The Sloppy Casualness of American Men

The always-interesting Virginia Postrel writes about metrosexual and retrosexual men in America. Normally the two are contrasted as opposites; Virginia groups them together as both rejecting the sloppy casual fashion sense distinctive of many American men.

She first quotes William Loeffler who proclaims the end of the Metrosexual:

The man's man is back. And he's had enough of unisex salons, simpering emo music and the emasculating kryptonite of the Oprahsphere. 

Or so say a spate of ads, books and websites that hail the emergence of the retrosexual, whose attitude and style hearken back to the strong, silent type of the '50s and early '60s.

The retrosexual keeps things simple. He does not own more hair and skin care products than his wife or girlfriend. He does not "accessorize."

Think Don Draper, the dapper, jut-jawed executive played by Jon Hamm in the AMC series "Mad Men." He may be a philanderer, but you won't find a pink shirt in his wardrobe. Like the dark hero characters of ex-spy Michael Westen in "Burn Notice" and U.S. Marshal Raylon Givens in "Justified," "Mad Men" presents alpha males who live unapologetically by their own code.

To which Virginia responds:

The real contrast isn't between these guys and overgroomed Metrosexuals but between both groups, with their grown-up polish, and the beer-bellied American male in comfy shorts and untucked oversized shirt. On my recent trip to research glamour in Shanghai (more on that later), I talked with author and marketing consultant Paul French who, among many other interesting things, commented on why, with a few exceptions, American apparel lines haven't been terribly successful in Shanghai. U.S. companies are too attuned to the sloppy casualness of the American market, and Shanghainese like to look sharpThey want Banana Republic, he said, not The Gap–something that apparently escapes the parent company of both. (Instead of BR, there's a local knockoff called Urban Renewal.)

(Hat tip to Cardiff Garcia's sixteen favorite blog posts of 2010.)

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