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Retrosexuals - Manly Men, Cultural Ambiguity, and Lots and Lots of Chest Hair

Retrosexuals - Manly Men, Cultural Ambiguity, and Lots and Lots of Chest Hair

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"Hey, Jim!"

"Hey, Tony, what's up?!"

"Not much, man. Gosh, Jim … that is some great lookin' chest hair!"

"Thanks, Tony. I just had 3,000 hair follicles grafted from my scalp and surgically placed onto my rippling pectorals."

"Why, Jim?"

"Because I'm a real man."

"Sweet."

Indeed.

In this glorious new age of challenging the traditional ideals of masculinity and what makes a man a MAN, many of my male brethren just can't seem to decide whether the "real man" gravitas belongs to the likes of the well-groomed uber-hotties like Brad Pitt and David Beckham or to the rugged, old-school milieu of John Wayne or, oh, pick your 70s T.V. icon. (If you noticed that I just used the word "milieu," you'll know which camp I fall into.)

It’s smackdown time: retrosexual vs. metrosexual. In this corner, weighing in at 180 pounds, we have Mr. Rough-and-Rugged-Gravel-Voice-Unshaven-Secure-in-My-Maleness-Marlboro-Man. In the opposite corner, we have the man who taught Mohammed Ali the true meaning of pretty, Mr. Gorgeous-Check-My-Prada-Jacket-and-Ultra-
Gelled-Hair-and-Smooth-Tan-Proving-That-I-Want-to-Look-Hot-Hot-Hottt-Man.

The term “retrosexual” was first used to describe the rebellion of certain males against the concept of the metrosexual, an organism that dresses to impress, probably wears designer clothing and expensive cologne, and devotes time and money to products that keep his skin and hair looking beautiful and glamorous. But more to the point, the retrosexual is really reacting to the ideology behind this creature: a metrosexual actually thinks about his appearance and image and therefore takes steps, sometimes radical steps, to feel confident in himself and inspire envy and desire in others. The term “metrosexual” has also been used to distinguish a heterosexual male who exhibits traits stereotypically ascribed to gay men. To clarify this point, consider this fictional exchange:

"Mandy! Your friend Derek is supreme hotness on fabulously tanned legs!"

"I know, Amber! Sometimes I wish I was single!"

"His hair is perfect, and he dresses so Cosmo! Is he gay?"

"Hahaha, Amber! One would think … what with his obvious attention to detail about how he looks, the color coordination, the exfoliated skin, the fragrant cologne that just drives people wild! But no, Mandy, he's definitely on the market for females. He's what's called a metrosexual!"

The metrosexual trend began in the late 1980s and continues to this day.

However, a few years ago, a crease started forming in those Diesel jeans, and its name was retrosexual. This particular specimen is characterized by the desire (in many already an in-grained and active tendency) to present a more traditional male aesthetic, that of not caring about one’s appearance. The retrosexual freely lets his facial hair grow and his chest hair poke through his shirt in all its glory. He does not pluck his eyebrows or gel his hair (to a stylistic end, at least), and he may indeed believe that his musky stench at the close of a hard day's work is "all the cologne I need." In short, the original retrosexual was the guy who refused to become a metrosexual, for whatever reason.

Now the term has taken on a new meaning in some circles. Retrosexual can be used to describe a man who seeks out cosmetic and medical help to, in a sense, "de-groom" himself, with the goal of looking even more manly. In so doing, some men are going to hair restoration and plastic surgeons to achieve a more macho appearance. By having hair torn from their heads and implanted into their chests, they become more masculine, you see. A chiseled, rough, hard-edged appearance can be had with chin and cheek implants or surgical resculpting of the face. Mmm-hmm.

I feel it necessary to point out a bit of irony here: Men who shun the pretty-boy, "feminine" practice of caring about one’s appearance are spending thousands of dollars on cosmetic surgery to "man themselves up." Wouldn't it be easier – not to mention less expensive – to … I don't know … not comb your hair? Maybe untuck the shirt? Wear a pair of old comfortable sneakers?

There are pros and cons to both metrosexuals and retrosexuals. It's great to see men care about how they present themselves. A metrosexual doesn't have to have the genetic makeup of an Adonis; he just has to accentuate the positive by having good taste and looking fabulous. With a little bit of attention to detail, pretty much anybody can turn heads. However, some metrosexuals allow concern for their gloriously controlled appearance to turn into full-blown narcissism. Is it really necessary to wear designer duds to the gym?

From the retrosexual end, there is nothing wrong with a guy wanting to live by his definition of how a guy should look, if that's what makes him comfortable. If he thinks that means having a five-o'clock shadow, a bit of chest hair, and a rugged, I-don't-care-what-I-look-like appearance, then great. If it's authentic, it can be attractive and sexy, giving off an air of security that translates to "cool." But isn't going for cosmetic surgery to help achieve that look defeating the very ethos of the retrosexual? Augmenting your appearance to show that you don't care about your appearance?

Maybe combining a dash of retrosexuality and metrosexuality is the answer. A little stubble and "old-school" manliness now and again never hurts. And a dude who likes his threads, spends some time on his hair, and smells fantastic will have both the girls and the guys swooning.

It really comes down to individuality. Our styles and tastes change and progress, and sometimes regress. Our individuality, not magazines or fashion trends, should dictate how we would like to present ourselves, and being comfortable in our own skin (and clothes) is all that really matters. Retrosexuals, like metrosexuals, are ultimately gents who want to be comfortable. But just remember, plastic surgery of any kind or radical changes to your appearance are huge decisions and may not be reversible. So talk to some experts and do lots of research before you decide. Of course, none of this is meant to knock the retrosexual movement. I've found that an engaging personality can often very quickly make anyone hot, regardless of what he is wearing. But, like I said before, I fall into the metro camp. The power of the well-dressed man wearing Armani cologne can send you over the moon.

But hey, to each his own. We're all people.

Even Village People.

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