The Geography of Metrosexualism

15 Jan
New York - a global city

New York – a global city

New York is a global city which has been conceptualized as a site for complex global networks of governmental and non-governmental organizations, markets, business, and migrants (Kim, 2008). Global cities, or also known as world cities, are characterized by the FIRE sector – finance, insurance and real estates that generate large profit margins.  Not only global cities have become special kinds of spaces for generation of capital, but also have they become a crucial site for the construction of a socio-cultural identity and lifestyle of metrosexualism (Knox, 2002).

The aim of my post is to give insights on why the culture of the metrosexual occurred in the global city. I will hypothesize on how the epidemic of metrosexualism started by discussing the importance of David Beckham for promoting the lifestyle. The agents of various urban forms in the global city are important part of the discussion alongside with Castells’ (1984) theory of urban social change.

The Epidemic of Metrosexualism

David Beckham - pic @ gfdb

David Beckham – photo in gfdb

David Beckham, a famous British soccer player, enjoys simultaneously the attention of women and men. He is argued to be the ultimate metrosexual who is in love with his image. He is considered to be the godfather of this popular lifestyle. The sportsman is married to Victoria Beckham, a former singer in the popular band Spice Girl, and together they have children. However, he is not a heterosexual, but he is a meterosexual due to his narcissist personality. Furthermore, he likes to pose in many magazines, advertisements and he consequently enjoys to be looked at. Simpson (2002) perceived him as a role model and prototype for hundreds of millions of many straight young man and gays. Although gays were the first group that promoted new male look, the journalist saw Beckham as one of the first who started the epidemic of metrosexualism.

In the eighties the image of the man experienced some changes. During that period moustaches were shaved and the male bodies became smoother. Consequently, a new aesthetic image was introduced.  However, the understanding of the phenomenon requires close examination because the process is not straightforward, but it is more complex (Simpson, 2002).

The metrosexualism might be considered an epidemic or even a pandemic on a global scale. Malcolm Gladwell (2000) analyzed in his book The Tipping Point a perspective on how trends, ideas and social behaviors cross a threshold, tip and spread quickly and effectively. His theoretical proposition about how sociocultural epidemics are spread can also be applied for the popularization of metrosexualism. The metrosexual lifestyle is a contagious behavior in the global city.  In order to be understood, it requires the introduction of three important agents of changes: Law of the Few, the Stickness Factor, and the Power of the Context (Gladwell, 2000).

The law of the few proposes that big changes might be made by small group of people. In this sense gays, composing small percentage of the world population in the seventies, already began to modify the male image by removing their body hair, using female cosmetic and make up. However, the trend was followed only by gays. Therefore, the stickiness factor has to be taken into account. It required someone like David Beckham to have bought the image, which was not known by the heterosexuals, from the gay community or a designer or a stylist. The message then stuck to the soccer player who already had many connection and established networks. Beckham was the one who accumulated the knowledge of aesthetic male body since he was a sportsman and consequently an expert in athletics and aesthetics of masculinity. He was able to persuade large number of heterosexual males to follow his example. Consequently, Beckham was someone who solved the problem of the heterosexual men that wanted to be noticed just like women were being looked at. Moreover, the soccer player simply solved his own problem, too. Beckham shared that he enjoyed the attention of men and women, and he liked to be seen. Eventually, the metrosexual lifestyle emancipated him and enormous number of men from the essentialist stereotype of sexuality. Lastly, but not least the power of the context is also crucial in the analyses. The epidemic occurred in the global city which provides a solid base for social changes and many mechanism of maintaining metrosexual lifestyle (Gladwell, 2000).

Global City as the Habitat of the Metrosexual

Social change like the metrosexualism should be connected in space at the grassroots where men are not passive receivers of socio-cultural ideology. In his book The City and the Grassroots Manuel Castells (1984) discussed social changes in terms of urban movements which were shaped by urban forms, culture and politics of the cities. Cities, in Castells’ (1984) analysis, were situated in a global context of internationalization of capital, superiority of information technologies, and centralized state. They were socially produced due to conflicting social interests and values. Gender relations were among the conflicts which Castells (1984) investigated as a powerful source to establish a theory of urban social change. In the case study of the gay liberation movement in the USA, the author explained the mechanism of social liberation in terms of gay immigration to the city, gay bars, urban forms, community formation, protests, laws and rights. As explained in the previous section that some aspects of the new male image were probably introduced by the gay community, the theory of urban social change can be extended to a case study of metrosexualism in the global city which provides mechanisms of maintaing the new lifestyle.

Westfield shopping center in London - photo by the Independent

Westfield shopping center in London – photo by the Independent

The mechanisms of maintaining a metrosexual lifestyle can be understood when one becomes familiar with several urban forms. The urban impact of globalization can be observed in various sites all over world. Global cities became an arena where a large number of different urban forms were visible (Hamnett, 2005). Several urban forms are especially important in the discussion of the geographies of metrosexualism.

Shopping malls are new urban forms built to satisfy the need of the consumer society. They are built in fast pace and enormous size in the metropolises. Shopping centers and malls are typical urban forms of the global cities. They are dispersed all over the world and attract the metrosexual who is part of the postmodern society which lives according to hedonistic materialistic principles (Hamnett, 2005). The metrosexual is able to satisfy his constant desire for designer products, luxury goods and commodities that constitute his impression management. Impression management is important part of the metrosexual lifestyle therefore it is correlated with the consumer behavior (Aronson, Wilson, & Akert, 2007).

Furthermore, impression management is maintained in gyms, parks, salons, spa centers, and hi-tech aesthetic clinics.  Therefore, the metrosexual takes advantage of the variety of offered “beauty” services in the global cities. After the beauty procedures, he likes to exposes himself in various focal points such as restaurants, bars, fashion shows, exhibitions and sport events. Those places provide him with opportunities to socialize and date (Castells, 1984; Simpson, 2006).

In addition, corporate buildings, parliaments, restaurants, theaters, media headquarters and diverse entertainment places constitute his workplace. Global cities are rich in urban forms where the metrosexual can find high paid jobs or at least jobs which can give him the independence to constantly buy new luxury goods (Khanna, 2004; Simpson, 2002).

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