Posts Tagged ‘retrosexual’

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.

Has Shane Warne Ditched His Metrosexual Masculinity? The Mail thinks so:

‘just as you think SHANE WARNE has gone and cashed in every last one of his man points in his pursuit of the fragrant ELIZABETH HURLEY, he goes and emerges with this hulking chunk of macho posturing.

I’m no expert on Aussie-rules marriages but I find it interesting that Shane’s rebooted testosterone seems to have occurred around the same time as he slipped that sparkler on Elizabeth’s ring finger. If I were a conspiracy theorist I might suggest that his weight-loss, metrosexual dressing and baby’s-bottom facial appearance were mere smoke and mirrors, designed to lure Elizabeth into a quick trip down the aisle – and now that he has made his conquest, he’s about to morph back.

The turnaround looks remarkable, with Shane performing an arm-fold barrier and quasi-uninterested stare while his fiancée goes for a full-on bestowed kiss and neck clasp to gain his attention. This could signal the tipping point, where the power starts to turn in Shane’s favour, meaning we should look out for Elizabeth getting a ‘My little beer-belly and hair frizz’ kit as a gift from her groom.’–butch-back.html#ixzz1eEsGMATD

The Mail are being very contradictory here, because initially they said Hurley was responsible for Warne’s metrosexual transformation, suggesting men only prettify themselves under the influence of bossy women. Now they are hinting that he only went metro to woo Liz, and now she has agreed to marry him he has reverted to ‘macho’ type.

In doing so the Mail are deliberately ignoring the throbbing pink elephant in the room: men’s ‘desire to be desired’ on their own terms. As Mark Simpson has said recently, in relation to another metro man, DJ Phillgood, a rapper who wears bright lipstick and floral print tights:

‘What I do think links this to metrosexuality is the way that DPhill (like Andej Pejic) is keen to assert that he is going to wear what he damn well wants to wear and to hell with what’s ‘appropriate’ to his sex. Or genre.’


And as  Simpson has also pointed out on a number of occasions, the mainstream British press is in general, quite ‘metrophobic’, even though it fills its papers with Metrosexy images of pretty young male celebrities. So the negative reactions to Warne’s metrosexual ‘makeover’ have been quite predictable.


But also as Simpson has pointed out, the media is obsessed with comparing ‘feminine’ ‘faggy’ ‘metrosexuals’ with red-blooded, uber-masculine, authentic Real Men – ‘retrosexuals’. As Simpson has said, this is a false dichotomy, because ‘retrosexual’ images of masculinity, e.g. the trimmed beard and loafers look, are just as primped, just as commodified, just as metrosexual as any other. Look at the photo- see Shane’s designer trousers, accessorised with a fashionable belt. See his trendy shades and pumped triceps. And I am sure he didn’t forget to moisturise that day.

This photo of Beckham was labelled ‘retrosexual look’ so really it is just another ‘metrosexual look’:

The main point being, that metrosexuality for me, represents the culture we live in, it is not merely a ‘style’ or characteristic of masculinity (that many, including masculinity ‘experts’ in academia think it is). You can’t ‘reject’ metrosexuality and choose an alternative mode of being a man. There is no ‘opposite’ of metrosexual. Metrosexuality breaks down the gender binary itself, which is why I am so fascinated by it.


However, I think I differ a little from Simpson in that I take ‘retrosexual’ media claims quite seriously. I do not declare the retrosexual ‘dead’ as he does. Because I think the discourse of retrosexual masculinity is very important, and as the above article in the Mail shows, alive and well in Metrosexy 2011. As I have written previously:

‘ I am not prepared to just laugh off this retrosexual resurgence in media discourse. I think it is a sign that whilst ‘the retrosexual’ as a character who actually rejects metrosexuality and all the grooming that goes with it, is dead in the water, the *idea* of the retrosexual is still very attractive to many people.

And in mediated masculinities, *ideas* of masculinity are just as important if not more so, than the actual buffed, big titted specimens walking our streets.

It could be argued that ‘retrosexual’ just means ‘metrosexual denial’ and you can’t have one without the other. If you could, we’d all be totally liberated! The fact that Simpson came up with the term ‘retrosexual’ himself, in his exploration of metrosexuality, really does suggest that the two concepts go hand in hand.’

