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The 'Daddy' of the Metrosexual, the Retrosexual, & spawner of the Spornosexual

Big Poulaine Energy: Medieval Men & Their Brazen Ways

“It’s a time when tunics are getting shorter and young men would have been showing off their legs…. So low-cut shoes would have accentuated and elongated the leg, all down to that long point.”

Men in fifteenth century Europe, their thighs and calves so swole and shapely in their medieval compression pants, were crazy for ‘crakows’ or ‘poulaines’ — a must-have pointy accessory for any young male keen to draw the eye.

Probably originating in Krakow, Poland, they were, according to an fascinating feature in Atlas Obscura, ‘long, carrot-shaped shoes that tapered to impish tips, some as long as five inches beyond the toe.’

This crakow craze was no short-lived fad — it lasted most of a century. In the middle ages people made the most of trends, since they didn’t have much in the way of media and advertising generating new ones.

A manly, strappy poulaine recovered from the Thames.

Their impracticality and their expense seems, as is often the case with fashions, to have been part of the appeal of these stupendously silly shoes.

However, their probing phallicism seems to have been the main attraction — and what ultimately prompted a crackdown on cracows, in a manner reminiscent of the Speedo Phalliban of Cape May, NJ.

Eventually, the English crown felt the need to intervene, in part because of the lascivious connotations that the increasingly extended toe-tips carried. “People thought the longer the toe, the more masculine the wearer,” Shawcross says. “But some people weren’t keen on that connotation.” Parliament equated wearing the shoes to public indecency, and stepped forward to put limits on a variety of racy fashions…

A sumptuary law was enacted in 1463 which sought to control the flaunting of ‘piked’ footwear, restricting them to a decent, Christian length of two inches — and also draw a veil over the shameless display of genitals and buttocks in tights:

“No person under the estate of lord, including knights, esquires, and gentlemen, to wear any gown, jacket, or coat which does not cover the genitals and buttocks. Also not to wear any shoes or boots with pikes longer than two inches…,” the 1463 law reads.

The killjoy sumptuary clauses didn’t however ban such male indecency outright. Rather, they made it the prerogative of position. Lords and above were still allowed big poulaine energy — and to show off their noble bums and packets.

I followed the link to the 1463 law and found a fascinating essay called ‘Gender & History’ by Kim Phillips, which lists the various sumptuary clauses of medieval England, and includes an explanation of the mention of genitals and buttocks:

‘These clauses reflected the contemporary fashion among young men, trends which in the case of the short jackets neccessitated the invention of the codpiece to cover the part between the two stocking legs and met with howls of disapproval from clerical authors. This had been most vividly put by Chaucer almost a century earlier, in the voice of his Parson: ‘Alas, some of them show the bulge of their shape, and the horrible swollen members, that seem like the malady of hernia, in the wrapping of their hose; and also the buttocks of them looke like the hind parts of a she-ape at the time of full moon’.

I had forgotten that passage from Chaucer, but not of course the Parson, who is a timeless figure of fun. How naughty of Chaucer to have his goodly Parson admitting that he sees the buttocks of young men in tights transformed into the hind parts of female monkeys at the time of full moon.

As Philips explains, the ban on suggestive footwear and provocatively high cut jackets and coats, was strictly for the lower orders.

‘Scandalous and sexually suggestive items of male clothing were reserved by the English sumptuary texts for the aristocratic elite, implying that their rank exempted them from the morality applied to lesser mortals. Sartorial excess and blatant sexuality were permitted as a marker of elite masculinity.’

Presenting yourself as a ‘sex object’ was clearly associated with power in the middle ages.

Philips also points out that ‘the realm of high fashion and sartorial adornment was not primarily focused on women until the “great masculine renunciation” of the early 19th century.’ Which ended up with the boxy bourgeois uniform of the suit replacing all that display and adornment — and women now required to be beautiful and sensual on men’s behalf.

Unlike their Italian or Scottish counterparts, medieval English sumpturary legislators were relatively unconcerned about the dress of women: the focus for them was very much on men and what they were and weren’t allowed to wear. It’s also worth bearing in mind that in a homosocial world such as England in the middle ages, the sexually suggestive clothing, the presentation of buttocks and packets, was for the most part for the enjoyment or attention of other men. (Excepting, of course, Parsons.)

