Move over, metrosexuals. Retrosexual is the latest term to be applied to a sweeping sartorial and aesthetic trend affecting men’s wear. So, how does one spot a retrosexual? “Look for the flannel-clad urban woodsman with an encyclopedic knowledge of single-malt Scotch or the nouveau gentleman riding around town on a fixed-gear bicycle or the latter-day faux-laborer with meticulously inked-up arms in a boutique chambray shirt,” says Women’s Wear Daily. (Also: he frequents haunts like Freeman’s and the Rusty Knot, prefers a straight-edge shave, and is liable to wear suspenders, a mustache, a slicked back pompadour, or all three at once.) The somewhat unseemly moniker (any trend with a play on the word ‘sexual’ isn’t likely to be well received by any gender) is meant to encapsulate a recent push toward artisan and retro styles in men’s fashion. The affection for vintage is nothing new; what is surprising, however, is the rigor with which men are embracing classic Americana and outdoorsy, macho staples (from the Pendelton jacket to Red Wing boots). But, why?
“Cultural observers say the current backward glance to the masculine norms of yesteryear is largely a reaction to the increased blurring of gender roles as well as male economic insecurity,” argues one theory. Not to mention, men love any fashion with a sense of heritage and history as they’re overwhelmingly “skeptical” of fashion as a whole. But, as men return to more archetypal notions about gender, so are women. Rather than stick with the strong, highly structured 80s silhouettes and enormous footwear that engenders, for some, a feeling of female empowerment, women’s fashion is getting softer—as are its models. So, while the retrosexual trend can be explained in many ways, it’s likely also a backlash to the overly manicured, slim cuts dominating that dominated the era of the metrosexual.