Picture this: a young, professional male who loves tailored shirts, $40 face cream, wine bars and shopping with friends — and he’s not gay! I know, stop the presses. But 15 years ago, metrosexuals were news, and a gold mine for marketers.

Although the term felt overused as soon as you heard it, metrosexual was an unavoidable feature of the early-aughts cultural landscape. Looking back 15 years later, it’s hard to know what to make of it. Was the idea of straight men adopting a purportedly “gay” aesthetic at some fundamental level homophobic (“I may look gay, but please don’t think I am!”)? Or was it a step toward breaking down old, rigid definitions of masculinity?

So what makes a metrosexual man? They are been defined as a straight, sensitive, well-educated, urban dweller who is in touch with their feminine side. They may have a standing appointment for a weekly manicure, and may probably have their hair cared for by a stylist rather than a barber. They love to shop, may wear jewelry, and their bathroom counter is most likely filled with male-targeted grooming products, including moisturizers (and perhaps even a little makeup). They may work on their physique at a fitness club (not a gym) and their appearance probably gets them lots of attention — and they are delighted by every stare.

There is “an emerging wave of men who chafe against the restrictions” of traditional male roles and who “do what they want, buy what they want, enjoy what they want – regardless of whether some people might consider these things unmanly.”

The metrosexual male is more sensitive and in some ways more effeminate than their father probably was, says Schuyler Brown, one of the architects of the study and associate director of strategic trendspotting and research at Euro RSCG Worldwide. Metrosexuals are willing to push traditional gender boundaries that define what’s male and what’s female, she adds, but they never feel that they are anything but “real men.” Yes, a little primping and pampering were once considered solely female indulgences, but they are becoming much more permissible for men, too.

Metrosexual men “are very secure in their sexuality,” says Brown. “They’re comfortable getting a facial or a pedicure. It doesn’t make them feel any less masculine or any less heterosexual.”

The Future of Men report noted, “One of the telltale signs of metrosexuals is their willingness to indulge themselves, whether by springing for a Prada suit or spending a couple of hours at a spa to get a massage and facial.” They might devote an afternoon to choosing their ultrafashionable attire for the night. They may don an apron and prepare a mean and meatless pasta dish for friends.

For those who were cryogenically frozen before “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” first debuted that year, metrosexuals were a supposed new breed of aesthetically-attuned straight men promoted by trend forecasters like Marian Salzman and epitomized by the soccer star David Beckham, who “paints his fingernails, braids his hair and poses for gay magazines, all while maintaining a manly profile on the pitch,” as Warren St. John wrote in this much-discussed Styles feature. “Along with terms like ‘PoMosexual,’ ‘just gay enough’ and ‘flaming heterosexuals,’” he added, “the word metrosexual is now gaining currency among American marketers who are fumbling for a term to describe this new type of feminized man.”

The term metrosexual originated in an article by Mark Simpson[3][4] published on November 15, 1994, in The Independent. Simpson wrote:

Metrosexual man, the single young man with a high disposable income, living or working in the city (because that’s where all the best shops are), is perhaps the most promising consumer market of the decade. In the Eighties he was only to be found inside fashion magazines such as GQ. In the Nineties, he’s everywhere and he’s going shopping.

However, it was not until the early 2000s when Simpson returned to the subject that the term became globally popular. In 2002, Salon.com published an article by Simpson, which described David Beckham as “the biggest metrosexual in Britain” and offered this updated definition:

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.