A play on heterosexual, the term was first used in 1994 by British journalist Mark Simpson, who coined Metrosexual (and its noun, metrosexuality) to refer to the urban, fashion-conscious target audience of men's magazines:

The promotion of metrosexuality was left to the men's style press, magazines such as The Face, GQ, Esquire, Arena and FHM, the new media which took off in the Eighties and is still growing (GQ gains 10,000 new readers every month). They filled their magazines with images of narcissistic young men sporting fashionable clothes and accessories. And they persuaded other young men to study them with a mixture of envy and desire.
Some people said unkind things. American GQ, for example, was popularly dubbed "Gay Quarterly". Little wonder that all these magazines — with the possible exception of The Face - address their metrosexual readership as if none of them were homosexual or even bisexual.

In the summer of 2003, as most of Canada legalized gay marriage, the US Supreme Court struck down anti-sodomy statutes as unconstitutional, and Bravo introduced a cable show in which stereotypically Fabulous gay urbanites make over a hopeless, hapless hetero, Metrosexual sprang back into the public discourse after a decade of UK obscurity. Spurred on by a 2002 Salon article (also by Simpson) that "outed" metro soccer megastar David Beckham and a new study by marketing firm Euro RCSG Worldwide, Metrosexuality got a memetic steroid injection in the form of a New York Times Sunday feature (front page, Arts and Leisure) and trickled into local news outlets from sea to shining sea.

Simpson's take is detached, wittily ironic, with more than a dash of anticorporate disdain --

The typical metrosexual is a young man with money to spend, living in or within easy reach of a metropolis -- because that's where all the best shops, clubs, gyms and hairdressers are. He might be officially gay, straight or bisexual, but this is utterly immaterial because he has clearly taken himself as his own love object and pleasure as his sexual preference. Particular professions, such as modeling, waiting tables, media, pop music and, nowadays, sport, seem to attract them but, truth be told, like male vanity products and herpes, they're pretty much everywhere.
For some time now, old-fashioned (re)productive, repressed, unmoisturized heterosexuality has been given the pink slip by consumer capitalism. The stoic, self-denying, modest straight male didn't shop enough (his role was to earn money for his wife to spend), and so he had to be replaced by a new kind of man, one less certain of his identity and much more interested in his image -- that's to say, one who was much more interested in being looked at (because that's the only way you can be certain you actually exist). A man, in other words, who is an advertiser's walking wet dream.
-- and includes a Sex and the City definition for females, and touches on the Queer angle only in passing --
Gay men did, after all, provide the early prototype for metrosexuality. Decidedly single, definitely urban, dreadfully uncertain of their identity (hence the emphasis on pride and the susceptibility to the latest label) and socially emasculated, gay men had pioneered the business of accessorizing masculinity in the '70s with the clone look enthusiastically taken up by the mainstream in the form of the Village People. Difficult to believe, I know, but only one of them was gay and 99 percent of their fans were straight.

-- but outside Britain, in its soundbite diffusion through the popular media, metrosexual has congealed into something more digestible: a heterosexual male who color coordinates and listens to Kylie Minogue and goes to independent movies and cares deeply about exfoliation. A straight guy who acts gay.

Addendum. U.S. presidental candidate Howard Dean declared himself a metrosexual yesterday (October 28, 2003) at a Boulder fundraiser, then backtracked several hours later, saying "I've heard the term, but I don't know what it means."

I also contributed a version of this to Wikipedia

I'm not one to hold a great deal of appreciation for traditional gender roles. My boyfriends, as a general rule, have had no qualms about crying during sad movies and dismiss football as brainless, overcommercialized violence (I disagree and enjoy going to football games, but that's a tangent). Neither they nor I equate masculinity with being stoic or aggressive. My friends include people who identify themselves as homosexual, heterosexual, and bisexual. It's all good, as far as I'm concerned.

But the current metrosexual fad sets my teeth on edge.

If it were about liberating people to be who they want to be, I'd be celebrating this culture shift. Likewise if it were about making gay people more acceptable to the mainstream.

But from where I'm standing, metrosexuality is about getting men to buy into the same shallow, consumerist culture women have felt compelled to adhere to for years. Far from liberating men, this is just another straitjacket to fit into to be "cool" -- and a rather more expensive and time-consuming one at that.

I've been dreaming of a day when all the shit God Fashion commands women engage in got dumped in the trash heap where it belongs. It's one thing if you genuinely want to shave 90% of your body, dye your hair, painfully pluck out or bleach errant hairs, and pump silicone into various body parts, but it's quite another if you feel obliged to do such things to feel accepted by society.

It aggravates me no end that I'm obliged, as a woman, to spend a lot of time and money on my appearance. It's a waste of human resources to drop hundreds to thousands of dollars on a new wardrobe, haircuts, makeup, etc. all for the sake of conforming to the Joneses. But if I don't do these things, I reduce my chances of being hired and promoted; I've worked in places where a person's image counts far more than their work.

The trouble is, if you quietly refuse to do something you think is stupid and wasteful, even if society expects it of you, you are completely indistinguishable from the people who don't do those things simply out of laziness. The conscientious fashion objector is indistinguishable from the scrub.

So the last fucking thing I want to see is a cultural shift that dictates that men are expected to neurotically preen and obsess over a whole lot of superficial bullshit alongside the women. As Jongleur commented to me, it's gender equality in the wrong freakin' direction.

Welcome to America, where freedom is equated with the right to bully lesser drivers with your SUV in the supermarket parking lot, and where individualism means you have your choice of faceplates for your new Nokia cellphone.

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