[Originally published by the Stamford Advocate.]
Connecticut: birthplace of the metrosexual?
Almost 11 years ago, when metrosexual was the hot new word on everyone’s lips—thanks largely to work my colleagues and I were doing at the ad agency that is now Havas; I’m CEO of Havas PR—it was a uniquely urban phenomenon. In time, it came to stand for guys who waxed their backs (and other areas), or at least wore the color salmon and enjoyed their fair share of America’s hottest sport circa 2003: shopping.
Would we have known who the metrosexual was—let alone seen a wide acceptance of him—without New Canaan’s Candace Bushnell? It feels like a lifetime ago that she had a metrosexual citing in a 2002 episode of “Sex and the City,” when an entertainer whom the girls all assumed was gay announced his engagement to a woman.
A decade ago, those Fairfield County twins and their predator (just joking), Mr. Zuckerberg, hatched Facebook. They’d be modern-day metrosexuals based on how they were played in “The Network.”
How about the Jared campaign from Subway (aka Doctor’s Associates of Milford)? It seemed like a big deal—a “regular” American man concerned with his looks?!—but now manorexia is (unfortunately) a new normal.
Even Danbury’s Ethan Allen has started taking a new tack, marketing home decor not just to women but also to men who’ve adopted a touch of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” (which hit the airwaves in, you guessed it, 2003) with opinions about fabrics and colors.
One phrase my colleagues and I devised to describe metrosexuals a decade ago, when we retooled British writer Mark Simpson’s obscure term and ushered it into the pop culture, was “just gay enough.” But since then, homosexuality has largely lost its stigma, especially in progressive states like Connecticut, which legalized gay marriage in 2008. Men no longer worry about being perceived as gay if they use a grooming product; hardly anyone even cares who’s gay anymore. I reckon more people worry about having dewy fresh skin.
Likewise, metrosexuality is so mainstream now as to hardly merit comment, whether in big cities or small towns. A decade ago, there was a clear difference between the well-groomed, “sensitive” men I encountered in Manhattan and the more old-fashioned “manlier” men I saw when the commuter train pulled into the Stamford Transportation Center. Now not so much.
We’ve reached near absolute acceptance, even in the political realm. Former Stamford Mayor (and metrosexual) Dannel Malloy—described by one local blog as “slim and bespoke, with snazzy expensive eyeglasses and coiffed hair”—was elected governor. Numerous openly gay officials—including State Rep. Jason Bartlett, the highest-ranking gay African-American politician in the country; State Sen. Andrew Maynard; and New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio—have emerged or gained stature.
But some sad results of metrosexuality are bubbling in Connecticut, too. More men than women in the state are unemployed in almost every age and racial group, leading many to conclude that confidence in men is way down. Prescriptions are up for antidepressants and erectile dysfunction drugs; men are having trouble keeping up with all the expectations placed on them. (Then again, a lot of Big Pharma execs live in Connecticut, and they’re doing all right.)
I turned to Facebook to ask friends how they’ve been seeing metrosexuality in their communities, and I heard about househusbands, men in change of childcare (and dad bloggers and TV shows about next-gen Mr. Moms), makeup for men, wearable tech as a metrosexual style extension and the emergence of the luxury murse (Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Coach all have men’s bag lines).
Adwoman Beth Waxman-Arteta told me her 28-year-old nephew’s Dopp kit has more “product” in it than she has in her makeup bag. And New England Cable News anchor Jackie Bruno said: “My husband is very manly but has a lot of metro qualities. I think most men under 35 do now. Women have always put so much emphasis on our looks that it’s about time men step up their game. Also, men now do more around the house, and studies show they’re more likely to get sex if they help out with household chores!”
On a serious note, she added: “As a woman who puts a lot of emphasis on her career, I need a metrosexual husband. I like to have a guy who can help out around the house, earn a second income, but still be nurturing for me and a future family. I also like that when I have to go to events, my husband knows how to dress. It makes me feel like we’re a power couple. He’s not a trophy like a trophy wife used to be. I can leave him to his own conversations and we can divide and conquer a room together.”
Who knew a decade could change so much? Metrosexuality is no longer something to joke about; it’s something to celebrate. And Connecticut should be demanding its kudos as the place where all the change started.