Much like today’s spornowear, in other words.

I’d like though to end this trip into the middle ages with Philips’ citation of an Italian woman’s inspiring protest against attempts by the sumptuary laws of that country to control feminine apparel — and deprive women of the intoxicating power of being looked at.

‘Most illuminating is the Bolognese noblewoman Nicolosa Sanuti’s ringing conclusion to her humanistic defence of the virtues of women and their rights to sumptuous clothing: “State offices are not allowed to women, nor do they strive for priesthoods, triumphs, and the spoils of war, for these are the customary prizes of men. But ornaments and the decoration, the tokens of our virtues – these while the power is left us, we shall not allow to be stolen from us. Amen.”

Amen, sister.

Egypt’s Spornosexual Pride Parade (Police Academy Section)

The young men of the Egyptian Police Academy put on a pec-tacular display this week in Cairo, surrounded by — and perched on — the butch toys that come with the job.

It’s easy to snigger, but it’s definitely not easy to stay rigidly most muscular on those moving tanks, speed-boats and wobbly triple decker floats slick with baby oil.

Am I the only person that thought some of those floats looked like swole sweet trolleys?

“We can now see a group of vehicles with a group of students from the police academy,” says a female voiceover…

While the officers pose with arched arms and tanned and immobile bodies, distributed among motorboats, vans and police armored cars, the announcer praises the “strong men who show their strong bodies.”

tellerreport.com

Micro Tight Beach Buns

I should probably pretend that I have something interesting to say about this ad for Leorever ‘micro tight’ compression shorts, starring a young blond, pneumatic spornosexual (Michael Dean Johnson) working out on a beach in wet, super-clingy spandex, and covered in baby oil.

But, aside from noting that they had to shoot this ad on a completely deserted beach because it’s shot in the US and the US is Speedophobic, I don’t.

Truth is, I’m just sitting here doing this:

While imagining myself as the pants.

So I guess the ad worked. And not just with dirtly old homos like me. Desire and identification are very mixed up in a uber-mediated world – whatever your orientation. Spornosexual subjectivity is more likely to be split than micro-tight compression pants.

I have of course already ordered several pairs of these. Even though I know that I will only experience the bitter disappointment that I always do when I receive the package of spornowear I ordered after I saw an ad on social media.

It never, ever comes with the pumped-up, pliant pro sporno in the ad.

Oh well, I guess I will just have to get my saggy arse down the gym.

 h/t Bill W

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Smiling is the best medicine ✌🏼

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Micro tight buns fitness model Michael Dean Johnson’s Insta

Further reading:

Smart Spornowear

Bulletproof Boys & Snuggle Huddles

Mark Simpson on America’s manly embrace of BTS & Korean metrosexuality

‘K-Pop’ boyband BTS, also known as the Bangtan Boys, have been getting a lot of love in the US this week with their week-long ‘virtual’ residency on The Tonight Show. Their new single ‘Dynamite’, their first song performed fully in English, also took the No.1 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 – the first all-South Korean group to do so.

BTS (방탄소년단) 'Dynamite' Official MV

Pretty boys. Catchy tune. Sweet singing. Colourful clothes – and hair. Cool moves. Seductive smiles. What’s not to love? They look good enough to eat – like all-singing, all-dancing macarons.

And no beards. In fact, they are so smooth that just watching them probably makes your beard fall out. So of course I’m very much in favour of them.

But the beauty of the world’s biggest boy band isn’t skin deep. WWE superstar-turned-actor and all-American beefy pocket battleship, 43-year-old John Cena – who is himself suspiciously clean-shaven – is a fan of the South Korean boyish androgynes and their sensitive message of ‘self-love’, coming out this week on network TV as a proud member of the BTS Army. 

“I got interested in the music then I got interested in what the music stood for… “They advocate self-love, they advocate ‘don’t be afraid of failure’, they advocate that you are enough. They are trying to shatter all the stereotypical difficulties and uncomfortable situations that we go through and they’re catering to an audience that is living that – young people.”

This is quite the endorsement, given Cena’s formative, muscular role in shaping the psyche of millions of American men who grew up with posters of the tough wrestler flexing for battle on their bedroom walls.

