In a recent interview for an Italian magazine, Mark Simpson mentioned some old friends of his – ‘hummersexuals’. He said:
‘Hummersexuals are guys who over-emphasise their masculinity with ‘manly’ accessories in a way that makes you wonder what they’re covering up. Retrosexuals are merely pre-metrosexual.’
This is consistent with what he wrote about Hummersexuals, back in 2006:
‘Despite his best efforts to convince you, the hummersexual is not retrosexual. Since when did “regular guys” need several tons of military hardware, or “new macho” lifestyle magazines such as Best Life, or books such as the bestselling Alphabet of Manliness and Men Don’t Apologise, to be “regular”? The hummersexual is clearly, hilariously, faux-retrosexual. He’s an off-the-peg, drag-king idea of “real” masculinity: stuffed crotch and joke beard included at no extra charge.’
And in a recent piece about some ‘macho’ fashion bloggers he reiterated his old idea that ‘retrosexual’ means ‘pre-metrosexual’: ‘This kind of guff isn’t ‘post-metrosexual’ at all. It’s so pre-metrosexual it’s positively pre-Stonewall.’
Now I’d not paid much attention to these weird, ‘faux-retrosexual’ hummersexuals before. Partly because Mr Simpson has not written anything about them for years, and partly because, more importantly, neither has anyone else.
The thing about ‘neologisms’ is they are only really useful if they capture a concept that a large number of people can relate to and utilise in everyday life. Metrosexual and ‘retrosexual’ are both part of regular conversations. Simpson has come up with terms that are meaningful in the contemporary world.
But ‘hummersexual’ to me, is as pointless as a man driving a big petrol-guzzling truck just to prove he is a ‘real man’! To illustrate my point I’ll tell you that the picture at the top is the cover of a retrosexual manual from 2008. There are no ‘hummersexual manuals’ I can find. And last year, Mr Simpson did a reading at a club night with a ‘retrosexual’ (not ‘hummersexual’) theme.
At the ‘retrosexual’ club, Simpson read from the introduction to Metrosexy, where he discusses the ongoing march of metrosexuality:
‘Not everyone is happy with this state of affairs. Some gays, understandably, don’t appreciate being upstaged. Or being confused. And of course quite a few traditionalist heteros also hate metrosexuality along with the sexual uncertainty that it represents, and wish it would just go away, or have a terrible accident on the sunbed. Or they want to pretend that it never happened, that it was all just a bad, over-plucked dream. Such nostalgic determination not to see what should be as plain as the bronzer on your face is, in its way, quite endearing. But when media types start cooing as they have done lately about ‘retrosexuals’ that are just metrosexuals with shaped chest hair, I can’t help but roll my eyes like the girlfriends of the lads flashing me their shaved balls.
You see, when I first used the word ‘retrosexual’ back in 2003, I just meant men who were not metrosexual. So-called ‘regular guys’. Remember those? But at the dawn of the second decade of the Twenty First Century, masculinity has been rendered so self-conscious in our mediated, mirrored world that even ‘regular guys’ are apparently just a fashion fad – this season’s accessory. We’re all like my post-op MTF friend Michelle (formerly known as the male stripper ‘Stud-U-Like’) complaining: ‘Where can you find a REAL man these days?? I’m so SICK of all these metrosexual PHONIES!’ Though probably with less self-irony.
What else could explain the squealing eagerness with which the media seized upon the confected character of Mad Men’s Don Draper as an example of the return of the ‘retrosexual’? An impossibly pretty and impeccably well-turned out Army deserter with identity issues – and a hidden, shameful secret – who works as an advertising creative and is the unwavering object of the camera’s voyeuristic gaze. We’re so metrosexualised now that this is what ‘old time masculinity’ looks like to us. Put another way, metrosexuality is masculinity mediated, aestheticised and (self) fetishised. Even if it looks fetching in a trilby.
This makes sense to me. I see ‘metrosexual’ and ‘retrosexual’, not as two ‘types’ of man, but rather as the culture of masculinity we live in. And in that culture there are tensions, e.g. between men’s ‘feminine’ display and narcissism (metrosexual) and their need to still be ‘men’ (retrosexual).
There are very very few men, however metro, who do not have some denial in them. Gay,straight, whatever, men cling on to ‘masculinity’ like rats to a sinking ship.
And I think Metrodaddy is in a bit of denial about this. I don’t know why. Maybe he wants men all to be out and proud metrosexuals. Maybe he (rightly) senses in men’s denial of their metrosexuality some good old-fashioned homophobia. Maybe he is just a man, who also has some denial of his own ‘femininity’. But surely it’s better to acknowledge it.
It’s easy for me. I never was and never will be a ‘man’. It is also easy for me as I am not the originator of this theory. I didn’t have to start from scratch, 20 years ago, with no words to describe this world we live in that now seems obvious.
I can see why Simpson both initially said that ‘retrosexual’ just meant ‘pre-metrosexual’ and that a ‘hummersexual’ was an exaggerated, in denial ‘faux-retrosexual’. What I don’t understand is why Simpson, in 2012, returned to his old ‘retro’ stance from way back when, and resurrected ‘hummersexuals’, making out that ‘retrosexual’ is just an old word to describe men before metrosexuality had really taken hold of our culture.
That seems to take ‘retrosexual denial’ a bit too far.