How to classify the metrosexual

Alex Hayes

Fashion and sexuality roles blurry with the rising male trend

Metrosexuality has emerged into popular culture. It’s characterized by traditionally feminine colors on masculine clothes and fine grooming.

Credit: Beth Rankin

Metrosexuality has taken hold of the male population in the United States and Europe during the past couple of years. Varying definitions of the term have led to confusion as to what metrosexuality really means.

The origin of a cultural awakening

Mark Simpson first used the term metrosexual in an article for Independent in November 1994. He wrote about the promotion of metrosexuality in the men’s style magazines such as GQ, Esquire, FHM and The Face.

“They filled their magazines with images of narcissistic men sporting fashionable clothes and accessories,” Simpson wrote. “And they persuaded other young men to study them with a mixture of envy and desire.”

Since then metrosexuality has boomed into a cultural and media phenomenon. Television shows such as Bravo network’s “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” with its makeovers of straight men by a panel of fashion- and style-conscious gay men, have taken metrosexuality and moved it into the mainstream.

According to, the Queer Eye panel referred to Duran Duran as “the first metrosexuals.”

Jonathan Smith, a former Kent State student in his thirties (he declined to specify his age), had his own definition of metrosexuality.

Smith has dyed red wavy hair, which he said was styled at a salon school for about $40. He said he is not much into cologne but is focused more on his clothes.

“Metro is like the non-typical straight guy — like a 21st century gentleman attitude,” Smith explained. “Someone who has a global perspective and knows the trends of Europe.

“I was told I was metro because of the way I dress and act. I was told I act more European than the typical guy. I’m wearing clothes as artistic expression and wearing my hair like artistic expression.”

Smith said he believes the word metrosexual came about because “the word fashion is too feminine.”

The Comedy Central show “South Park” produced a metrosexual episode in October 2003, titled “South Park is Gay.”

In the episode, the townspeople of South Park hold a metrosexual pride parade after watching an episode of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” The characters Cartman, Stan and Kenny were dressed in fashionable outfits and acted stereotypically gay, while Kenny resisted the newfound metrosexual movement in South Park.

“You’ll never turn me into a metrosexual. I like being a dirty, filthy little boy!” Kenny responded to his friends.

No clear definition

Metrosexuality isn’t only for the straight man. Simpson, the creator of the term, clarified his original statement about metrosexuals in a July 2002 article explaining, “metrosexuality is in fact the end of ‘sexuality.’ ”

Simpson goes on to say that a metrosexual “might be officially gay, straight or bisexual, but this is utterly immaterial because he has clearly taken himself as his own love object and pleasure as his sexual preference. Desire in the metrosexual has been uncoupled, or at least irretrievably loosened, from reproduction and gender — and reattached to commercial signs. Adverts. Images. Icons. Brands.”

The lack of a clear definition of metrosexuality has lead to confusion among men, some of which fit into some definitions but not others.

“I don’t really consider myself metro,” said Dave Oeschger, a 25-year-old Green resident.

Oeschger said he is more of a “jeans and T-shirt kind of guy.”

He said the most he has spent on jeans is about $80, but “if I found the perfect pair, I would spend upwards of $130 or $150.”

Oeschger goes to the gym five days a week and tries to eat mostly healthy meals. He wears Jean Paul Gaultier cologne, which he said costs about $60 a bottle and “is worth its weight in gold.”

He shops at the Gap and online at, and said he goes to a nice salon to get his haircut.

“I’m not that hardcore about my look,” Oeschger said about the effort he puts into his style. “I don’t want to look like I put two hours into it.”

Metro finds its posterboy: Beckham

The leading posterboy for metrosexuality has been soccer star David Beckham. His image has been plastered on billboards and magazine covers for the last few years.

Beckham, who is captain of the English national soccer team, has become a leading image for metrosexuality because of his mixture of sports success and effeminate qualities.

He has been known to paint his fingernails and was asked by his Manchester United soccer manager not to wear a headband in matches because it made him look too effeminate.

In 1998, Beckham was pictured wearing a sarong, a large sheet of fabric, which is often wrapped around the waist and worn as a skirt, while on vacation with his wife Victoria Adams, formerly Posh Spice of the Spice Girls.

Other leading names associated with metrosexuality are Brad Pitt, Jude Law and former basketball star Dennis Rodman.

While some may argue Rodman’s metrosexual status, gallivanting about in dresses, lipstick, high-heels and ever-changing hair designs contrasted sharply with Rodman’s “bad boy” image on the court and changed many people’s view of the stereotypical burly jock.

The emergence of the metrosexual seems to have created as much confusion among men as it has camaraderie.

On the one hand, many men have found a way to express the softer, more sensitive and aesthetically aware side of themselves. On the other hand, our culture is still feeling out this new metrosexual man and what his role will be in our culture as we journey farther into the 21st century.

Contact features reporter Alex Hayes at [email protected].