Thursday, May 11, 2006

health magazine: Metrosexual man ousted by the ubersexual

THE metrosexual is dead - say hello to the ubersexual and heteropolitan.

Social commentators have kindled a backlash against the type of preening moisturising male exemplified by the likes of Gavin Henson and David Beckham.

In their place, they have coined novel phrases for a slightly more rugged breed of new man, similar to the metrosexual but displaying more traditionally "manly" traits.

Equally at home on the school run or on the rugby pitch, the ubersexual role models are the likes of Jos Mourinho, Brad Pitt or our very own Brent Cockbain - nicknamed "disaster" on the pitch, yet just as happy to rustle up a tasty chutney from his allotment vegetables.

Heteropolitans, meanwhile, are usually young family men unafraid to change nappies one minute and then head down the pub with the lads the next. Think Jamie Oliver, Vernon Kay or even Port Talbot actor and committed father Michael Sheen.

Advertising guru Marian Salzman coined ubersexual in her book, The Future of Men, partly in response to metrosexuals looking like "sad sacks incapable of retaining their sense of manhood".

She said, "We think that metrosexuals have been upstaged by this ubersexual guy who's more masculine, who's looking for stronger male relationships.

"He still has some of those characteristics of the metrosexual - he's more aesthetic, more concerned with how he looks, more interested in furniture and great wines - but he's more of a guy's guy."

She points to figures such as Bono and George Clooney as ideal ubersexuals.

Heteropolitan meanwhile - which cynics could dismiss as the bits left over when the word metrosexual was invented - was recently identified in Men's Health magazine to describe the kind of men not averse to pubs and grooming but also "surprisingly committed to relationships and family life".

At the same time trend-spotters say the "death" of the metrosexual phenomenon is apparent in the closure of influential male shopping magazine Cargo.

Worse, Mark Simpson - widely credited with inventing the word - says the sight of permatanned, brylcreemed and waxed men has simply become too "common" in an era when Welsh rugby star Gavin Henson has happily confessed to shaving, moisturising and applying fake tan before matches.

Stephen Williams, a lecturer in sociology at the University of Glamorgan, believes the bewildering array of new terms may be little more than a marketing ploy.

"I think this is new advertising terminology, and may be more to do with who they're targeting goods and services at," he said.

"It's irrelevant and all it does is create more stereotypes which nobody can live up to.

"But what you are getting is a trend towards men wanting to be more caring and move towards a less hegemonic masculinity of the kind that said rugby players had nothing 'effeminate' about them in the 1970s.

"Nowadays we've got Gavin Henson and a shift towards men who are masculine in a different way. You can still be masculine but without being sexist or homophobic."

Dr Williams personally preferred the more neutral term "new man", dreamt up in the 1980s to capture men's burgeoning roles as hands-on family men.

"When you've got metrosexual and other '-sexual' words people start to ask, 'What exactly is that?' and start to be more wary about whether they can accept that."

But whether or not we really are witnessing the death knell of the metrosexual, just as once we saw the demise of the 'new man' with the rise of 'lad culture', Dr Williams conceded labels did have some benefits.

"I think the 'new man' label enabled men to both recognise their vanity and to realise they were missing out on the positives of child-raising.

"And the metrosexual tag again has highlighted the issue that men do use moisturiser," he added.

Tryst Williams, Western Mail