The Evolution of John Cena: photos | WWE

Cena isn’t alone in his manly adoration. Doing the rounds on social media is this YouTube video, in which mostly hetero young American men, express – or perform – their fascination with and love for perhaps (it’s a close-run competition) the prettiest BTS member, 24 year-old Jimin and his ‘innocent flirtiness’. 

Jimin snatching men left and right

The way US men seem to have taken BTS and Jimin to their bosoms is quite something, especially given the way the US, almost uniquely in the world, had a chest-beating backlash against metrosexuality a decade or so ago. Then again, BTS are not American. They’re ‘exotic’.

Nevertheless, one of the salient about BTS is that unlike most other boybands, they seem to exist not simply for the titillation and wooing of female fans (though they do lots of that: see below), but are also a boyband for boys/men. 

‘BTS’ stands for Bantang Sonyeondan, Korean for ‘Bulltproof Boy Scouts’. According to band member J-Hope, the name signifies the band’s desire to ‘block out stereotypes, criticisms, and expectations that target adolescents like bullets.’ 

A feature in Metro UK a couple of years ago reported how BTS and K-pop are attracting fanboys – who claim that K-pop has ‘helped them understand themselves, and the concept of masculinity, far better’.

The well-kept, flagrant-fragrant metrosexuality of K-pop in general and BTS in particular has been documented by others:

The overall visual of K-pop is very appealing – a man, taking care of himself: having clean skin, being dressed well, using actual cosmetic products… that Metrosexual vibe… I know it’s very primal and many people say that a guy should be having a hairy chest and all of those things that make him look tough. Taking care of yourself is a great effort and a compliment for those around you.

The Korea Herald last year wrote about the ‘metrosexual image’ of K-pop, explaining it in terms of contemporary ‘genderless’ fashion brand strategy:

“With the genderless trend hitting the fashion industry, brands are rolling out lines of apparel that are not limited to a specific gender,” a fashion industry source told Kpop Herald on condition of anonymity. “Against this nonbinary trend, K-pop male idols’ aesthetic, metrosexual image matches well with what luxury brands are aiming for. They can easily pull off clothes that are sometimes too bold or colorful, or outfits largely considered womenswear with ease, while exuding edginess.”

For what it’s worth, metrodaddy agrees that BTS and K-pop are East Asian expressions of metrosexuality – using consumerism and aesthetics to widen the meaning of masculinity and nick gender styles, pleasures and feelings previously associated with femininity and/or stigmatised homosexuality.

It should be pointed out here however that for all it’s cutting-edge consumer goods success – TV and smartphone giant Samsung is based there – South Korea is mostly conservative and religious and was under military rule until the 1990s. Military service is still compulsory for males – where homosexuality is illegal.

And although homosexuality is no longer illegal for civilians, attitudes tend to be mostly negative. There are few out performers in South Korea – despite the way that male K-pop idols regularly play-act homoerotic romance on stage. (BTS are particularly known for their snuggling.)

Or perhaps because they regularly play-act homoerotic romance. K-pop’s heavy flirtation with same-sex romance is almost predicated on the official disavowal that they couldn’t actually be gay or bisexual. The homoflirtation is anyway mostly for the female fans – who in Korea, as in many other parts of the world including of course the UK, enjoy creating homoerotic fantasies about their male idols.

K-pop actively encourages and panders to ‘shipping’ narratives – far more than the UK’s One Direction did. But again, those fantasies are typically based on two otherwise heterosexual young men falling in love with one another. If they were actually, openly gay then that would be about their sexuality, their needs – not their fans’. Likewise, K-pop idols are not supposed to get married and face a bitter backlash if they do. The homoflirtation of K-pop is a way of staying faithful to the fans.

But the cultural effect of K-pop is nevertheless to widen the meanings of masculinity – and to provide more breathing space (and cover) for those who feel oppressed by traditional expectations, as well as succour to sensitive wrestlers like John Cena. Perhaps even representing a kind of masculine liberation – albeity paradoxically, given the almost feudal relationship of K-pop idols to their powerful labels. And of course that of their fans and the rest of us to consumerism.

