Magazine

Male Shoppers: Metrosexuals, Gearheads, And Cheapskates


As the "'father" of the metrosexual (and also apparently of his antithetical brother, the retrosexual), my attention was drawn to "Secrets of the male shopper" (Cover Story, Sept. 4). Since Nanette Byrnes talked so much about my offspring, it would have been nice if she had contacted me to check some of her metro family history. When I first wrote about him in a U.K. newspaper in 1994, I was not being insulting. Amused yes, but fondly so. Ambivalence was to come later.

Nor did the metrosexual somehow "surface" in the U.S. 10 years later. He was introduced stateside by his father in 2002 in "Meet the metrosexual" on salon.com. If I'd known what was coming, I'd have grounded him in the U.K. American marketers abducted him with false flattery and did their best to turn him into an annoying fad, talking incessantly about the metrosexual as "sensitive" and "in touch with his feminine side." Metrosexuality is only "feminine" if you believe vanity's name is (forever) Woman.

Ironically, the final proof that men are now as self-conscious as women is the so-called retrosexual backlash against metrosexuality. As your figures for booming male consumerism show, it's not really retrosexual at all. It's faux-retrosexual. It's Calvin Klein model Brad "Six-pack" Pitt leading the rebellion against consumerism in Fight Club all over again. "Regular guys," whatever they are/were, are fast becoming just another annoying fad.

Mark Simpson

London

Thanks to marketers finally paying attention to me, I am now buying stuff that I did not know I needed. I have been transformed from a "fat, dumb, and happy" male to a "lighter, smarter, and insecure" man.

Dennis Wong

Westport, Conn.

I just finished skimming "Secrets of the male shopper." I am telling you right now, if you want to score big with the majority of these men, you need to market to them almost as if they were children (myself included). Remember Sears' Garanimals [clothing for children]? You need to develop a slightly -- and I mean slightly -- more mature way of allowing men to walk into a store and, on their own, match clothing with a satisfying level of confidence. We need to be able to walk into a store and grab a No. 7 suit, No. 7 shirt, No. 7 tie, etc., and walk out.

Remember: Most of us hate to shop. We don't like to ask for directions when we are lost, and we don't like to ask for help when we shop!

Joe Brooks

Holland, Pa.

Sorry, folks, but I don't fit any of your five male shopper categories. I'm 71 and don't look like those youngsters in your article. When I have to shop, I do it with a list in hand and stick to it. Shopping malls are fine, but only if they have somewhere I can sit down and wait. That being said, my wife correctly points out that I'm a gearhead. Biking gear, cross-country ski gear, birding gear, radio gear, fishing gear, etc. I've even got three kayaks -- why do I need three? Maybe this could be a sixth category: the gearheaded multiniche shopper.

Don W. Calbick

Moses Lake, Wash.

You missed an additional significant category: the Total Cheapskate. This guy only buys what he needs and always looks for bargains. Shaving cream? Why spend the money when ordinary bath soap suffices? Fashion? Forget it! My wife and kids have accused me of coming back in style at least three times.

You can't market to the Total Cheapskate. It doesn't work. The only exceptions are new technology and new tools. That's because the Total Cheapskate is always looking to save time as well as money.

Andres Peekna, President

Innovative Mechanics Inc.

Waterford, Wis.

You mention the Web's interactivity in your interesting article but fail to emphasize two important features of the Web that have revolutionized men's consumerism: confidentiality and privacy. The Web has given men a private and confidential medium to get information and find out about products they might otherwise be too shy or embarrassed -- or simply too lazy -- to get. Using your example: Few men would walk into a store and inquire about a "below-the-neck razor." Online, they will gladly interact with the product. Grooming is one beneficiary of this privacy, and health is a more important one.

Ashkan Karbasfrooshan

Montreal

Your recent cover story left out a very important male consumer segment: the gay male. Recent reports estimate gay/lesbian adult purchasing power at $485 billion, and gay males, despite their small number (estimated at 5% of the population), shop disproportionately more than their straight counterparts and are highly influential in spreading the word on new and innovative products. This fact has not been lost on many companies and brands that market to gay men, including Absolut, Budweiser (BUD), Ford Motor (F), GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), L'Or?al (LORLY), Nivea, Procter & Gamble (PG), Red Bull, and Volkswagen, to name a few.

Steve Deitsch, Founder/President

Reverberate! Marketing

Communications Inc.

New York

Men in their forties and fifties are in their peak earning years. You'd never know this, seeing the models featured in most advertisements for men's products. Whether it's clothing, cologne, travel, or cars, I can search through issue after issue of GQ, Esquire, or other men's publications without seeing anyone over 40, except in ads for drugs to lower or raise various things.

Peter Nelson

Chelmsford, Mass.


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