Metrosexual is a neologism derived from metropolitan and heterosexual coined in 1994 describing a man (especially one living in an urban, post-industrial, capitalist culture) who spends a lot of time and money on shopping for his appearance.[1] Debate surrounds the term's use as a theoretical signifier of sex deconstruction and its associations with consumerism.



The term originated in an article by Mark Simpson[2] published on November 15, 1994, in The Independent. Simpson wrote:

Metrosexual man, the single young man with a high disposable income, living or working in the city (because that’s where all the best shops are), is perhaps the most promising consumer market of the decade. In the Eighties he was only to be found inside fashion magazines such as GQ, in television advertisements for Levi's jeans or in gay bars. In the Nineties, he’s everywhere and he’s going shopping.

However, it was not until the early 2000s when Simpson returned to the subject that the term became globally popular In 2002, published an article by Simpson, "Meet the metrosexual", which identified David Beckham as the metrosexual poster boy. The advertising agency Euro RCSG Worldwide adopted the term shortly thereafter for a marketing study. Sydney's daily broadsheet, The Sydney Morning Herald, ran a major feature in March 2003 titled "The Rise of the Metrosexual" (also syndicated in its sister paper The Age) which borrowed heavily from Simpson's piece (but failed to acknowledge this or mention Simpson). A couple of months later, the New York Times' Sunday Styles section ran a story, "Metrosexuals Come Out." The term and its connotations continued to roll steadily into more news outlets around the world.

Former Metro Radio presenter Mitch Murray claims that he invented the term in the 1980s. At that time, he says, the word had a very different connotation, as it was simply a play on words involving "Metro Radio" and heterosexuals. Murray would send a weekly tape to the local radio station in Newcastle upon Tyne. "Very early during the process", he created station identification segments, one of which he claims included the phrase "We are the metrosexuals." It is unclear whether the segment was actually broadcast, and there is no documentary evidence of his claims.[3] Also, when the word first became popular, various sources incorrectly attributed its origin to trendspotter Marian Salzman, but by Salzman's own admission[4] Simpson's 2002 article was the original source for her usage of the term.

Though it did represent a complex and gradual change in the shopping and self-presentation habits of both men and women, the idea of metrosexuality was often distilled in the media down to a few men—David Beckham, Sam Romano, and Brad Pitt were frequently mentioned—and a short checklist of vanities, like skin care products, scented candles and costly, colorful dress shirts and pricey designer jeans.[5] It was this image of the metrosexual—that of a straight young man who got pedicures and facials, practiced aromatherapy and spent freely on clothes—that contributed to a backlash against the term from men who merely wanted to feel free to take more care with their appearance than had been the norm in the 1990s, when companies abandoned dress codes, Dockers khakis became a popular brand, and XL, or extra-large, became the one size that fit all.[5]

A 60 Minutes story on 1960s-70s pro footballer Joe Namath suggested he was "perhaps, America's first metrosexual"[6] after filming his most famous ad sporting Beautymist pantyhose. Simpson has called Joe Namath "America's abandoned metrosexual prototype", leaving the field open for later Brit metro imports such as Beckham.[7]

Other terms

Over the course of the following months, other terms countering or substituting for "metrosexual" appeared. Perhaps the most widely used was "retrosexual," a traditionally masculine man who rejects focus on physical appearance, sort of the opposite of a metrosexual. However, in later years the term was revived again to describe men who subscribed to the grooming and dress standards of another era, such as the early 1960s advertising world depicted in the television series "Mad Men."

Another example, the übersexual, coined by marketing executives and authors of The Future of Men (and perhaps inspired by Simpson's use of the term "uber-metrosexual"), caused Simpson to reply, "Any discussion in the style pages of the media about what is desirable and attractive in men and what is 'manly' and what isn't, is simply more metrosexualization. Metrosexuality—do I really have to spell it out?—is mediated masculinity."[8]

Marketers and magazines like Men's Health trying to sell cosmetics to men have introduced the term heteropolitan.

None of these metro-offspring have thrived, although metrosexual seems to have stuck and become part of the English language.


The word übersexual is a term claimed to be coined by the authors of the book Future of Men (O'Reilly, Matathia, Salzman, 2005) and is a variant of metrosexual. The word seems to have been inspired by the phrase "uber-metrosexual", used by the creator of the metrosexual Mark Simpson to describe David Beckham.[9] Salzman appropriated Simpson's work on the metrosexual in 2002 to sell another book.[9]

Many of the "top ubersexuals" named by Salzman, such as Bono, Bill Clinton and George Clooney were on her list of "top metrosexuals" in 2003. The authors of Future of Men argue that the übersexual is not derivative of the metrosexual man.

