Blurred Lines

Gay or straight? I can’t tell…

Is a person’s sexuality something that can be defined by their choice of clothing? I’m not so sure anymore.

Cape Town is renowned for being one of the most stylish capitals in the world and this has beckoned the age of metrosexual men in our city.

“Metrosexuality” was first coined by Mark Simpson, who defined the concept as “the single young man with a high disposable income, living or working in the city (because that’s where all the best shops are)”. 

Masculinity in South Africa has matured into an urbanised and groomed affair through the country’s ever-growing relationship with European and American fashion connections. The fashions that were once considered to be too “homosexual” for most men to wear have become intertwined into the everyday wardrobe of the ordinary heterosexual man.

This is because the media have profoundly impacted our ideas of masculinity and femininity and sexuality itself through its ‘skin-deep’ coverage of it. Magazines like GQ, Men’s Health, Esquire and FHM encourage a sense of vanity and narcissism in men. The media’s bombardment of advertising that tells men how to look their leanest, attract the most sexual partners or attain their goal weight commands the average man to value a sense of grooming and egotism.  Television shows like Queer Eve for the Straight Guy, Will and Grace and Queer as Folk signal a social freedom for men to exist as a feminine male and show that cultural attitudes towards masculinity have changed dramatically.

According to Connell, Hegemonic masculinity embodies the currently accepted answer to the problem of the legitimacy of patriarchy, which guarantees the dominant position of men and the subordination of women” (2009, Gender: in world perspective). Traditional masculine norms consisted of restricted emotions, pursuit of achievement and status, self-reliance, aggression and avoidance of any sense of femininity. But this doesn’t seem to be the case now!

The rise of feminism and women’s-rights movements has impacted gender roles in society and this may be a reason for the effeminacy of men. This radical shift in gender roles in society is seen through the clothing choices of men.

I recently spoke about this to Daniel Geldenhuys, Editor in Chief of Varsity Style magazine, and he agreed that metrosexuality is ever-growing in our city. According to Daniel, you see the most extreme cases of metrosexuality in the CBD of Cape Town. However, he argues that “you must never stereotype. Just because some guys look gay, it doesn’t mean that they are.” Daniel claims that Hiddingh is the best example of this; “almost every guy on Hiddingh campus would be judged as gay by what they wear. But trust me, that’s not the case”.

Daniel is what I consider to be a “metrosexual”; his hair is always perfect, his clothes are always stylishly co-ordinated, he takes care of himself and he is the kind of person that you notice from a mile away.

“Brands matter a lot to me; I will not buy something from Chinatown. I only like to really wear Topshop, Cotton On and Country Road” admits Daniel. This gave me a rare  gay-guys perspective that agreed with my suspicions.

Barbara fouri, sub-editor of Varsity Style, agrees that being image-conscious and men’s attention to what they look like has become a mainstream thing. “My boyfriend has a comb-over and his hair has to be perfectly styled everyday but he’s not gay, duh”!

Male narcissism is here and we better become used to it.

According to Barbara, “men have always been vain; they just haven’t always expressed it until recently”. 

I agree with Barbara completely; gone are the days where the men were brutal in combat or slaved in the mills on their farms. Unless you’re living in Jamaica (which is, according to TIME magazine, the most homophobic place on earth), there is nothing stopping men from their effeminacy.

Every year, Androgyny is always present in some designers’ collections in fashion week. But as the Spring ’14 menswear fashion shows started in London last week; I was shocked at the realisation that Androgyny has re-awoken from its deep sleep since the 90’s.

I was shocked in my seat when I watched J.W. Anderson’s menswear Spring ’14 collection because he took the concept of metrosexuality to a completely new level.  Anderson surprised audiences with his version of the male halter-neck top (yes, you heard correctly!) that was a black less top and was made out of a semi-sheer and floral patterned material. When I watched this I had a sudden urge to ask someone: “is this real?” Surely not! But I think that Anderson took the concept of metrosexuality to the extreme and that this is not an accurate depiction of what I have discussed above.

The fact that men can now care about their clothes, spend money and time on their appearance and not be gay is something of a new concept. Men wear Skinny Jeans, Man-bags, pink shirts, Harem pants and get their ears pierced and this is a testament to such transformation in fashion. Cape Town certainly appears to have welcomed this notion of new masculinity.

Behold the metrosexual man; pampered by women, technology and clothes!




More links that I highly recommend on this subject: = First class Fashionista: Masculine fashion goes feminine = a very amusing pictorial on how men are becoming more feminine = Dude Look Like A lady, Vada Magazine = Feminine men’s fashion: has it gone too far?

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