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Tag: Andrej Pejic

Buzz Bissinger’s Metrosexy Addiction

There’s nothing quite so deafening as the sound of liberal America tutting. Mostly, in this instance, they’re deafening themselves. To the sound of their own hypocrisy.

The 58-year-old Pulitzer prize winning sports journalist and best-selling author Buzz Bissinger caused a minor tsunami of scandale, disgust and derision a week or so ago with a bravely barnstorming confessional piece in GQ in which he admitted – well, boasted, really – that he is a ‘shopaholic’ who has blown vast sums on Italian designer clothes.

‘I own eighty-one leather jackets, seventy-five pairs of boots, forty-one pairs of leather pants, thirty-two pairs of haute couture jeans, ten evening jackets, and 115 pairs of leather gloves.’

Not that he’s counting. Even worse than the ‘feminine’ weakness this parade of sartorial self-indulgence suggests is the fact he refuses (like the model Andrej Pejic – though perhaps to slightly different effect) to distinguish between men and women’s clothes:

‘Some of the clothing is men’s. Some is women’s. I make no distinction. Men’s fashion is catching up, with high-end retailers such as Gucci and Burberry and Versace finally honoring us. But women’s fashion is still infinitely more interesting and has an unfair monopoly on feeling sexy, and if the clothing you wear makes you feel the way you want to feel, liberated and alive, then fucking wear it.’

Well said, Mr Bissinger. But unfortunately, this is still something that America doesn’t want to hear. At least when it’s men saying it. (Jezebel for his pains described him as ‘twisted’, ‘disgusting’, ‘selfish’ and ‘abominable’.)

‘The opposite, to repress yourself as I did for the first fifty-five years of my life, is the worst price of all to pay. The United States is a country that has raged against enlightenment since 1776; Puritanism, the guiding lantern, has cast its withering judgment on anything outside the narrow societal mainstream. Think it’s easy to be different in America? Try something as benign as wearing stretch leather leggings or knee-high boots if you are a man.’

Whatever you may think of the end result or the fortune spent on Italian designer clothes achieving it, Bissinger is undoubtedly rebelling against Puritanical – liberal as well as conservative – expectations of how middle-aged, upper middle class white men should dress: Brooks Brothers preppy or, if they’re feeling brave, a conservatively-cut designer suit. And how they should spend their money: on their wives, on their spawn, on property and cars and yachts and perhaps, if they must, a discreet cocaine habit and the occasional call-girl. But definitely not on sexy stretchy leather leggings.

But Bissinger wasn’t prepared to leave his Fuck You to American propriety there, standing coquettishly in stretchy leather leggings. He deliberately invited his uptight readers to sit and swivel by talking explicitly about the very thing that scared America about metrosexuality – the male bi-curiousness this male desire to be desired might betoken:

‘I never fit the traditional definition of a sexy male straight or gay—tall, ripped, six- packs within six-packs. I wanted the power that sex provides, all eyes wanting to fuck you and you knowing it, and both men’s and women’s clothing became my venue.’

All eyes wanting to fuck you and you knowing it.

The male desire to be desired, in other words. If Bissinger had accessorised sexiness to himself by building an extension to house his own gym, hiring the most exclusive personal fitness trainer in town, drinking nothing but protein shakes and taking vast quantities of human growth hormone then there would have been no scandal. At worst a bit of eye-rolling. Bodybuilding and sculpting as a way of persuading ‘all eyes to fuck you’ is acceptable in America nowadays, even for middle aged men – perhaps because of the fig-leaf provided by the faux masculine labour and dignity of ‘working out’. Of ‘lifting’. But for men to accessorise sexiness through clothing is just… European effeminacy. Fag stuff.

Bissinger knows this. And wasn’t afraid to address it with his own experience:

‘Was I homosexual because so much of what I wore is associ­ated with gays? I did experiment. And while I don’t think it is my sexual being, I can tell you that gay men as a group are nicer, smarter, have a shitload more fun than straight whites. Was I veering toward becoming a dominant leather master in the S&M scene, the leather fetish an obvious influence in most of the clothing I purchased and in much of high fashion itself? I did experiment. Was I a closeted or maybe not so closeted transvestite? Tom Ford makeup is divine; the right foundation and cheek blush and eyeliner and lipstick can do wonders for the pallid complexion. Thigh-high boots add to any wardrobe, although walking on six-inch stilettos for hours is just a bitch and therefore confined to the privacy of my house, seen only by the UPS man, who at this point could not possibly be surprised by anything. But a dress or skirt just doesn’t look good on me, and I can’t ever do a thing with my hair. The look I was going for was more David Bowie androgynous. It  wasn’t successful.’

