Retrosexual Recession?

Posted: August 12, 2011 in Masculinities, metrosexuality, Metrosexy, Uncategorized

Shane Warne may have experienced a ‘metrosexual revolution’ of his own, writes The Mail,

‘But chaps, it seems, are now keener to follow the example set by Hugh Laurie and switch to the bearded and rugged look of his character in the hit television drama House. Coupled with the economic downturn, the move has taken its toll on the grooming industry, according to the latest research. In the past year, sales of hair styling products have dropped by almost 15 per cent, everyday fragrances are down 10 per cent and facial skincare by 1.8 per cent.’

This is a very complex and quite clever massage of what is really happening with masculinity at the moment.The media (and there are quite a few articles on this: e.g. here,  here, here and here)
have conflated a combination of things:

They have highlighted how the recession is leading to less spending on most consumer goods e.g. grooming products. They have linked this to the  current trend for what Mark Simpson calls ‘soho beards’ whereby men try and maintain a vestige of hirsute manliness amidst all their preening. See also: Tom Ford, Gerard Butler, Gay Ritchie, Brad Pitt, etc etc.

Then articles such as the Mail one, have latched onto the continued need for people to claim the’death’ of the metrosexual and the reappearance of Real Men. Sometimes, in times of socio-economic uncertainty, the disappearance of the  ‘Real Man’ is what people say is a key factor in the troubles. Even the riots in the UK have been blamed, in part, on the absence of male ‘role models’ for boys. So the ‘myth of real men’ goes deep. That it is linked to/contrasted with ‘metrosexuality’ shows that metrosexuality itself also goes much further than skin deep. That is why people feel threatened by it.

But you only need to look at the video at the top to see what a joke this ‘retrosexual’ menaissance is.  Hugh Laurie, this ‘rugged’ model of traditional ‘retrosexual’ masculinity, is the new face of L’Oreal! You can’t get more metro than that, darlings!

And you only need to look at one of the huge numbers of ‘male grooming’ websites to see that men with beards spend as much time and money on ‘grooming’ as hairless wonders do. Maybe more. So the recession would not create more beards necessarily (maybe just itchier ones). And men’s desire for the ‘rugged’ look would not involve less ‘metrosexual’ preening. The new rugged look is a metrosexual phenomenon.

John Walsh at the Independent picks up on the ridiculousness of Hugh Laurie trading on his ‘unkempt’ image, especially in his role as Dr House, to be the ‘ambassador’ for male grooming products at l’oreal. But he weighs in with the ‘myth of real men’ argument, saying a ‘real man’ wouldn’t care about his appearance or what others thought of him at all.  He also seems to suggest men aren’t investing in self-care (products) to the extent we know they are. Because sales may be falling briefly but the market in metro-products is still huge.

Men and women may have to tighten their belts, and keep an eye on their skincare and hairdressing budgets in the coming months/years, but metrosexuality is here to stay.




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