As Simpson said about Warne, even though he has embraced his metrosexuality with panache, there remains a tiny bit of denial even in him, as he said, despite his appearance, ‘I am still a man’.

But being a man in the 21st century is much more flexible than it used to be, and articles such as this one are just holding onto an outdated myth of ‘macho’ masculinity. Unfortunately it is a myth that is taken seriously by many. Hopefully we will see Shane soon back in peacock mode and the Mail will have to eat their words.

Have you ever wanted to know if you are metro or retro? Well thanks  to the Spanish publication LaVanguardia, you can find out! They produce this handy checklist to help you work out once and for all what kind of man you are.

Metrosexuals: Urban, heterosexual or homosexual, usually single. Examples: David Beckham, Rafael Nadal
1) Cares for skin, hair and nails
2) Uses creams, not just for shaving
3) Waxes body hair
4) Goes to the gym

Retrosexuals: Elegant, not necessarily urban, clearly heterosexual, almost always middle aged. Examples: Hugh Laurie, Xavier Badem, Don Draper(John Hamm)
1) Cares for his appearance in moderation
2) Uses cosmetics normally
3) Likes clothes that are not showy
4) Some opt for a short beard

But, whilst you are looking at your short beard in the mirror and congratulating yourself on how ‘clearly heterosexual’ you are. Let me tell you, fellas, that this is all bullshit. As bullshit as the idea that the matador, in his purple and gold sequinned skintight trousers, is a figure of archetypal ‘macho’ masculinity. Mark Simpson, who coined both the terms ‘metrosexual’ and ‘retrosexual’ was being interviewed by La Vanguardia, about the rumours recently that the metrosexual had finally gasped his last fragrant breath and given in to the brute force of the manly retro man. But despite his assertion that this was just the usual ‘lying’ of marketeers, that ironically is used to sell even more grooming product to metrosexual men, and that ‘retrosexual’ is just a concept to assure men that they are still manly even when they wax and moisturise, the Spanish rag decided that retrosexuals are alive and well. And rather ‘elegant’, ‘clearly heterosexual’ examples of traditional masculinity.

As I said when this ‘story’ broke last month, about the resurgence of the mythical ‘retrosexual’ man, the issue is not whether one form of masculinity is ‘winning’ over another. The issue is how we conceptualise masculinity and talk about it. And in Spain, it is clear to me that journalists and I am sure members of the public, feel the need to distinguish between ‘definitely heterosexual’ ‘traditional’ ‘normal’ men, and those slightly effeminate, image-obsessed, over-the-top, possibly homosexual metrosexuals.

If metrosexuality is  ‘undead’ as Simpson says, then so is good-old-fashioned common-or-garden machismo. Ole!

I have discovered the art of manliness and so can you, chaps!

This wonderfully ‘retro’ blog on how to be a real man, a distinguished man, who trains hard, and grooms his moustache, was mentioned in an article in Newsweek, about the need for the ‘New Macho’ in America. Mark Simpson, our ever-trusted Next-ro-sexual Pioneer, demolished the New Macho with a flick of his expert wrist.

But I couldn’t help but be a little charmed by the concept of ‘the art of manliness’, particularly because there was something delightfully ‘fey’ about it. Whilst the blog is obviously extolling men to become more macho, less effeminate, to train hard with medicine balls, to learn wilderness survival techniques and to take no more shit off women, it was also seeming to do so in the style of an Edwardian gentleman, coming home from the hunt for a whiskey and quick round of buggery with the boys before dinner.

Here are its words of advice on how to stop seeking women’s approval:

Once you become more masculine in your relationship with women—and lose the need for their approval—you’ll begin to see how this new man has a place in all areas of your life. And it’s not about pissing off people. You don’t have to be inconsiderate to be the man you want to be, to stop being a pleaser, though some people around you may feel you’re being a jerk. That’s to be expected. You’re changing the game on them. No one likes that, especially insecure (and therefore controlling) people, like, perhaps, your wife.

What are you waiting for boys? If you become more ‘masculine’ some people around you may feel you’re being a ‘jerk’ and insecure controlling people, like, er, women, will feel threatened by your newfound assertiveness. But that means you’re doing it right.

Man-Up, Men! And don’t forget your brylcreem.

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