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January 5, 2004

Like most Americans, I thought

Daniel Radosh

Like most Americans, I thought I never again wanted to read another article about metrosexuals. You know you're in trouble when the New York Times has to lead its latest MS puff piece with an apology (an insincere one, we can only assume, since they ran the story anyway).

But today in Salon, Mark Simpson, the man who coined the word, offers a fascinating explanation of what he meant by it and how it got away from him. Intended as a sharp critique of consumerism (and a compelling, if trendy, bit of queer theory) it was (to no one's surprise in hindsight) co-opted and spread by marketers.

"Much of the responsibility for this global epidemic of metrosex-mania, however, lies not with my irresistibly contagious prose, or even Salon's worldwide e-popularity, but the very canny trend-spotter for a giant global advertising company who picked up the concept and, with the help of some research that seemed to show that metrosexuals really did exist, made over the metrosexual into a marketing tool with which to seduce the world media. Snarky sociology, which is no good to anyone, was transmuted into highly profitable demography, which everyone wants a piece of."

In fact, Simpson's prose is fairly irresistible, which makes it well worth clicking through whatever ads Salon makes you watch in order to read the entire essay. Or, at the very least, his take on Queer Eye:

"In a makeover culture it's the ultimate makeover show because what is being made over is masculinity itself. However, the basic premise is, it has to be said, a lie. I know this will come as a shock to millions, but gays are not necessarily more stylish than straight men. Exhibit A: the gay fashion 'expert' on 'Queer Eye' [Carson Kressley] who dispenses sartorial advice while dressed like the Children Snatcher in 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.'"

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