Pretty Boys


The rise of male beauty products and metrosexuality.

By Elizabeth Salter

He struts down the street in a perfectly tailored suit coupled with a grid patterned pocket square and designer sunnies perched atop his pore-free nose. He knows the ins and outs of Target’s beauty section and has his tried and true brand of hairspray, face moisturizer and body wash. Every hair on his face from his eyebrows to his beard looks as though it has been perfectly positioned that way. “That’s so metro!”

Mark Simpson, a writer for Britain's online newspaper The Independent, first coined this term in 1994, writing metrosexuality “shows that male vanity is finally coming out of the closet.” In 2002, Simpson wrote a follow-up article published in that debuted his definition as “a young man with money to spend, living in or within easy reach of a metropolis – because that’s where all the best shops, clubs, gyms and hairdressers are,” referencing David Beckham as the model exemplar of the United Kingdom.

Now, it’s almost 20 years later and Simpson’s explanation has remained nearly perfectly intact. Defined by Merriam-Webster online dictionary, a metrosexual is “a usually urban heterosexual male given to enhancing his personal appearance by fastidious grooming, beauty treatments, and fashionable clothes.” Relatively new to the gender spectrum, this term attempts to compartmentalize and categorize a “species” of male slightly unlike society’s accepted stereotype of a burly, buff, dirt under the fingernails kinda guy.  

According to market research conducted by Coresight, “the global market for male grooming products is booming… and projected to reach 60.7 billion by 2020.” This number is just ⅕ of the women’s cosmetic product market which was valued at 532 billion in 2017 by an Orbis Research market survey. Although the male number is significantly lower than the women’s counterpart, the expected growth in this field proves that men are beginning to take their grooming procedures much more seriously, and many brands are starting to take notice.

Quickly browsing websites like Sephora and Nordstrom proves the increase in demand for male oriented products due to their unique “just for men” clickable subcategories. Advertised and sold on both platforms are brands like Jack Black, Lab Series Skincare for Men, and The Art of Shaving. Targeted specifically for men’s wants and needs, these brands sell everything from skincare, to shaving products, and hair stylers. In an attempt to keep things masculine and remain within society’s ideology of pink is for girls and blue is for boys, the packaging of these products are blue, black, or gray and are often met with crisp, clean-looking designs and no frills in sight.

Clearly, metrosexuality is just another way in which society can cope with the changing gender spectrum. In 2018, one does not have to be simply male or female anymore. With bisexual, asexual, genderqueer, non-binary, hyper masculine/ feminine, soft masculitinity and metrosexuality idenfication out there, it is almost impossible for individuals to not find a community where they can feel grounded and connected to.

So, the next time you catch your boyfriend or your best friend sneaking a bit of your luxury Kiehls face mask, don’t fret. Boys just want to be pretty too.

Staci Soslowitz