The future of men, proclaim the authors, is "not to be found in the primped and waxed boy who wowed the world with his nuanced knowledge of tweezers and exfoliating creams. Men, at the end of the day, will have to rely on their intellect and their passion, their erudition and professional success, to be acknowledged and idealised in contemporary society. Called the 'übersexual'—-a degree of greatness and perfection, an acknowledgment that this is an evolved species of man—he is so perfect as to leave little margin for error and fallacy."

Some, including Simpson and Armistead Maupin, have suggested that behind this congealed marketing-speak there was something rather simple going on: a homophobic attempt to stop the metrosexual being so "gay". Or, as Salzman herself put it proudly, the ubersexual (unlike the metrosexual) "doesn't invite questions about his sexuality".[10]

Simpson has argued that from the beginning the appropriation of the metrosexual concept by American marketers such as Salzman in 2003 was always about trying to straighten him out. His original definition of the metrosexual was sexually ambiguous, or at least went beyond the straight/gay binary; marketers, in contrast, insisted that the metrosexual was always "straight" – they even tried to pretend that he wasn't vain.[11]

However, they failed to convince the public – hence their attempt to create the uber-straight ubersexual.

Despite a large global PR push for their "new", completely "non-gay" metrosexual – and a largely uncritical press, which failed to notice that the list of top ten ubersexuals was essentially the same as the ones they had published two years previously as the top ten metrosexuals – the "ubersexual" failed to catch on with the public, as Salzman herself later admitted.[12]


Narcissism, according to Simon, plays a crucial role in the metrosexual concept. As Simpson writes in "Narcissus goes shopping" (Male Impersonators, 1994), consumerism and narcissism are closely related. Citing Freud's On Narcissism, which analyzes the psychological aspect of narcissism and explains narcissistic love as follows:

A person may love: (1) According to the narcissistic type: (a) What he is himself, (b) What he once was, (c) What he would like to be, (d) Someone who once was part of himself.[13]

The metrosexual, in its original coinage, is a person who, under the spell of consumerism, is or desires to be what he sees in magazines and advertising. Simpson's metrosexual would be a type A or type C narcissist, as he loves himself or an idealized image of what he would like to be.

Female metrosexuality

Female metrosexuality is a concept that Mark Simpson explored with American writer Caroline Hagood.[14] They employed the female characters from the HBO series Sex and the City in order to illustrate examples of wo-metrosexuality, a term Hagood coined to refer to the feminine form of metrosexuality. The piece implied that, although this phenomenon would not necessarily empower women, the fact that the metrosexual lifestyle de-emphasizes traditional male and female gender roles could help women out in the long run. However, it is debatable whether the characters made famous by "Sex and the City" truly de-emphasized female gender roles, given that the series focused a high amount of attention on stereotypically feminine interests like clothing, appearance, and romantic entanglements.

Changing masculinity

Traditional masculine norms, as described in Dr. Ronald F. Levant's Masculinity Reconstructed are: "avoidance of femininity; restricted emotions; sex disconnected from intimacy; pursuit of achievement and status; self-reliance; strength and aggression; and homophobia."[15]

Statistics, including market research by Euro RSCG, show that the pursuit of achievement and status is not as important to men as it used to be; and neither is, to a degree, the restriction of emotions or the disconnection of sex from intimacy. Another norm change is supported by research that claimed men "no longer find sexual freedom universally enthralling." The most important shift in masculinity is that there is less avoidance of femininity and the "emergence of a segment of men who have embraced customs and attitudes once deemed the province of women."[16] What is accepted as "masculine" has shifted considerably throughout the times, so the modern concept of how a man "should be" differs from the ideal man of previous eras. Some styles and behaviors that are today considered feminine were, in the past, part of the man's domain (e.g., knee britches, makeup, jewelry).

Changes in culture and attitudes toward masculinity, visible in the media through television shows such as Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Queer as Folk, and Will & Grace, have changed these traditional masculine norms. Metrosexuals only made their appearance after cultural changes in the environment and changes in views on masculinity.

