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

Tag: FHM (page 1 of 1)

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.


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.”


Metrosexuals Continue Their Terrifying Global Take-Over

These reports just in….

In the Far East young men continue their rush headlong towards a totally metrosexed society. According to the Korea Times, South Korea, young men, including soldiers, are now wearing ‘colour lotion’ (a messy combination of foundation, ‘lotion’ and sun screen). Over in Japan my spy on Japanese metrosexuality Daniela K informs me that many Japanese men are wearing skirts and dresses on a daily basis.  Similar things are reportedly happening in China.

Over here in the UK, skirts are rather less common,  but a blog at so-called ‘lads’ mag’ FHM admits that their readers are metrosexual – along with, in fact, most young men today. I happen think the conflation of dandies with ‘new men’ and both with ‘metrosexuals’ in the piece is mostly specious, but it’s a refreshingly direct and honest piece that you would never find on the Men’s Health website.  Unless they were hacked.

But slowly, slowly even America, the country that gave the world the oiled male tits of Men’s Health magazine, seems to be finally recovering from the gigantic national nervous breakdown it had over metrosexuality a few years back. But this being the God-fearing USA where Bush won an election on an anti-metro/anti-fag ticket in 2004, make sure you don’t use the ‘m’ word, especially if you’re an American marketer marketing metrosexual products.  ‘Metrosexual’ makes too many Americans think of ‘homosexual’. And that’s not good when you’re in the holy business of selling things. Besides, marketers are generally happier with euphemism.  When they’re not just lying.

Nevertheless it turns out – surprise! – that the market for male vanity products  has continued to grow very strongly indeed in the US, even during the anti-metro ‘menaissance’, and the subsequent recession. To try and cash in Madison Avenue is about to unleash a record-breaking ad blitz – trying to persuade American men that what they’ve really been missing in their lives is Dove and (manly, techno-styled) buff-puffs.

One of the more interesting things to emerge from the Advertising Age feature is that Marlboro, as a filtered low-tar cigarette, was originally designed for women in the 1920s, but when evidence mounted in the 1950s that tobacco caused cancer Philip Morris commissioned Leo Burnett to change the ciggie’s gender.

Arguably American fags did this again themselves in the 1970s when they appropriated the clone look, modelled on the butch Marlboro Man ads, perhaps unconsciously picking up on the slightly camp, er, drag king quality that it turns out the Marlboro man had all along.

Final Triumph of Metrosexuality: Men’s Tits More Popular Than Women’s

Men's Health

It’s official. Men’s tits are now more popular than women’s. With men.

Men’s Health, the metromag with the pec-fest, ab-tastic covers is now the best-selling men’s magazine in the UK, selling more than 250,000, compared to 235,000 for previous best-seller so-called ‘lad mag’ FHM with its famous cover babes sporting udders almost as big as those of Men’s Health models.

The truth is of course is that FHM is as much a metromag as Men’s Health (or ‘Men’s Hypochondria’ as I like to call it). It just used the ‘lad mag’ tits-and-booze formula as a beard for its metrosexuality. When it was attacked by female journalists for being ‘sexist’ FHM’s publishers secretly cheered because this meant that these mass-circulation magazines peddling male vanity, fashion and self-consciousness might be mistaken for something traditional.

The real money shot in FHM — and the reason for its very existence — was never the ‘High Street Honey’ spreads but rather the pages and pages of glossy ‘high-value’ ads featuring pretty male models in various states of designer undress.

But fifteen years on from the launch of the first ‘lad mag’ – and also fifteen years on from my first use of the word ‘metrosexual’ in an article for the Independent which predicted that male vanity was ‘the most promising market of the decade‘ – the moisturised future has arrived.  A generation of young men have grown up with metrosexuality, see it as ‘normal’ – and don’t need the hysterical heterosexuality of lad mags.

In a sense, lads mags have done what they were invented to do: metrosexualize men on the sly.  So they aren’t really needed any more.  And arguably, post YouTube/iPhone, magazines in general aren’t needed any more either.

Men’s Health by contrast was always the most nakedly metro of the metromags – and as a result of those covers the most openly narcissistic and homoerotic. In a post metro world, men are most interested in themselves — and can download hardcore porn 24-7. So they choose the lifestyles mag that puts men’s (shaded) tits and abs on the cover, rather than hiding behind women’s.  (In one issue earlier this year, having nothing better to do on a train journey, I counted 73 male nipples and 4 female ones, the latter partly obscured by ‘superfoods’).

But no revolution is ever complete.  And everything is relative. Precisely because everyone knows what it is, Men’s Health are still trying convince you that none of their readers are gay or bisexual — or even metrosexual.  Instead the deputy editor reassures The London Times all their readers ‘have kids or want to have kids’, and and are ‘heteropolitan’ — an uptight marketing inversion of the word ‘metrosexual’, with HETERO in place of anything ambiguous and with that dangerous ‘sexual’ part surgically removed.

