Exploring Metrosexuality With two NYU Students
The term metrosexual was first coined by English journalist Mark Simpson in a 1994 article and was used to describe an urban, heterosexual male who is meticulous about his grooming and appearance. 24 years after the initial popularization of the term, NYU.FASHION sits down with two metrosexual NYU students, Rayat Rahman and Justin Chow, to learn about their views regarding metrosexuality and the multiple roles fashion plays in their respective lives.
Yimin: Have you heard of the term ‘metrosexual’? If so, what do you think of it?
Rayat: I have been described by my friends as metrosexual. I think it’s kind of a useless term; the metrosexual American male is just a regular European male. I think it’s a reaction to a certain kind of masculinity, and men’s interest in fashion is just a natural progression of men being more interested in what women are interested in, so it just means ‘someone who cares about his appearance.’
Justin: When I first heard about the term metrosexual, it was by chance, actually, on Urban Dictionary. I was in high school and saw the term metrosexual. And yeah, it’s basically ‘guys who care about their appearance and how they dress.’ I never really thought much of it back where I’m from [Hong Kong], as everyone dresses however they want to dress. It’s a very fashionable city. There’s fashion week there too. We’re very brand conscious. It's something that I grew up with. If you don’t dress a certain way back home, you even get a little bullied. I remember when I was in the fifth grade and wore baggy jeans, there was one guy making fun of me. It’s just fifth grade, you know? I think that’s the start of when I dressed differently. Now, I just dress however I want to dress.
Yimin: What are some styles you find yourself gravitating toward?
Rayat: My outfits have increasingly become more hipster since I've felt more comfortable dressing flamboyantly. However, generally, I like to combine a punk rock and metal aesthetic. Today I went full-on hipster and flamboyant, but in general I’d wear a metal T-shirt, joggers and beads or a beanie with black boots and patterned pants. To mix it up, I tuck in my shirt. This friend of mine from Germany tucks all his shirts in, and I kind of liked that aesthetic. The first time I did I was like, Oh man, do I look stupid? Then I thought, Who gives a shit? It’s more fun that way. There’s more experimentation. I also like form-fitting clothing. If I wear more-flowy shirts, I like to tuck them in.
Justin: My style tends to go a little more toward high fashion, but I keep it as low-key as possible. I get most of my inspiration from this guy from LA, Hideaki Yamazaki. What I like about his style is that he experiments a lot with shapes and not so much with color. Look at my outfit — it’s very monotone, except for the jacket. I like to have one or two colors and make it more about shapes.
Yimin: What are your favorite fashion brands?
Rayat: Just the cheapest shit I can get my hands on, like from thrifting, H&M, Uniqlo ... I like GAP a lot, just because they have good sweaters. I used to get my boots from cheap Chinese websites on Amazon, but now I know more of what I want to dress like, I can justify spending more on boots like Doc Martens. I like it when Doc Martens combines dark punk designs with more sleek, metro designs. I don’t have any brand allegiance though … usually I just go for H&M because it’s cheap.
Justin: I would definitely say Gucci, because it’s more according to my style. Even though some of their prints are busier, they’re not too loud. Gucci fashion wear is understated and is comfortable, like the shoes I have on today. Other than that, because they have a lot of black, I'd say Zara. I also wear a lot of dress pants, so I go to some online Korean websites [such as Yesstyle and Kooding]. My style is in line with the Korean style. I’d say Korean men tend to be even more metrosexual than other Asian men: they wear makeup, sometimes, and take care of their skin.
Yimin: In general, what does fashion mean to you and how does it play out in your life?
Rayat: How someone dresses signals certain things to people: it signifies a certain mindset, a certain aesthetic sense. It also signals creativity if you are flamboyant and weird. I like stigma-breaking, being a little different. In my department, in Computer Science, no one dresses up. When I dress in a non-typical masculine style it’s a way to talk to people, like I dress up but I’m actually in Computer Science. That’s kind of fun to do. I’m also a Philosophy major and everyone dresses well in Philosophy, compared to computer science. Some people dress really cool, really avant-garde. Basically, fashion to me is a means of self-expression and a way of attracting people who share your aesthetic sense. I get more out of being quirky and flamboyant, as I attract people who want to break (American) masculine norms and norms in general.
Justin: It’s a way to express myself, not just personality-wise, but artistically. I think fashion is an art, and how you dress shows your personality as well as how you think and how you feel. People think colors mean something, but I think shapes can mean something too; they can be sleek and classy or with rough edges at the corners and bring different meanings.
(End of Interview)
It seems that the phenomenon of metrosexuality is much more common in some cultures and societies than in others. For the American society where fervent interest in fashion and investment in personal appearance is still mainly associated with women and gay men, compared to Europe or Asia, it may take some time before the synthesis of fashion and masculinity becomes so normalized that the term metrosexual is rendered truly irrelevant.
Written by: Yimin Huang
Photographed by: Zikora Hyacinth