Simpson explains in his article "Metrosexual? That rings a bell..." that "Gay men provided the early prototype for metrosexuality. Decidedly single, definitely urban, dreadfully uncertain of their identity (hence the emphasis on pride and the susceptibility to the latest label) and socially emasculated, gay men pioneered the business of accessorising—and combining—masculinity and desirability."[17]

But such probing analyses into various shoppers' psyches ignore other significant factors affecting men's shopping habits, foremost among them women's shopping habits. As the retail analyst Marshal Cohen explained in a 2005 article in the New York Times entitled, "Gay or Straight? Hard to Tell," the fact that women buy less of men's clothing than they used to has, more than any other factor, propelled men into stores to shop for themselves. "In 1985 only 25 percent of all men's apparel was bought by men, he said; 75 percent was bought by women for men. By 1998 men were buying 52 percent of apparel; in 2004 that number grew to 69 percent and shows no sign of slowing." One result of this shift was the revelation that men cared more about how they look than the women shopping for them had.[5]

The commercial metrosexual

In its soundbite diffusion through the channels of marketeers and popular media, who eagerly and constantly reminded their audience that the metrosexual was straight, the metrosexual has congealed into something more digestible for consumers: a heterosexual male who is in touch with his feminine side—he color-coordinates, cares deeply about exfoliation, and has perhaps manscaped.

Men didn't go to shopping malls, so consumer culture promoted the idea of a sensitive guy who went to malls, bought magazines and spent freely to improve his personal appearance. As Simpson put it:

For some time now, old-fashioned (re)productive, repressed, unmoisturized heterosexuality has been given the pink slip by consumer capitalism. The stoic, self-denying, modest straight male didn't shop enough (his role was to earn money for his wife to spend), and so he had to be replaced by a new kind of man, one less certain of his identity and much more interested in his image – that's to say, one who was much more interested in being looked at (because that's the only way you can be certain you actually exist). A man, in other words, who is an advertiser's walking wet dream."[18]

This commercial vision is also adapted in television's metrosexual archetype, Bravo's Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, in which the "Fab Five" instructively transform the appearance of the straight guy—but largely avoid dealing with his personality.

In some contrast, there is also the view that metrosexuality is at least partly a naturally occurring phenomenon, much like the Aesthetic Movement of the 19th century and that the metrosexual is merely a modern incarnation of a dandy. Simpson has strongly rebutted attempts to suggest that metrosexual is 'just a dandy':

“As if we can pretend that the sexual and aesthetic division of labour of the Nineteenth and most of the Twentieth Century didn’t happen. As if Oscar Wilde – perhaps the most famous and in many ways the last dandy – hadn’t been destroyed by Victorian morality for his ‘gross indecency’. As if male narcissism and sensuality hadn’t been associated with male homosexuality – and thus criminalised and pathologised – for the next hundred years. And as if a dandy would have done anything so vulgar as go to the gym and get sweaty."[19]

Another person who confesses to his metrosexuality is Mike Greenberg, co-host of the popular morning sports talk show "Mike and Mike in the Morning" on ESPN Radio. He has many times confessed to being metrosexual and his book has "Confessions of a Metrosexual Sportscaster" on it.

Dominic Monaghan, star of The Lord of the Rings trilogy and Lost, has also been described as a metrosexual. He has jokingly admitted that he "believes he should have been a homosexual—because he loves make-up, painting his nails and wearing skirts".[20]

Stuff has proclaimed Ryan Seacrest as "the poster boy of metrosexuality".[21]

Men's fashion magazines – such as Details, Men's Vogue, and the defunct Cargo – target what one Details editor calls "men who moisturize and read a lot of magazines".[22][23]

