Thursday, January 8, 2009

Trying to understand male fashion: Beyond metrosexual and retrosexual

Men are complex, as the furrowed eyebrows here show.
Photo by Flickr user Steve Punter.

Forget everything you've heard. Men are complicated, and so is their style.
We just returned from Vegas. While packing, my boyfriend, JD, realized he didn't have any dress shoes to wear to the clubs. (Yes, he "realized" this while packing, as if the thought had never crossed his mind before that moment.) JD is taller than Shrek, so it's hard to find shoes in his size: lucky 13.

Another Shrek-esque character, Anthony, was coming with my friend Brittany, so I texted her and asked what size shoes Anthony wears, thinking maybe JD could borrow a pair of his.

She wrote back, "Size 13. What size is JD? Anthony needs to borrow some dress shoes."
Argh, grr. I am a manly retrosexual man and
I'm going to punch your face in with a big steak.

Sounds like the attack of the "retrosexuals," the beef-jerky-gnawing manly men who wear flannels and work boots, trim their beards with hunting knives and wash their armpits and face with the same bar of Ivory soap. Basically, the opposite of the highly groomed "metrosexual."

Except it's not that simple. Sure, Boyfriend does not own dress shoes. He only wears jeans and doesn't even own a tie, except for the clip-on horse-pattern tie I got for him as a joke at a church yard sale. When required to dress up, he has attempted (before my veto) to wear this in public several times.

He would live T-shirts if it didn't snow (check that: If I didn't force him to wear a jacket when it snows, because he apparently does not feel the sensations of temperature). He is scruffy on the face and shaved on the head.


Here is where it gets all crazy. He loves Disney movies. He not only knows what shea butter is, but he has been spottedusing it. And he refuses to wear socks more than one time. Literally. He buys new socks every week because he wants them "crisp" and perfectly white. He would rather go sock-less -- under his junked out tennis shoes, nonetheless -- than "double-dip" a sock. His words, not mine.

That's far from retro. Yet not quite metro.

There was obviously something else, something more in the world of guy style.

In my torrent of confusion, I solicited help from Doug Brown, an author and local guru on men, in general. My words, not his. After a thorough investigation of my boyfriend behind his back, Brown determined JD was actually a member of the highly complex breed of "schizosexual."

Brown would know. He, too, is a schizosexual. He is fond of cashmere -- even using the word "fond." Yet he loves flannel. Opera and Led Zeppelin. Sushi and barbecue. Handmade scarves and campfires. The schizosexual is simultaneously neither/nor, and a little bit of both.

Picture this: Brown describes male style as one of those charts with a big circle in the middle, for schizosexual. Then, a metrosexual circle on the left, a retrosexual circle on the right, each dipping into the large schizosexual middle circle. Every guy lands on this chart somewhere, whether as an isolated extreme or seeping across all areas from the middle.
Brown describes two other circles on this imaginary chart, as well.

On the bottom: the granolosexual. This man is a vegan, electronics-hating, neo-Rainbow Gathering back-to-earth hippie who most likely lives in the town of Ward. He is not retro, in that he would never kill an elk with his bare hands and eat it, but he's not metro, because he definitely does not groom, much less use body "polishes" or loofahs.

On the top of the chart is the pastoralsexual, who is into gardening, herbs, flowers, vegetables, tweed blazers, walking sticks and cooking. Before you think that sounds metrosexual, consider this: Pastoralsexuals only like doing metrosexual things that make messes. Digging. Basting. Grilling. But not so far as bow huntin'.

Suddenly, my boyfriend and his Great Sock Complex was thesis-level complicated. So in the true nature of woman, I decided to make it even more so. I tapped into for more definitions.
Bono is so very ubersexual. Look at him.

The ubersexual --
Passionate about causes, equality, traveling, art and culture. Spends more time "grooming his mind than his hair" and is highly confident. Example: Bono.

The technosexual --
The male who is well-groomed and obsessed with the latest technology: cell phones, PDAs, computers, iPods.

The sapiosexual --
A man who frequents seminars, art centers and book readings in search of other brainiacs, aka sophistikittens. Wears glasses and blazers. Would definitely have dress shoes for Vegas, but would prefer to wear them to the museum than the club.

The agrosexual -- The farmer type: tough and rough, but with metrosexual tendencies. As Urban Dictionary put it, "My agrosexual friend talked about his favorite designer labels as he shoveled the manure from his chicken barn."

Oh, and you can't leave out the neologosexual, a person obsessed with coining new terms, such as metrosexual and ubersexual. Ahem, ahem.

Which brings us to the pomosexual, the "un-label-able" post-modern type who refuses to define people by their sexuality in any way. On the list of fill-in-the-blank-sexuals, this is the equivalent of selecting "chooses not to respond" or "N/A." Which incidentally was the facial expression I got from my boyfriend when I asked him what category of man he thinks he falls into.

