The Meaning of Metrosexuality

Have you heard of metrosexuals? Perfect hair, well-trimmed beards, well-groomed eyebrows. Men are dedicating increasingly more time and money in attending to their images. But, what social and psychological realities lie behind this behavior? Find out here.
The Meaning of Metrosexuality
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 29 August, 2023

The term metrosexuality originated in the popular culture of the 1990s, as a label for men who placed more emphasis on taking care of their physical appearance and lifestyle, compared to traditional norms of masculinity. As a label, it’s not without controversy.

Today, both men and society, in general, have taken a step forward in paying attention to the image of the metrosexual. When it comes to men, it’s not just about muscles, fitness, or nice teeth anymore. Now, there’s also room for eyeliner, painted nails, and outfits that were unimaginable only a decade ago.

Metrosexuality identifies masculine behavior oriented to the meticulous and almost obsessive care of external appearance, reflecting the individual’s identity. It’s also linked to social status. Today, men are freer due to cultivating their powers of attraction, self absorption, and certain of their tastes, those that were previously solely in the province of female territory.

In the nineties it was David Beckham and today it’s Harry Styles. These figures have broken stereotypes and reformulated masculinity. In turn, they’ve attracted an entire marketing industry that’s greatly benefited from this revolution.

Metrosexuality

Metrosexuality emerged as a new and catchy term in a society in need of change. It joined the words metropolis and sexual, to describe a phenomenon that eventually took off globally in the noughties. It was the journalist Mark Simpson who first described this characteristic in an article published in the newspaper, The Independent.

The real boom came at the beginning of the 20th century. The metrosexual challenged the classic scheme of masculinity, opening it up to a far broader spectrum when it came to expressing it.

Gradually, the trend was distilled into the media for the remodeling of ideas on masculine thought. The world of fashion and aesthetics were the main areas of importance.

Characteristics associated with the metrosexual

Until the 1990s, heterosexual men exhibited minimal consumption rates. However, with the advent of metrosexuality, an entire industry opened up to satisfy their interests and self absorption. These are the characteristics and dynamics of metrosexual men:

  • They go to the gym.
  • They visit aesthetic centers for beauty treatments.
  • They’re extremely interested in fashion trends and brands.
  • They adopt practices traditionally associated with women, such as wearing makeup.
  • They make an effort to take care of their appearance, even if it means ‘suffering’. For example, waxing.
  • Their consumption of cosmetics has increased. Consequently, the big brands have begun to market items exclusively for men.
  • The media, especially social media, are filling up with reference figures for men to copy in terms of aesthetics.


Why does metrosexual behavior appear?

A study conducted by the Punjab Technical University (India) states that metrosexuality is a social phenomenon linked to the media, celebrities, and the consumer industry. They claim that it arose as an impulse to reformulate the concepts of masculinity. It rejected the classic image of rudeness and strength in favor of emotionality.

Gradually, men adopted customs and practices that conventional ideology linked exclusively to the female sex. This was a quantum leap for them. Suddenly, they had other models to follow, as well as references that opened up new mechanisms to enhance their qualities of attractiveness and social desirability.

Metrosexuality has also allowed men to like themselves and delight in self-care. In fact, the phenomenon of metrosexuality is conceived as an expression of the consumer society. It’s thanks to this that men have restructured their identities by breaking with the traditional molds.

Men analyze and deconstruct gender stereotypes to find other ways of expressing and enjoying their masculinity.

boy demonstrating his metrosexuality
Marketing companies were really interested in taking advantage of the phenomenon of metrosexuality.

Types of metrosexuality

The metrosexual concept is broad and in constant reformulation. With its continual reconstruction, it includes new behaviors and needs that occur in society.

A study published by Revista do NUFEN explains that the concept of masculinity built throughout history still influences postmodern men, but maintaining the metrosexual profile is more significant in terms of satisfaction and social confirmation.

Therefore, masculinity is permanently being restructured and the term metrosexual is nothing more than a link in this progress that leaves aside dysfunctional and outdated aspects. It’s worth reviewing the different typologies of the concept, to understand its social and psychological richness.


You might be interested to read Male Sexual Desire


1. Ubersexual

The ubersexual is an example of the most restrained metrosexuality. Ubersexuals care about their image but don’t resort to excesses or consumerism. They have their own style and never resort to practices such as waxing, for example.

2. Retrosexual

Frank Sinatra, James Dean, and the character of Don Draper in the Mad Men series. The retrosexual provides clear evidence that, in the 50s and 60s, there were certain men who took care of their images and were concerned with having their own style. Indeed, metrosexuality didn’t arrive with George Clooney or Cristiano Ronaldo.

3. Lumbersexual

The lumbersexual dates from the closest era (2016) and defines the classic lumberjack and plaid shirt-clad male who leads a really urban life. They exhibit a rustic and neglected air. However, this is a false impression as each element of their appearance has been carefully pre-designed. Just take a look at their shiny boots and bushy but well-trimmed beards.

4. Spornosexual

The spornosexual symbolizes figures like Cristiano Ronaldo or any athlete with a sporty image who wants to be the center of attention. This term combines two dimensions: sport and porn; the latter being understood as the intention to incite desire.

5. Metrosexual narcissism

In many cases, metrosexuality leads to narcissistic and egocentric behaviors. It occurs when men become excessively obsessed with themselves. In fact, their only interest and concern is themselves. Moreover, they seek to appear perfect and to be the center of attention in all contexts and settings.

Men who take care of themselves, enjoy fashion, and adopt beauty techniques that were previously considered only feminine preserves, aren’t necessarily any less masculine. They simply know how to express themselves in more ways. As a matter of fact, metrosexuals enjoy a universe that was previously banned or frowned upon.

man representing Metrosexuality
Metrosexual men can also be gay or bisexual.

Do metrosexuals still exist?

Many will remember the protagonists of the famous series Sex and the City. In this show, the women evidenced the same lifestyles that define metrosexuality. This demonstrates that the concept transcends gender roles. Indeed, there are also metrosexual women.

The current of metrosexuality first arrived almost 30 years ago. Today, although the term no longer causes any surprises, the trend persists. For example, figures like Harry Styles represent a dynamic post-metrosexuality. In fact, nowadays, the masculine identity has more ways of expressing and manifesting itself. Naturally, this is a positive.

Editorial note

Gender is the origin of many current debates. Consequently, there are many conflicting positions. However, it’s a slippery area and any changes that might be introduced with regard to specific definitions will, of course, have an impact on legislation. This article doesn’t intend to ignite any controversy in this respect, but rather to review a reality using the most appropriate words, being aware, of course, that there may also be other perfectly valid ones. that could be used.

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