According to Grooming Guru, Aramis make wonderful ‘ferociously masculine’ fragrances. Ferociously masculine? You mean, like a LION? Remember, kids, some of the most ferocious beasts in our world are, actually female. But you know how I feel about gay grooming so let’s move swiftly on…
GG also makes an interesting point about the metrosexualisation of contemporary male fragrance adverts ( are we allowed to call male fragrance ‘perfume’? No? Fragrance sounds gay to me.)
Obviously influenced by the theories of Mark Simpson he writes:
‘What’s fascinating, though, is the absence of women from the majority of male fragrance print ads thesedays (a woman is nowhere to be seen in the Aramis print ad and she’s barely there in the TV one). Is it a sign, perhaps, that men no longer want to buy fragrances simply to get the girl but to be attractive and desirable for themselves? In today’s ads the man is the object. You want to be him, have a meaningful bromance with him, rather than have his power over women.’
I agree about the print ads, but as Simpson has said before it is not just the absence of women that is notable about men’s cosmetics and fashion ads, it is often also, the absence of other men. If a man was shown in a scene with another man, referring to something so ‘warm and sexy’ as a fragrance, it would look…gay. Metrosexual imagery and identity is, GG is right, about men being desirable to themselves. But this means men watching adverts need to be reassured that they are not homos for finding the men on the screen or on the posters attractive.
The TV ad still has a woman in, even if she has a small part. The man is clearly waiting to meet her and is wearing the ‘warm, sexy, ferociously masculine’ fragrance in order to seduce her. It’s not GAY! screams Aramis – there’s a WOMAN! HE IS HETEROSEXUAL!
And, again as GG points out, the ad is deliberately ‘retro’, and these days, anything retro is supposed to indicate a ‘retrosexual’, ‘ferociously masculine’ vibe. NOT GAY! RETROSEXUAL! The fagly stubble of the actor is a clear sign that Aramis are a little bit anxious about just how ferociously masculine their brand is.
One thing that Grooming Guru and other male grooming experts do not acknowledge, is that the way they talk about ‘male grooming’ is an attempt to deny the obvious homo-erotics of metrosexuality. Because, even in 2011, it is impossible for a gay man to be ‘ferociously masculine’ because homosexuality and bisexuality in men is still seen as somehow ‘feminine’. It is somehow feminine. Gender difference rears its ugly head when men get it on together, even in their imaginations. As someone from my novel about Foucault’s Daughter said, ‘somebody has to be the fairy’. And in this case, the flaming fairy in the room is Aramis.
Note: as I have said in the comments, I picked out Lee Kynaston, Grooming Guru, but he is by no means the only person working in this field who presents masculinity in certain ways and I do not intend to pick him out for particular criticism. His writing is very accessible and so is easy to quote! I will be looking at a range of male grooming experts in future. It’s a fascinating area.