With the Fab Five in sellout mode — worldwide licensing deal, upcoming soundtrack series, solo gigs, contract squabbles — the sagging metrosexual movement epitomized by the Queer Eye for the Straight Guy sensibility is in need of a face lift.
It seems a market correction, if not a backlash, is afoot. Guys' guys, the kind who'd rather spend $50 on a pay-per-view boxing match than a back wax, are railing in Web logs against the trend toward fastidious grooming and Rat Pack-refined dressing. They call the foppish fad a "scourge."
"When my grandmother knew what metrosexual meant, I realized how overexposed the term was," says trend tracker Jon Hein, creator of Jumptheshark.com.
Hein says that despite Queer Eye's consistently high ratings, the show jumped the shark — that is, lost its witty novelty — with the unveiling of the theme song's music video last month. "I'm sure you'll be seeing metrosexual breakfast cereals and action figures any day now," Hein grumbles.
The word "metrosexual" actually emerged a decade ago, thanks to a British journalist. But it entered mass consciousness last summer, courtesy of Queer Eye's phenomenal success in making slicksters out of shlubs, by playing off of homosexual stereotypes of aesthetic savvy. Marketers cashed in, too, looking to convince men that they needed to cram their cabinets with as many expensive balms, masks and scrubs as women stockpile. And then in October, Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean labeled himself a metrosexual, then admitted he really didn't know what it meant.
"The celebration of the feminine side of the guy has sort of careened out of control into this three-headed monster, the metrosexual, that needs to be slain," says John Henson. He's doing his darnedest as the star of the new Spike TV show The John Henson Project, where each week he spotlights what has been happening "in the world of men." The channel has seen a 33% ratings rise since the network switched from TNN to Spike's all-male-friendly fare.
In the premiere episode, Henson preyed on overly precise preening as exemplified by the Schick Quattro razor: "What am I, the Wolfman? Do we really need four blades? I think five is a cheese grater."
Last month "metrosexual" was declared the most misused, overused and generally useless word by Lake Superior State University's annual "List of Words Banished from the Queen's English," which also includes "punked" and "bling-bling." On Feb. 17, Comedy Central's Queer Eye parody Straight Plan for the Gay Man makes its debut.
Vanity Fair sums up the demise of contrived dandyism in its cheeky In & Out column for February: In the category of "metrosexual conundrum," "Are sneakers with a suit OK?" is out; "Am I totally gay?" is in.