Saturday, September 20, 2003

Metrosexual Redux

Remember when Douglas Coupland was prescient? It would be easy to joke that he never was, but read the sidebars in Generation X (not the fiction, which may or may not burn your eyes, depending on your sensibilities) and witness the precision with which he nailed the very late 80s, early 90s ethos. (Fact: Generation X was supposed to be a non-fiction guidebook, as it happens, sort of like the Preppie Handbook).

Anyway, Coupland was an extremely profound 28-year-old back in 1991, but his wisdom hasn’t exactly kept up with age inflation. However, I’m not here to beat up on him -- something we’ve all been guilty of – but rather, to point out something lost in the scramble to discuss the metrosexual trend. Feast on this from Shampoo Planet, circa 1992:

Which shampoo will I use today? Maybe PsychoPath, the sports shampoo with salon-grade microprotein packed in a manly black injection-molded plastic motor-oil canister. Afterward? A bracing energizer splash of Monk-On-Fire, containing placenta, nectarine-pit extract, and B vitamins. And to hold it all together? First-Strike sculpting mousse manufactured by the pluTONium hair-care institute of Sherman Oaks, California. It’s self-adjusting, with aloe, chamomile, and resins taken from quail eggs.

Coupland didn’t put a clever label on the condition(er) back then, and main character Tyler lives in Lancaster, a town of 50,000, hardly an urban centre, but I smell proto-metrosexual here, with his "gels, mousses, foams, lotions, salves, conditioners [and] rinses." However, the shampoo fetish wasn’t supposed to be the main insight of Planet, but rather, "Global Teens." Critics Jason Cohen and Michael Krugman in Generation Ecch! lambasted Coupland for his concept of Global Teens, a demographic non-entity ("Have you ever seen a news article, glossy magazine cover or Dateline NBC story on the phenomenon of "Global Teens?")

These days there are global nomads (a herd of rich meandering types primarily interested in sleeping in boutique hotels, and with each other), and Pico Iyer describes a global soul, but the closet analogue to global teens would be trust-fund kids, a repellant species of undeserved, unearned wealthy tykes that Robert Lantham dissected in The Hipster Handbook.

Anyway, the point being, despite the overdone satiric elements – "Hairhenge, containing follicle-maintenance secrets devised by the ancient druids" – Coupland was sorta there first, metrosexually speaking ("Regardless: clean hair; clean body; clean mind; clean life") although this precarious observation could quickly devolve into that nasty tic of music historians who love to find antecedents for various movements, arguing that punk rock began with Iggy and the Stooges, instead of the Sex Pistols.