I suspect the final sentence is something of an understatement. But we don’t have the UPS man’s verdict. Though full marks to Bissinger for having the balls to try that look at all, let alone answer the door in it.

The confession of gay and S/M experimentation naturally added an extra hypocritical frisson to the liberal disdain for Bissinger’s revelations. Slate magazine, in a shining example of clenched scorn dressed up as concern, even cited his sexual experimentation as the proof of why he is obviously seriously mentally ill. (Probably next to yet another article about the essential importance and dignity of gay marriage.)

Bissinger does describe his behaviour repeatedly as an ‘addiction’ and mentions passingly in his piece that he’s receiving treatment for being mildly bi-polar. But in the prescription-happy US hasn’t everyone now been diagnosed as mildly bi-polar?

By far the most ‘crazy’, provocative, flagrant, unforgivable and un-American aspect of his confession is that while he does seem to be aware he has a problem – given the vast sums he compulsively spends on clothes that he often forgets he has and buys again – when his new flawed, driven, stretchy-panted metrosexy self is set against the button-downed, buttoned-up bourgeois in Brooks Brothers blazers he was bred and braised to be, he doesn’t appear to regret any of it.

 Tip: DAKrolak

The MetroseXY Movement

Hip hop has its own Andrej Pejic. The rapper DPhill Spanglish Man is rebelling against the rap-ismo dress code with something he dubs the ‘XY Movement’ which according to this report, ‘encourages men to get in touch with their feminine sides by donning lipstick and other items, like floral print tights, typically worn by women.’

“A lot of people feel like a lot of colors or tight clothes is homosexual. I feel like it’s more of an expression of me,” said Philips, adding, “The only obstacles are in your mind, that’s the way I feel. I had to break down those barriers in my mind to where I was just confident enough to do it.”

And Philips’s girlfriend, Joy Nguyn, is just as confident, even though she hears negative comments all the time.

“I get mostly negative comments, ‘Oh, he gay… That’s not cute. Guys shouldn’t wear lipstick or tights,’ but I really don’t care,” she said, adding, “It’s fine. I wear lipstick. He wears lipstick. We share lipstick.”

Or as Pejic put it:

“It’s not like, ‘Okay, today I want to look like a man, or today I want to look like a woman,’?” he says. “I want to look like me. It just so happens that some of the things I like are feminine.”

Tip: Paul

Mr ‘Thing’: Pejic and his Prophet

‘All truly beautiful things are a mixture of masculine and feminine.’ So said the late Susan Sontag. And she would know.

I’ve only just read a recent profile of the transexy Serbian model Andrej Pejic in The New Yorker called, with only a soupçon of hyperbole, ‘The Prettiest Boy in the World’.

Pejic, who sometimes models women’s fashion, sometimes men’s (though guess which gets more attention), is the chap memorably described by US FHM in a widely-reported hissy fit as a ‘thing’ that prompts them to ‘pass the sick bucket’ — despite his popularity with their own readers. And more recently as a ‘creature’ and ‘a fake’ and symbol of ‘abject misogyny’ by outraged female columnists citing him as the ‘final proof’ that they were right all along, that high fashion is run by an evil gay paedo conspiracy against women that wants to do away with ladies altogether and replace them with ‘young boys’.

Though perhaps the outraged feminists of both left and right should welcome Pejic with garlands since he means that women can finally opt out of the fatal gay embrace of high fashion altogether and leave the gays and their Ganymedes to it….

Whatever Pejic does or doesn’t symbolise about the world of high fashion it seems to me that he and the scandale surrounding him definitely, dramatically personifies something that is going on in the wider culture that feminists, along with everyone else, are often far less keen to notice.

