It was in the 1990s that the metrosexual man first appeared on the horizon of popular culture and advertising. Male grooming around this time expanded beyond the daily shaving routine to encompass facials, manicures and pedicures as well as removing body hair. British footballer and style icon David Beckham represented this trend with this carefully groomed looks and smooth-chested photo on the cover of fashion magazine Vanity Fair.
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Soon, good looking and impeccably well groomed men began to be seen and heard who weren’t ashamed to admit they get their facials and pedicures, love shopping and in Beckham’s case, like to wear his wife’s underwear. The metrosexual man could be found at the hippest of clubs, wearing the trendiest of clothes. He has the money to spend and knows what to spend it on and sometimes he may even be willing to share with you the places where you can find the best sales of the season. He will reel off the merits of a Siberian cucumber facial just as easily as the ingredients of a classic Lebanese mutton casserole – and leave you asking for more.
Women welcomed the arrival of the metro male who was suave, a ‘man of the world’ and gave personal grooming a whole new meaning. But best of all it indicated a class of men more in touch with their ‘feminine’ side, - in other words – men who were not afraid to express their emotions or even shed tears. With such a man for a partner, a woman could share her feelings, emotions and be more or less certain of being understood as opposed to coming off as needy and insecure. Also she could look forward to deeply meaningful discussions on art and culture rather than getting used to a gang of half-drunk men arguing over football, cars and guns.
But it was not just a female need that metrosexuality was fulfilling – such a noticeable change would be impossible if it did not allow certain advantages to the men themselves. Metrosexuality set men free from the many gender expectations that were probably as restricting as women felt about not being allowed to smoke, swear or ride horses astride. Metrosexual men need no longer worry about acquiring six pack abs and looking like a hunk; they didn’t have to be the sacrificing male of yesteryear and instead, could guiltlessly think about himself as well. They could spend as much as they want on skinny ties and cigarette jeans. They could obsess over the color of their highlights and whether their Dolce and Gabbana sunglasses weren’t dated as of yet. Tee shirts under jackets were replaced by fine silk shirts. They were allowed to appreciate ballet and Monet without being panned as sissies.
And yet despite the all the new attractions that the metrosexual man brought to the dating table, the preference seems to have fallen out of favor now. A recent report in the online version of the British Daily Mail1 mentions how most women are going back to ‘real’ looking men instead of those who sport a clean-shaven chest. The report, based on a survey commissioned by Sound Asleep and carried out by OnePoll.com, took the responses of 3000 British women into account. In a more academic study published in the peer-reviewed journal Psychology of Men and Masculinity2, researchers found that females see modesty and men's feminine side as a big turn-off. Women, it appears, find the rise of non-macho men sexually unappealing. Modesty is perceived as a poor character trait which could undermine employment and earning potential and hence is deemed an unattractive quality in a potential partner.
The main point about how women perceive the metrosexual man is that it is bound to differ from one individual to another. Some women may find a man diligently applying hand moisturizer before going to bed too effeminate while some women may feel that a guy who is particular about personal hygiene is a god-send, especially after she has been with a partner whose idea of cleanliness was probably a weekly shower. Again some women may find a hairy chest really sexy in probably a caveman kind of way and the thought of running their fingers through all that thick foliage may send shivers through their spine. On the other hand some may find body hair way too gross and like the male chest to be smooth as sported by the metrosexual man.
Finally more than the choice between a metrosexual and the macho look, what is really important for women is the final package. Some like the male television stars of the 70s looked really sexy with the little bit of hair, peeking out from beneath their shirts. Remember Sir Sean Connery, the ultimate Bond, cavorting with femme fatales and not afraid to show off a nice hairy chest. Fast forward from that to the present Bond, Daniel Craig whose also has the body of an Adonis and yet is waxed to within an inch of his life, witness the scene from Casino Royale where he emerges from the waves in a gender reversal of the famous Ursula Andress scene in yet another Sean Connery Bond movie Dr. No. If popular culture experts are to be believed, Craig has heralded the arrival of the ‘ubersexual’ – but then that is another story.