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Metrosexual man is a confusing beast

The image-minded Chinese government issued a style guide to its citizens during the Olympic Games. For men, this included no hair fringes below the eyebrows, no white socks with black shoes, wear a collar and shave every day. Yes, metrosexual man has arrived in Beijing.

With the Chinese gift for image manipulation, the temptation must have been overwhelming to tidy up some of the tourists too.
But where to begin? The past few months have uncovered reversals of stereotypes that we cling to. First there was a Mintel report which revealed that French men have upped their spend on toiletries.

Then Giorgio Armani outed Italians as slovenly. “They’ve let themselves go,” he complained to The Daily Telegraph. “The degradation is insane.” No such comments for the Brits though, who are buying underpants hand over fist, after David Beckham’s stint as an underwear model for Emporio Armani.

Metrosexual re-engineering has created an unlikely Benetton ad of heroes and anti-heroes: super-groomed Chinese, well-lathered French, scruffy Italians and body-conscious Brits. And if this doesn’t meet your own observations, don’t be too worried. According to Mintel’s latest report on male skincare, British men are not embracing moisturisers, cleansers and facial scrubs with the alacrity you would believe from reading GQ.

There is growth, but not much. A striking ad like the Beckham one can spur us into action. But the metrosexual remains a rarity, a ray of hope to the grooming and fashion industries. This is a revolution that may take some time.

Oliver Horton is a freelance fashion writer and commentator

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