The last couple of decades has shift in attitudes regarding men and fashion. If we ask our fathers, I don’t suppose they would say that their generation were particularly interested in appearance and beauty – maybe when they were going on a date they would throw on an ironed shirt, but on an ordinary basis, jeans and an ordinary shirt did the job. Now, the ‘masculine look’ isn’t necessarily strictly confined to baggy clothes and short haircuts – it’s fashionable to be fashionable, with skinny jeans and fitted t-shirts taking up more and more space on the high street. Not only is it men’s clothing which is changing: styles in hair are shifting and the cosmetic industry is booming. Adverts for hair products are featuring an increasing percentage of styling products for men, and let us not forget the latest collection of straighteners to hit stores; GHDs made especially for the boys.
Obviously, concepts of beauty change over time, and metrosexuality seems to have become fashionable for the moment. Male icons are being airbrushed more and more in advert campaigns, giving them a feel of aesthetic perfection that perhaps was before considered unnecessary in media aimed at men. It is not just the females who have to anticipate what to wear, what to shave, or what the right look is for that night anymore; men are under increasing pressure too.
Perhaps the most iconic metrosexual male of our time is David Beckham: according to the Guardian, he’s “the soccer star who paints his fingernails, braids his hair, and poses for gay magazines, all while maintaining a manly profile on the pitch.” The high interest in his appearance is not surprising, considering the fact that Beckham is good-looking enough to moonlight as an Armani underwear model. However, even unlikely candidates are seemingly becoming more interested in their appearance: rough and ready alpha male Gordon Ramsey, had cosmetic surgery to fill the wrinkles on his cheeks after taking advice from Simon Cowell. More recently, David Cameron had his pre-election campaign posters airbrushed to create a flawless look, with immaculate skin aglow, hair super-slick, and a saucy open-neck shirt to boot.
We tend to picture the metrosexual as someone who rolls out of bed to switch his straighteners on and douses his hair with hairspray to maintain that perfect messy look, then having to douse himself in aftershave to maintain a husky, manly smell. What about the male who empties his bottle of hair gel to maintain the perfect head of spikes, primed to withhold hard-hitting rain in the winter? Whilst he isn’t conventionally metro, he would be upset if I ruined his hair, even though it is short and typically ‘boyish’. This brings us to the question of What defines someone as ‘metro’ – Is it down to the number of beauty products used? Face wash, tinted body moisturiser, scented lip balm… there’s nothing wrong with a man who takes care of this appearance. In fact, most people would consider a male using these almost ‘cute’. But the latest products on cosmetic stands for men are manscara and guyliner. Have these innovations taken metrosexuality to a whole new level? If your boyfriend jumped out of bed and asked for eyeliner and mascara before heading to campus to touch up his look, would you really hand it over willingly without a second thought?
Clearly, there is a continuously progressing aesthetic movement at the heart of what’s happening here. Are we as a society ready to embrace the metrosexual man who takes so much care of their appearance? Have we been programmed to believe that women must appear perfect by whatever means of fakery necessary, but that men have to present themselves as nature dictates, hypothetical warts and all? We should probably be embracing these changes and gladly herald the arrival of the new 21st century man. After all, who really wants to see Cameron’s true complexion on a billboard in all its ruddy, blemishy glory? No one. All hail the mighty metrosexual.