Metrosexual is a neologism generally applied to heterosexual men with a strong concern for their appearance, or whose lifestyles display attributes stereotypically seen among gay men. Debate surrounds the term's use as a theoretical signifier of gender deconstruction and its associations with consumerism.

The word was coined as a tongue-in-cheek play on "heterosexual".

Evolution of the wordEdit

The term originated in an article by Mark Simpson ("Here come the mirror men"[1]) 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 Levis jeans or in gay bars. In the Nineties, he’s everywhere and he’s going shopping.

The term increased greatly in popularity following Simpson's 2002 article "Meet the metrosexual", which identified David Beckham as the metrosexual posterboy. The advertising agency Euro RCSG Worldwide adopted the term shortly thereafter for a marketing study, and the New York Times published a Sunday feature, "Metrosexuals Come Out"; the story trickled into local news outlets across North America.

Simpson's definition is more nuanced than the term's common use today.

"The typical metrosexual is a young man with money to spend, living in or within easy reach of a metropolis – because that's where all the best shops, clubs, gyms and hairdressers are. He might be officially gay, straight or bisexual, but this is utterly immaterial because he has clearly taken himself as his own love object and pleasure as his sexual preference. Particular professions, such as modeling, waiting tables, media, pop music and, nowadays, sport, seem to attract them but, truth be told, like male vanity products and herpes, they're pretty much everywhere.

"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."[2]
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 Heterosexuality|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 use of the term in a 1994 Independent newspaper article predates her use of the term.

Rising popularity of the term followed the increasing integration of gay men into mainstream society and a correspondingly decreased taboo towards deviation from existing notions of masculinity. Over a short timespan, the Netherlands, Belgium and Canada introduced same-sex marriage legislation, various US states legalized same-sex marriage and civil unions, the US Supreme Court struck down anti-sodomy statutes as unconstitutional in Lawrence v. Texas and gay characters and themes, long present on TV shows like Will & Grace, Queer as Folk, and Ellen made further inroads. In particular, the Bravo network introduced Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, a show in which stereotypically style- and culture-conscious gay men gave advice to their heterosexual counterparts.

Media explaining the term often rely on citing a few individuals as prime illustrations. Simpson's 2002 article "Meet the metrosexual" used Beckham as its prime exemplar—and most journalists and marketers followed suit. David Beckham or Tom Egger have been called a "metrosexual icon"[5] and is often coupled with the term. Amply referred-to individuals include personalities such as Brad Pitt, Arnold Schwarzenegger,[6] and Ryan Seacrest.

A 60 Minutes story on 1960s-70s pro footballer Joe Namath suggested he was "perhaps, America's first metrosexual"[7] after filming his most famous ad sporting Beautymist panty hose.

Simpson for his part has called Joe Namath 'America's abandoned metrosexual prototype', leaving the field open for later Brit metro imports such as Beckham.[8]

Pointing out the differences between Becks and Namath and how far we've come Simpson writes:

If this ad were to be reprised by David Beckham today you would notice the following differences: He would look much better in pantyhose He wouldn’t say ‘I don’t wear pantyhose’. And if he did, no one would believe him. He wouldn’t be wearing anything else He wouldn’t laugh. Fashion, as his titanium-cheekboned wife has taught him, is a very serious business. And, most of all, he wouldn’t be selling them to women.


Other termsEdit

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 (again coined by Simpson, who described the term in a article entitled "Beckham, the virus."[10]

"Becks is the uber-metrosexual, not just because he rams metrosexuality down the throats of those men churlish enough to remain retrosexual and refuse to pluck their eyebrows, but also because he is a sportsman, a man of substance—a "real" man—who wishes to get it in the butt."

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."[11]

Many of the individuals now named übersexuals — e.g., George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Bono — were once shining examples of metrosexuals, showing little differentiation between the two terms.

Most recently, marketers and magazines like Men's Health trying to sell even more cosmetics to men have tried to foist the "heteropolitan" on the public. As with the defunct "ubersexual", they claimed that the metrosexual was "dead" and had been replaced by the "heteropolitan". Again, there was no real differentation from the metrosexual, there was, as with the "ubersexual", just a more uptight version of him. Mark Simpson wrote in The Guardian in 2007 about the irony of "metromag" Men's Health jumping on the "heteropolitan" — and homophobicTemplate:POV-statement — bandwagon, asking, "When is Men's Health going to come out to itself?"[12]

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


The word "'übersexual" (from German über = above, superior and Latin sexus = gender) was claimed to be coined by the authors of the book Future of Men (O'Reilly, Matathia, Salzman, 2005). It 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.[13] Salzman appropriated Simpson's work on the metrosexual in 2002 to sell another book.[13]

Simpson has pointed out that the book contains several deliberate misrepresentations of him, his work, and the history of the metrosexual.[14]

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 confused/confusing marketing-speak there was something rather simpler 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".[15]

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.[14]

However, they failed to convince the public - hence the uber-straight ubersexual.