See also


  1. ^ Collins, William. "Metrosexual". Collins Unabridged English Dictionary. Harper Collins. Retrieved 6 April 2011. 
  2. ^ 'Here come the mirror men' by Mark Simpson - first usage of the word 'metrosexual'
  3. ^ Murray, Mitch. (January 9, 2007). "Questions." Daily Mail (London), pp. 55.
  4. ^ "Metrosexual? That rings a bell..." Mark Simpson on the appropriation of his bastard child
  5. ^ a b c Colman, David (19 June 2005). "Gay or Straight? Hard to Tell". The New York Times. 
  6. ^ Broadway Joe, Football Great Talks About His Drinking Problem With Bob Simon CBS News
  7. ^ America - meet David Beckham
  8. ^ Simpson, Mark (December 2005). "Metrodaddy v. Ubermummy". 
  9. ^ a b 'Becks the virus' June 28, 2003
  10. ^ King, Daniel (November 12, 2005). "And now presenting ... THE UBERSEXUAL?!". The San Francisco Chronicle. 
  11. ^ Metrodaddy v. Ubermummy
  12. ^ 60 SECONDS: Marian Salzman |
  13. ^ Freud, Sigmund (1952). The major works of Sigmund Freud. Chicago: William Benton. 
  14. ^ Huffington Post Mark Simpson and Caroline Hagood on Wo-Metrosexuality and the City April 13, 2010
  15. ^ Levant, Ronald F. Dr.; Gini Kopecky (1995). Masculinity Reconstructed: changing the rules of manhood: at work, in relationships and in family life. New York: Dutton. 
  16. ^ Alzheimer, Lillian (22 June 2003). "Metrosexuals: The Future of Men?". Euro RSCG. Archived from the original on 3 August 2003. Retrieved 15 December 2003. 
  17. ^ Simpson, Mark (22 June 2003). "Metrosexual? That rings a bell...". Independent on Sunday; later Retrieved 2003-10-13. 
  18. ^ Simpson, Mark (22 June 2002). "Meet the metrosexual".; later 
  19. ^ Elise Moore, Suite101 (May 6, 2010)
  20. ^
  21. ^ The Wimpiest Men on TV
  22. ^ "Counter-couture: Men's fashion titles on rise even as ad pages fall" Jon Fine. Advertising Age. (Midwest region edition). Chicago: February 28, 2005. Vol. 76, Iss. 9; pg. 51, 1 pg
  23. ^ "Metrosexuals ahoy: Cargo's ship sinks" April 7, 2006 Atlanta Journal-Constitution, page G6 [1]


  • O'Reilly, Ann; Matathia, Ira; Salzman, Marian (2005). The Future of Men, Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 1-4039-6882-9.

Further reading

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • metrosexual — (adj.) by 2001, from METROPOLITAN (Cf. metropolitan) + sexual, ending abstracted from HOMOSEXUAL (Cf. homosexual), HETEROSEXUAL (Cf. heterosexual) …   Etymology dictionary

  • metrosexual — a blend of metropolitan and heterosexual, is a word that sprang up in the 1990s for an urban heterosexual man who is fashionable and socially active in ways usually associated with women or homosexual men. It is informal only, but may become… …   Modern English usage

  • metrosexual — /me trō sekˈsū əl or shoo əl/ (informal) noun A heterosexual man who takes a keen interest in traditionally non male activities such as fashion and personal grooming adjective Of or relating to such a person ORIGIN: Blend of ↑metropolitan and… …   Useful english dictionary

  • metrosexual — (met.roh.SEK.shoo.ul) n. An urban male with a strong aesthetic sense who spends a great deal of time and money on his appearance and lifestyle. metrosexuality n. Example Citations: At dinner the other night, my date listed the calorie count of… …   New words

  • Metrosexual — Un metrosexual es un hombre que siente una gran preocupación por su imagen y se caracteriza por gastar en cosméticos y ropa más a la moda. El término es de aparición reciente. El prefijo metro proviene de metrópoli y refleja que se trata de una… …   Wikipedia Español

  • metrosexual — UK [ˌmetrəʊˈsekʃuəl] / US [ˌmetroʊˈsekʃuəl] noun [countable] Word forms metrosexual : singular metrosexual plural metrosexuals informal a young heterosexual man who enjoys good clothes, having an attractive home, and improving his personal… …   English dictionary

  • Metrosexual —    A word coined by Mark Simpson, in a 1994 British magazine article, metrosexual describes an urban male with a strong esthetic sense who spends a great deal of time and money on his appearance and lifestyle, whether gay or straight …   Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry

  • Metrosexual — Un metrosexual es un hombre heterosexual, que siente una gran preocupación por su imagen y se caracteriza por gastar en cosméticos y ropa bastante más que la media. ... Término de aparición reciente, el prefijo metro proviene de metrópoli y… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • metrosexual — {{#}}{{LM M45346}}{{〓}} {{[}}metrosexual{{]}} ‹me·tro·se·xual› {{《}}▍ adj.inv./s.m.{{》}} {{※}}col.{{¤}} {{♂}}Referido especialmente a un hombre,{{♀}} que cuida mucho su aspecto físico …   Diccionario de uso del español actual con sinónimos y antónimos

  • metrosexual — noun a) A man concerned with personal appearance, such as personal grooming, fashion, and aesthetics in general; who may or may not be concerned with self indulgence and money. (Usually urban, heterosexual, often affluent). <! A concern for… …   Wiktionary

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