Perhaps that’s the significance of the David Bowie posters (behind and on the left) in the attic bedroom of the milk-drinking chap at the start of video for ‘Dynamite’. Though I wonder whether they shouldn’t have been posters of the non-singing, High Street David Bowie, David Beckham – who in his metrosexy prime had a big impact in Asia, becoming the most recognised sportsman there.

BTS are mostly, and quite intensely it seems to me, about what I have always insisted was at the self-regarding heart of metrosexuality and the sensual revolution it represents. Not ‘being in touch with your feminine side’, or having facials or using product, or even ‘loving yourself’ – but rather, the male desire to be desired.

Every member of BTS radiates it, but it’s there most powerfully of course in the beatific Jimin – and the thousand seductive ways he looks and smiles into the camera. Commanding your longing.

And BTW, in case you think K-pop slightly coy about sex, it also has its oiled-up spornosexual exponents, such as 2PM:

Special thanks to Carl Rohde for nagging me to write about K-pop

Further reading:

All Aboard the Prideful Virchoo-Choo Train!

At long last, the LGBTQ+ community finally has its own ‘first fully-wrapped Pride train entirely staffed by an LGBTQ+ crew’.

Launched this week by Avanti, it will whizz up and down the West Coast line between London and Glasgow, flying the rainbow flag, educating the public and raising awareness.

And possibly ocassionally getting them from A to B.

As the press release states:

With a strong focus on LGBTQ+ education, the train will be filled with literature, stories and colourful posters and will feature Pride related information and fun facts during the onboard announcements.

Yes, but will poppers be available from the refreshment trolley? And will they be playing Madonna’s ‘Express Yourself’ on the PA?

But this isn’t a joking matter. It’s yet another sign of the blatant and systemic homophobia rampant in the UK that it has taken until now to provide the LGBTQ+ community with eleven carriages and 265 metres of fully-wrapped prideful parrot sick.

Introducing the Pride Train 🌈

Of course, the Pride train isn’t for ‘the LGBTQ+ community’ – many of whom would probably rather stay at home sticking pins in their eyes than be seen on such an eyesore. I mean, how do you colour co-ordinate with that?

It’s not even for heterosexuals, who aren’t allowed to work on it. No, it’s a shiny, high profile vehicle for yet another company to advertise its ‘progressive’ and ‘diverse’ corporate credentials.

The train operator Avanti has adopted the most recent iteration of the Pride flag which sees the addition of the colours black, brown, light blue, pink and white to bring people of colour, transgender people and those living with or who have been lost to HIV/AIDS to the forefront highlighting  Avanti West Coast’s progressive commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Avanti humbly put themselves at the back of the Pride train, but of course its their train.

The rainbow flag and Pride have for some years now been assimilated by companies keen to virtue signal as a way of conveying their corporate messaging. It’s almost impossible to tell now where Pride ends and feelgood financial institution advertising begins.

In the age of social media, virtue signalling is the fastest, most cost-effective, smoothest form of advertising because your corporate messaging will be publicised by a public also keen to virtue signal. The punters push your gravy train for you. And ‘proudly’.

The Pride train represents the latest, biggest, fastest, longest – and most horrifying – weapon in the corporate virtue-signalling race. I’m sure Avanti are feeling incredibly ‘proud’ of themselves and the wide press and social media coverage their dayglo doomsday machine generated.

And indeed, how can anyone resist a 265 metre, 500 ton rainbow flag and re-education camp travelling at 125mph?

But somewhere an ad agency creative is already pitching something even more ambitious on Zoom to their corporate client. ‘I’m visioning we paint a whole city and everyone in it in the latest iteration of the rainbow flag! It would look totally amazing and would just be so incredibly inclusive and diverse!’

The rainborg flag will assimilate you. Resistance is futile.

Which reminds me, Avanti’s Pride train has the same number of carriages, eleven, as there are initials in the ‘latest iteration’ of the LGBT acronym -LBGTTQQIAAP (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, ally, pansexual).

That ‘+’ in ‘LGBTQ+’ is doing a lot of work. But it’s not just an abbreviation – it’s a promise. ‘More initials soon’.

So when the acronym inevitably grows even longer and ‘more inclusive’ again, Avanti will likely go bankrupt. The bill for platform lengthening at every station on the West Coast line will be ruinous.