosexuality might be relatively new. Still, the facts that sit on dusty old encyclopedias that high heels were an invention for men is proof enough that it was living in its element since time unknown. Wigs have been a part of judicial and aristocratic fashion and continue to be even now. We might point fingers at archaic beliefs for keeping tabs on men’s fashion and narrowing it down to a few acceptable plaids and checks, but it is not plausible when Yester time was blooming with ‘Style for Men’.
Devout flag bearers of ‘Manhood’ brandished the sword of fanciful and tagged metrosexuality as a myth, a make-believe fantasy that exists only in the head of people to justify their ‘action’ that goes against being a ‘man.’ It is also well believed that the word was coined for filling the silk-lined pockets of beauty and fashion corporations and was a marketing marvel.
Under the pretense of metrosexuality, shelves were stocked with grooming essentials that could burn one’s masculinity, or so says all the wuss. This venture experienced a few hiccups as well-dressed, and good-smelling men were attached to homosexual stereotypes; men ‘feared’ getting hit on by another man.
Metrosexual men were and still are egged on by their more ‘manly’ fellows to suppress their need to look, smell, and feel good; otherwise, it will get gaydars running. The good news is that all this balderdash did not stop GQ and Esquire from advertising Nivea for Men.
Rajesh Koothrapali from Big Bang Theory was ridiculed for his self-care regime and spending dollars and minutes on eye creams and moisturizers. What is the harm in hydrating one’s epithelial layer, especially when they get your toddler a Gucci cape? Parks and Recs’ very own Tom Haverford was on the other end of the line from Ron Swanson, with his prim and proper swag and his Vogue cover model appearance, but why was this seen as weird rather than being completely normal. Ken in Toy Story 3 had an elaborate walk-in closet, and he wasn’t bashful about showing it off to Barbie.
All of the above are examples of metrosexual characters we have seen on television, but all of their personalities are boiled down to be shown as creeps; why are desperation and patheticness saved for the metrosexual character explaining their shopaholic tendency as a fruit of their forlorn destiny. Being a metrosexual is passed off as eccentric behavior, which further incites viewers’ negative reactions against those who indulge in a little retail therapy.
Self-love and acceptance are being preached everywhere in the 21st century and they have acted as a matchstick to burn down toxic images of manhood that encircled men who hoarded fashion paraphernalia, hoping to extend the territory of approved lifestyle for men. Disgust has turned into flattery when one is approached by another man.
Paychecks of single men are singed for cosmetics, pink ties, and Versace Barocco satin prints in addition to beer, PlayStation, and sports tickets. Many social media influencers post makeup tutorials for urban living and about major fashion trends for every season. Even though metrosexual men are nowhere near the end of the pernicious forest of ‘manhood,’ they have transgressed milestones barbed with lumber sexuality. Breaking walls of long-gone times is not a well-paced process, but that is how the cookie crumbles.
Until then, exfoliate judgment, trim away your fears, wash off venomous thoughts, hydrate with power, and moisturize with love.
Written by: Noor