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This word has been around since at least the mid-1990s, and was first used to describe urban (and urbane) young men who were self-indulgent, even narcissistic, and who were interested in fashion and beauty. It has been reinvented with a twist. The story is that 21st-century man has become neutered and insecure as a result of the rise of female power in the workplace. Straight men, happily married but confused by the new gender equality (and by a barrage of comment saying they’re useless and obsolete), are turning to methods more traditionally associated with women, such as power dressing and beauty treatments, to assert themselves. Metrosexual man, the theory goes, wants to be thought of as caring, nurturing and open-minded, while rejecting many traditional male virtues. At least, this is what Marian Salzman, American guru of futurology, is suggesting, although her thesis is derided by other futurologists, who say that the way that some men feel at the moment is merely part of a realignment of gender roles that hasn’t yet worked its way to a conclusion.

Last week ace trend spotter Marian Salzman of the advertising agency Euro RCSG Worldwide identified Beckham — who likes to say how comfortable he is with his feminine side and who has been known to wear a sarong — as the epitome of “metrosexuality,” which, since you ask, is the characteristic of heterosexual men who spend time and money on their appearance and enjoy shopping.

Time, 30 June 2003

According to the experts, this guy lives near the city, uses beauty products, fancies Kylie Minogue but would never cheat on his partner. How do you spot this paragon of virtue? The Metrosexual will, they say, possess at least one salmon pink shirt.

Mirror, 19 June 2003

Page created 12 Jul. 2003

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World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–2014. All rights reserved.
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Last modified: 12 July 2003.