I was out having lunch with a friend of mine when she nodded in the direction of a guy sitting behind me. She said she didn't know what was up with guys today and their choice in facial hair. I turned around and saw a typical, regular looking dude--bit scruffy, with longer hair and longer side burns. "This is the look now?"
While I didn't think the dude in particular was anything special, I've found myself attracted to guys in recent years with his kind of look. Then I remembered reading a recent article about something described as "menergy."
The article caught my eye because I love ridiculous made-up words, especially in regards to fashion. And the gist of this new word was the disappearance of the metrosexual. See what I mean? Ridiculous. But the discovery that pretty boys are old news made me rejoice. While I know that men have a smaller fashion history than we gals, is that all you have to borrow from? Are your only options uber-product guy or nearly-homeless man? Before I knock a trend just on the cusp, let's find out what exactly "menergy" means for you boys.
Before you know where you're going, you've got to know where you came from. I love the history of men's fashion. It's not like women's fashion history, which evolved and changed dramatically over the centuries. We've gone from corsets to pants to power suits and more. Women have had such a range throughout fashion history that we borrow current fashion trends from old, discarded ones. While we haven't implemented togas yet (except for last week on Halloween), we've ignored the school of thought that history does not repeat itself. In women's fashion, what's old is new.
You guys on the other hand, well, you have it so much simpler, to put it nicely. Really, it's sadder. You don't repeat fashion history because your fashion history is so bleak. Like women, men's fashion started off with such a creative bang; there was so much promise. Adam's fig leaf? Genius!
From there, you boys didn't stray far. You simply wore similar things that the ladies were wearing--natural sheath kinds of things.
You had skirts for a while and added some machismo during the Roman Empire with metal breastplates. It seems however, that men's fashion experimentation declined with the Roman Empire. Down the line you discovered pants, and on that day, your creativity died. I know, there are some missing pieces here, but really you ended up with short breeches-type pantaloons down the road, and that was good for a few centuries, but once the pant length hit your ankle, you gave up on change.
Or did you? It seems instead of expanding the range in your closest, you focused more on yourselves personally. The one thing you guys had going for you from the very beginning was your right to changing your hair, both on your head and on your face. While you guys have tried many looks throughout the centuries (who knows why powdered wigs didn't last?), by the mid 20th Century it was a battle over the facial hair and the length of hair.
The 1960s and 1970s provoked women to grow out arm pit hair and the guys grew beards and long, trippy, hippie hair. The 1980s divided the nation between clean cut Reaganite preps and those music fans sporting hair borrowed from their favorite hair metal band. The '90s were grunge. In those years, you've tried dredlocks, afros, mutton chop sideburns and more. Then came the 2000s and with it, the metrosexual.
Metrosexuality is something I love to hate, both the word and the practice. For everyone that's heard the word, but can only conjure up the description of Ryan Seacrest, here's what that really means. Now, I'll be honest. I was going to put in a comical jem about how the Oxford English Dictionary describes a metrosexual as... but it's actually in the OED. While there's a part of me that would love to go on and on about what an atrocity that is (read it and weep kids; metrosexuality is now a part of men's fashion history), the point is that the word was coined in 1994 to describe a heterosexual man that practiced grooming habits typical of a homosexual man.
I personally find that to lead to descriptions that could be considered stereotypes. Once the word finally caught on with the masses, several years later, it translated into guys who were spending too long on their hair, applying too many products, waxing and/or tweezing all kinds of body parts, frequenting tanning salons and getting manis, pedis, facials and Botox. The running joke to a metrosexual was who spends more time getting ready, you or your lady.
It came from the fact that many men in metropolitan areas (see where the metro- part came from?) could appreciate taking care of themselves by practicing these steps. One or two was care for your body; combined was a creepy new variety of men. And maybe it's just me because these things seemed to occur at the same time, but it moved into the garment industry as well with tighter t-shirts and slimmer-cut jeans, but those may be parallel trends, not perpendicular. From boys in high school to men approaching their golden years, this trend wasn't a generational thing, but an everyman approach.
But it seemed like the manliness was gone. It was comical to make fun of a guy sporting the metrosexual look. Unlike the movie stars of the 1940s and '50s who were quite dapper and also managed to retain their manliness--Cary Grant for instance--the modern metrosexual became a mockery. And because you boys can't be mocked, you've retaliated with a look that's certainly interesting.
As soon as the look started to become prominent, and by that I mean the super famous A-listers started adapting to the trend, it had to have a name. But not just any name--a ridiculous name. I'm sure you haven't quite worked "menergy" into your vocabulary yet (its creation was only in the past few weeks), but you've seen it. You've seen it on new beardos George Clooney and Jake Gyllenhaal because it's suddenly got national attention. And you thought, wow, thanks for telling us what we already knew--dudes are going for that laid back, hairy, manly look.
Take a look around Tulsa. From the boys just trying to show off that they can grow facial hair to older gentlemen sporting a little salt and pepper face action, the beard (or its scruffy variation) is back! Unkempt hair that's overgrown, sideburns that extend far down the face--it's the exact opposite of the metrosexual and it's called menergy.
"Menergy" was coined in the New York Times about the men's fashion runways from various shows that were showing models who were "hyper masculine." Which, for writer Horatio Silva, meant the cut of the suits were manly. Naturally, in the weeks following the runway events, America has reconfigured it to mean, "face full o'hair." It's not bed head that's taken half an hour to accomplish--it's the literal hair you came out of bed with. And it's a win-win situation for guys: fashionable and trendy, comfortable and effortless. Right?
Well, sort of. First off, you're going to have some girls who will be repulsed. I mean, for years the only beards women have seen have been on their grandfathers, Santa Claus and homeless people--all figures that don't represent sexiness. Thankfully, both you and the ladies of Tulsa will have time to adjust to this new look because your metamorphosis is gradual. Five o'clock shadow today, five o'clock the next day shadow and so on. Not to mention you're in control; you decide how manly your beard will be.
Sadly, the "menergy" look isn't a big step from its predecessor the metrosexual. There's still some maintenance required to make you look un-maintained.
For instance, hair cuts aren't required, but if you're going to keep a slightly short cut, you can't have random hairs creeping down your neck to your back hair, present or future. Beards don't go from the bottom of your neck to clear up to your eyeballs. Trim that stuff up kids, because a shabby beard can be super, but ZZ Top-esqe is not so much.
The beard has become so of the moment, it recently had its own article in GQ in which it was described as "the cheapest, easiest way to feel like a different man." And let that different man discard his bathroom of products, let him cancel his next wax/facial combo. Be a new man and you'll be the man participating in fashion history. Men of Tulsa, if you haven't already hopped on the ditched-razor train, go and release your inner man's man. It's time to menergize.
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