I know a man whose job for Sears Canada included travelling around the world with a Polaroid camera. He was looking to spot coming trends in clothes. It was he who decided what the colours in their merchandise would be for next year. Returning to Toronto with these photos, he would be able to instruct the buyers on what to order for the coming year.
I found that idea intriguing, so I have started as I travel to take note of the way people dress on the streets. I can’t say that I have spotted any trends, but on a short visit to Norway I considered how the Norwegian men dressed. Sloppy would, I think, be the word but that just shows my age. The mixing of dress and casual clothes seemed the norm. Occasionally I spied a man who appeared smartly dressed, but I thought that quite unusual. Yes, I did notice a man or two with a clutch bag and gelled hair.
I had a chance to challenge my clothing ideas quite recently on a cruise and I suppose this experience has made me more aware of how men dress. The first day out of Southampton we were having a drink on the upper deck by the pool when we both noticed a middle-aged man reading in the sun. He was hard to miss because his toenails were painted strawberry red. With a closer look, I discovered he was wearing cream-coloured piazza pants. Well, I thought, I guess he must be a cross dresser. Marilyn confirmed my idea when she pointed out that his shirt/top was embroidered with the Liz Sport logo.
It makes no difference to me what a person’s preferences are as long as in the Victorian saying, he doesn’t do it in the street and scare the horses. I almost had a bit of admiration for this guy to step out on a cruise ship which normally hosts a rather conservative middle-class audience. A young friend of mine winding me up about our frequent cruises said, “Oh yeah, the newlyweds and the nearly deads”. Since we have been married thirty-seven years, I will leave you to decide into which camp we fit.
When we assembled for dinner that first night, we were amazed to find the cross dresser and, it turned out, his wife of thirty-three years seated at our table. She was very pleasant, while he proved to know everything about just any old subject that you would like to name, which was most unfortunate. After this first encounter, I faxed home a colourful description of these folks from Long Island, New York, pronounced “Lonk Island”.
A recent article in Forbes Magazine entitled “Today’s Man” immediately brought that fellow passenger back to mind. It turns out I may have been totally wrong about this cross-dressing guy. Say Hello to Metrosexuals. A squint at the Web tells me that this term is well settled, not a new currency. These are straight guys “who preen, clean, and sip Chardonnay” and generally are in touch with their feminine side.
It is clear that there is a huge marketing opportunity if the merchandisers can only convert the beer-guzzling crowd to this new reality. Apparently in the U.K., Boots the Chemists are setting up separate departments in drug stores called “Men’s Zone”. The advertisers are pointing to big names like David Beckham as an example of the type of man who is masculine enough to wear a sarong and nail polish. Even though the lads at the Duke, my local, are obsessed with David Beckham, I rather doubt that the talk over pints will turn to exfoliation and pantyhose. Way back in 1994 “metrosexuals” was coined by, who else, a copywriter in England. Now nine years later, Jane Buckingham, the head of New York consultancy, Youth Intelligence, says that in a very few years all guys will become metrosexuals. Jane, I think not.