As I noted a couple of years ago in a piece lampooning their prissy denial, I suspect that most of even their straight  readers (and most of their readers are probably straight – just not very narrow) are way ahead of them. But then, marketing tends to be instinctively dishonest even if there’s no particular reason to be any more.

Whatever, I think it will be a while before male homoerotics and steroids, those unspoken staples of every single issue of Mens Health, get a strapline on the cover — even if female-on-male strap-on sex apparently already has (see the cover picture at top).

By the way, a similar trend has emerged in Australia, with MH also outselling FHM down under.  This recent piece in The Age, complete with rather amusing mock-up of what a men’s mag might look like in the not-too-distant future (which I thought for a moment was an publication currently available), provides a rather better analysis of what’s going on than much of what appeared in the UK press.

Shame then that The Age, along with its sister publication The Sydney Morning Herald, ‘borrowed heavily’ from — or in Australian: plagiarised — my 2002 Salon essay ‘Meet the metrosexual’  for a feature it ran in 2003 called ‘The rise of the metrosexual’ — with no mention of me or my Salon essay they thieved from.  I’ve yet to receive an apology.

I suspect I’ll get a column in Men’s Health before I do.

Tip: Sisu

Shock News: Mens Glossies Promote Metrosexuality

According to yesterday’s The Sunday Times, the so-called ‘laddish’ culture promoted by men’s magazines has spawned a new medical condition: ‘athletica nervosa’, or an obsession with exercise:

New research shows that the magazines, whose titillating displays of female flesh were meant to liberate their readers from political correctness, may be trapping them into an unhealthy obsession with their own bodies.

Rather than, presumably, a healthy obsession with women’s bodies.

Some readers become so anxious about their own physique that they embark on excessive exercise, spending hours running, swimming or in the gym. Athletica nervosa is already known to affect young women, but this is thought to be the first British study to link the phenomenon to men.

The piece, headlined ‘Lads’ mags inflict preening curse’, quotes David Giles, a psychologist at Winchester University, who co-wrote the research, saying: “We found that the more such magazines a man reads the more likely he is to be anxious about his physique.” The study carried out interviews and surveys of 161 men aged 18-36 to find out how many lads’ mags they read and for how long. They also scored them for dietary habits, exercise regimes and attitudes towards appearance.

“Men who read the most lads’ mags seemed to internalise the appearance ideals portrayed by them,” said Giles. “Models in these magazines are impossibly good-looking and seeing them can make readers anxious about their own bodies.”

Really? You don’t say.

Pardon me for pointing out that this is the whole glossy point of them. And the only research you have to do to discover this is flick through them. Describing these metromags as ‘lads mags’ or ‘laddish mags’ is to fall for their mendacious marketing and the beard-like breasty covers.

The reason they exist at all is to deliver the hyper-fit, near naked male-modelled fashion and vanity product advertising within to men who until the 90s were immune to it because they were too busy being actual lads with other lads to buy a magazine selling them a simulated, lonely version of ‘laddishness’ while encouraging them to to look with a mixture of envy and desire at idealised images of other men produced lovingly with all the latest techniques and technology of consumerism.

The desire that ‘lads mags’ are selling isn’t heterosexuality. It’s metrosexuality.

And don’t think staying in and becoming an online gaming geek will save you. The article quotes a separate study at the University of Illinois two years ago which showed that the muscular male bodies in computer gaming magazines drove boys as young as eight to try to build their muscles. Which is not very easy if you spend your time playing computer games. Another reason why steroids, the metrosexual hormone, are the dystopian future.

For all this, men’s magazines, however, have had their day.

Loaded – the magazine that invented the phoney ‘lad mag’ beer-and-tits-and-designer-underpants formula but which was quickly emulated, improved on and overtaken by kit-and-clobber-happy FHM – lost nearly 30% of its circulation in the second half of 2007 as circulation dropped by 47,000 year on year.

Even FHM shed 56,114 sales while Maxim lost 53,034 sales. However, sales of Men’s Health are said to be ‘stable’. Probably because, despite its laughable recent attempts to het it up, it’s the most obviously metro of the metromags – and puts mens tits on the cover. And also the one with the most hardcore hypochondria. Men’s Health is ‘stable’ because it’s the most neurotic title, doing its best for equality of the sexes when it comes to eating disorders and supplement addiction.

Men’s magazines have peaked not so much because they have so many gadgets now to play with when they’re bored and alone – Ipods, Podcasts, portable DVD players, the Interweb, Fleshlights – but because men’s mags have largely done their job.

They slyly converted an entire generation of young men to metrosexuality so successfully – partly because they were aching to be converted anyway – that now, with the possible exception of Men’s Hypochondria, they’re more or less redundant.