The way that in the last couple of decades the male body has become ‘objectified’ in mainstream media as much as the female variety. The way that ‘beauty’ and ‘prettiness’ is no longer the sole preserve of women. The way that glossy magazines with men’s airbrushed tits on the cover have become the most popular kind — with men. (Which lends a special irony to the banning of a mag that featured a topless Pejic on the cover by Barnes & Noble – they knew Pejic is male, and don’t ban topless males, only females, but were worried the image ‘might confuse their customers’.)

And the way that colours, clothes, accessories, products, practises and desires previously thought ‘feminine’ have been greedily taken up by men  — and often re-labelled ‘manly’ in a way that only succeeds in unwittingly satirising the very concept of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’, ‘man’ and ‘woman’.

The way, in other words, that gender is undressing itself. Or at least, teasing us with an elbow-length glove or two and an unhooked bra-strap.

In the NYT profile ‘It’, alias Pejic says he’s largely indifferent to gender. For him, it isn’t about being a ‘woman’ or a ‘man’ it’s about being true to his own tastes, to himself. Though he seems to have few illusions about how he is being used and possibly exploited by the fashion industry:

“It’s not like, ‘Okay, today I want to look like a man, or today I want to look like a woman,’?” he says. “I want to look like me. It just so happens that some of the things I like are feminine.”

“I know people want me to sort of defend myself, to sit here and be like, ‘I’m a boy, but I wear makeup sometimes.’ But, you know, to me, it doesn’t really matter. I don’t really have that sort of strong gender identity—I identify as what I am. The fact that people are using it for creative or marketing purposes, it’s just kind of like having a skill and using it to earn money.”

I identify as what I am.

How very dare he! No wonder people rush to call him ‘it’ and ‘thing’….

Pejic has been described, usually derisively, as a ‘gender bender’. Which is interesting because, while I’ve not seen it pointed out, there does seem to be some visual and and philosophical parallels with the ‘gender bender’ of my youth, the preternaturally pretty Brit popster Marilyn, alias Peter Robinson. Who was, for a few moments in the early 80s the most beautiful boy — or girl — in the world.

Marilyn, 1980s

A Bowie fan with an obsession with a dead blonde American actress, Marilyn became the king-queen of the Blitz Set, famously describing himself as “Tarzan and Jane rolled into one” — in addition to the 1960s Hollywood starlet (dread-locked) glamour, he sported impressive shoulders which would have made it rather difficult for him to model women’s fashion, or most men’s high fashion for that matter.

Marilyn denied wanting to change sex, or being a transvestite, he just knew what he liked — and used words that sound very similar to Pejic’s today:

“I’ve never taken much notice of gender. How you can take the same bit of cloth and cut it one way and it’s ‘for men’ and another way and it’s ‘for women’? If it looks nice I’m gonna wear it!”

A favourite target of the Brit tabloids, who seemed to get sexually aroused by the phrase ‘gender bender’, using it repeatedly, his pop career was a perfect, orgasmic explosion that was over before it began — after an infamously sultry appearance on Top of The Pops in 1984promoting his second single ‘Cry and be Free’. Giving good pouty face and flashing his muscular arms in a glittery top Madonna would have hesitated to wear, a nation gasped and the single sank without a trace.

The 1980s hastily decided it wasn’t ready for Marilyn or real gender bending, or indeed sex — Marilyn’s whole persona shouted SEX!!!! — and instead opted for the safe, Mumsy charm of his Blitz Club chum and kabuki pale imitator Boy George, who didn’t really bend gender so much as tickle its tummy a bit. And make it a nice cup of tea.

Nearly thirty years on, despite Pejic’s unpopularity with some feminists and the closet-cases who write for US FHM, 1980s Marilyn and his shameless, shining desire to be desired looks more like a glamorous prophet, preparing the way for the metrosexy 21st Century.

POSTSCRIPT 14/09/11

Justin Bieber likes to wear women’s jeans:

“I’ve worn women’s jeans before because they fit me. It’s not a trend; it’s just, whatever works, works.”…

Bieber was responding to a question about Kanye West’s decision to wear a women’s sweater. “It wasn’t (so he’d) look like a woman in a sweater; it was just a regular sweater that happened to be a woman’s.”