Of course, his blank stare might have also been attributed to the nearby beer can or football game on TV. That brings us back to retrosexual.

And the possibility that he likes to wear new socks every week because he straight up refuses to touch a washing

Complex creatures, men.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Leah: Wax much?

The female life is a constant war against body hair.

Let's estimate the average American woman spends 10 minutes every other day shaving her legs.

Minimally, 10 minutes, three times a week, or 30 minutes a week.

Math scorches my soul, but as a community service, I shall continue. Let's say you start shaving at age 13, and you continue until you are 70 because you're one sexy grandma. That is 57 days, almost two months, of your life spent removing leg hair with a sharp piece of steel.

This doesn't account for conquering the bikini line and armpits, or waxing the brows, or plucking all of those stray hairs that -- let's face it -- we all have but all deny.

Guess what, men? Many women get whiskers. Our big toes sometimes get bushy. Yes, bushy, not just scruffy.

But in order to meet the hairless, pre-pubescent body ideal that the American society sets up for us, women must engage in a constant war against their hair.

My friend, Brittany, has a new complex: the "she-stache." Brittany went to a spa to get her eyebrows waxed, and the waxer asked her if she also wanted to take care of her mustache.

"Um, I don't have a mustache," Brittany said.

"Yes, you do."

Brittany, who is blonde and relatively hairless, was shocked. "No, I have no hair on my upper lip."

The woman quickly responded, "Yes, you have lots."

Brittany was indignant. "Well, I don't want a mustache wax."

"OK," the woman sighed. She applied the wax to Brittany's brows. As she leaned in to remove it, her nose not one inch from Brittany's nose, Brittany heard the woman mutter something, low and accusingly, under her breath.


Waxing should be the subject of memos in the Justice Department, not something that you find in a spa. I've heard women say a Brazilian is worse than childbirth. One yank at my recent half-hour wax punishment proved significantly worse than all 20 hours of my tattoo -- at once.

Don't tell me you have this new magic wax that doesn't hurt as much. It does. Most likely, the only thing keeping my (plucked and shaved) tootsies out of your jaw is the bottle of wine I downed at lunch in fearful anticipation of our appointment.

Oh, and never, ever, ever, under any delusion or desperation try to wax yourself, or enlist an untrained friend. Wax gone wrong takes on a distinct bubble gum quality. Or so I've heard from, er, this one friend of a friend of a friend's friend.

I sometimes wonder what would happen if I was stuck on an island for months (preferably with Josh Holloway going by the name Sawyer) with no hair-fighting artillery. Would I look like a different person? Would I start smoking weed and liking the Grateful Dead? Or would I kill a boar with my bare hands so I could use its sharp canine teeth to groom? I have a hunch Lost Island would have one less boar.

Not every non-hippie woman is terrified of hair. In fact, I recently read a article claiming that, due to the economy, increasingly more women are skipping the Brazilian and opting for a "more trimmed, version of the '70s style."

Let's make a quick diversion to talk about gardening. Your front lawn. If you are easily offended, think of this as an extension of our Wednesday garden coverage and in no way a metaphor. The current gardening trend is not to cultivate large, unruly shrubbery in your front lawn, and certainly not pine trees that block the view or patchy and wild Aspens that want to take over the universe. Increasingly more women are planting organized flower gardens.

In the words of my friend Leah, "It's not my fault you people have paved driveways and I have a lush garden walkway."

Now, let's return to the topic of hair, and my green-thumb friend Leah, who rocks what she calls a "Russian Spy Brow." As she puts it, "If left untamed, my eyebrow (singular) rivals Bert (of Bert and Ernie fame) and could totally take down Brooke Shields in an eyebrow cage match."

In high school, Leah tried to shave her bikini line -- using Neosporin because she heard that's what porn stars do.

She avoided swimsuits (and Neosporin) for years. Yet having hair anywhere other than on her head made her insecure and mannish.

Until the sweet recession.

"Hair is back, people," Leah recently wrote in an e-mail. "I never understood why, once I'd hit puberty and stopped looking like a 5-year-old girl, I'd want to torture myself to look like a 5-year-old girl."

Now Leah has a new boyfriend. In self-defense, and in preparation of their burgeoning romance, she casually posted the article on her blog.

Back to Leah's completely non-metaphoric front yard. She hopes Boyfriend can appreciate a well kept garden.

Besides, Leah adds, "I won't ask him to shave his back hair if he doesn't tell me how to trim my hedges."

Of course, she can always toss out her leg-hair razor and have herself 24 extra hours this year to search for a good esthetician, er, landscape architect.

Photo by Flickr user Vincent Maher.