Despite a large global PR push for their 'new', completely 'non-gay' metrosexual, and a slavishly uncritical press which failed to notice that the list of top ten ubersexuals was largely the same as the one's they'd been printed two years previously for top ten metrosexuals, the 'ubersexual' failed to catch on with the public and was stillborn, as Salzman has admitted herself.[16]


Narcissism, according to Simpson, 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."[17]

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.

Changing masculinityEdit

Traditional masculine norms, as described in Dr. Ronald F. Levant's Masculinity Reconstructed are: "avoidance of feminity; restricted emotions; sex disconnected from intimacy; pursuit of achievement and status; self-reliance; strength and aggression; and homophobia."[18]

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."[19] 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). Hence, as the concept of femininity conquered more territory, masculinity became more restricted.[citation needed] Perhaps metrosexuality is a reaction against this shift, as some men feel too confined within the gender roles. Template:Who It could also be considered a means of establishing greater equality between the sexes through a shift toward androgyny. Template:Weasel-inline

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."[20]

In a 2004 interview, Simpson answers question about his "offspring".[21]

The commercial metrosexualEdit

In its soundbite diffusion through the channels of marketers 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."[22]

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.

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.

Another person who confesses to his metrosexuality is Dominic Monaghan, star of The Lord of the Rings trilogy and Lost (TV series)|Lost. He has jokingly admitted that he "believes he should have been a homosexual—because he loves make-up, painting his nails and wearing skirts". Although some argue that this points more towards transvestism,[23] othersTemplate:Who argue that since a woman who never wears make-up, never paints her nails, and never wears a skirt is presumed to be neither gay nor weird, this points more towards gender equality.

Stuff has proclaimed Ryan Seacrest as "the poster boy of metrosexuality".[24]

A new metrosexual magazine owned by the Vogue Corporation called Men's Vogue was created to serve the interests of metrosexual men.[citation needed]

Sexual EvaluationEdit

Metrosexual is also used as a term for a male who carries himself in a feminine way.

This also occurs with females, the term commonly used being tomboy.

See alsoEdit


  1. 'Here come the mirror men' by Mark Simpson - first usage of the word 'metrosexual'
  2. Simpson, Mark. (July 22, 2002). Meet the metrosexual. Salon.
  3. Murray, Mitch. (January 9, 2007). "Questions", Daily Mail (London), p. 55.
  4. 'Metrosexual? That rings a bell...' Mark Simpson on the appropriation of his bastard child
  5. Chrisafis, Angelique. (June 16, 2003). "Spot the salmon pink shirt". The Guardian (London), p. 6.
  6. Simpson, Mark (January 5, 2004). MetroDaddy speaks!.; later
  7. Broadway Joe, Football Great Talks About His Drinking Problem With Bob Simon - CBS News
  8. America - meet David Beckham | MARK
  9. Metro Cowboy to Play Metro Athlete | MARK
  10. Simpson, Mark (June 28, 2003). Beckham, the virus.
  11. Simpson, Mark (December 2005). Metrodaddy v. Ubermummy.
  12. Comment is free: When the issue comes out
  13. 13.0 13.1 'Becks the virus' June 28, 2003
  14. 14.0 14.1 Metrodaddy v. Ubermummy | MARK
  15. And now presenting ... THE UBERSEXUAL?!
  16. 60 SECONDS: Marian Salzman |
  17. Freud, Sigmund (1952). The major works of Sigmund Freud. Chicago: William Benton. 
  18. 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. 
  19. Alzheimer, Lillian. "Metrosexuals: The Future of Men?", Euro RSCG, 22 June 2003. 
  20. Simpson, Mark (22 June 2003). Metrosexual? That rings a bell…. Independent on Sunday; later
  21. .[1]
  22. Simpson, Mark (22 June 2002). Meet the metrosexual.; later
  24. The Wimpiest Men on TV Article on

External linksEdit

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