Hipsters, Bros & Metrosexuals: Male Gender Identity & Evolutionary Psychology

Is there a science of male gender dynamics? Why did the 90s spawn bros, metrosexuals, and hipsters simultaneously? Was that mere coincidence? Did men always get beard implants and was manscaping always a thing? Surely, 21st century science has something to say. This essay has three sections: the evidence, a description of male gender dynamics, and the science that explains this dynamics. Before I start, note that any explanation of human culture of any kind must be viewed with healthy, healthy doses of skepticism because humans are complicated (right?!!). Secondly, I’m not an expert on ev psych, just a layerperson k? Kthx.

tl;dr: Read the clickbait version 9 Reasons Why Men are Becoming Like Women.

1. Introduction

We’re looking at how men culturally communicate and identify. Specifically, we’re looking at men 20-34 because they’re the ones seeking, and being sought by, women. And we’re looking at these men in the US because data is easy to find (aka I’m lazy). So, pray, how do men communicate? A splendid example is [2].

They can tell just by looking at him whether a boy goes to an Eastern prep school or not. Not only that, they can tell which prep school, usually St. Paul’s or Hotchkiss or Groton or Exeter or Andover, or whatever; just by checking his hair and his clothes.

As the quote illustrates, we have an impressive ability to convey complex information through symbolism. And, that cultural symbolism is inextricably intertwined with signaling to the opposite sex. To quote [3],

A cultural image from the 1960s was young men who had “perfect white teeth” and wore Lacoste shirts, with a look easy to identify by young women at the time.”

The essay investigates this interplay of cultural symbolism and sexual selection of men. Does male symbolic communication continue to evolve to “get laid”? Yes, of course. Then, what are the connections between evolutionary psychology and our culture? It is well-know that women and men select each other using different criteria [4]. “Men place a greater premium on signals of fertility and reproductive value such as a woman’s youth and physical appearance”. As for women, “women place a greater premium on a man’s status, resources, ambition, and maturity—cues relevant to his ability for long-term provisioning—and to his kindness, generosity, and emotional openness—cues to his willingness to provision women and their children” [4]. How do men react to our zeitgeist, perhaps unknowingly, to communicate the qualities that women select for? Another question is, do women select for these qualities anymore now that they can provide for themselves?

2. Evidence for Changes in Gender Dynamics

This section lists the evidence to show that gender dynamics has changed. It aims to document the scope of the change. Undeniably, for gender dynamics, the 20th and 21st centuries have been uncharted waters. The status, position, rights, and roles of women have greatly changed. No longer do women spend the majority of their best years either pregnant or between successive pregnancies. As we perfect our control over the environment, women no longer need to undergo successive pregnancies in the hope that some children survive through infant mortality. In the 1850s in the US, the infant mortality rate was about 1 in 5 babies for whites and about 1 in 3 babies for blacks. Pause! A mere 150 years ago, 1 of 3 black babies would die before their first birthday [8]. Isn’t that shocking? Today’s infant mortality rate is a mere 1 of 145 babies. That is astonishing progress. We, as a species, have segued from what biologists call a ‘r’ reproductive strategy, with many offspring in the hope some survive, to a ‘k’ reproductive strategy, with less offspring who will certainly survive. And, within the space of a century, women can do so much more than spend their best years raising children. This section documents the change and its magnitude to set the stage for the later sections.

2.1 Education

For some time, women have been better educated than men. To quote [9],

From 1999–2000 to 2009–10, the percentage of degrees earned by females remained between approximately 60 and 62 percent for associate’s degrees and between 57 and 58 percent for bachelor’s degrees. (…) Within each racial/ethnic group, women earned the majority of degrees at all levels in 2009–10. For example, among U.S. residents, Black females earned 68 percent of associate’s degrees, 66 percent of bachelor’s degrees, 71 percent of master’s degrees, and 65 percent of all doctor’s degrees awarded to Black students. Hispanic females earned 62 percent of associate’s degrees, 61 percent of bachelor’s degrees, 64 percent of master’s degrees, and 55 percent of all doctor’s degrees awarded to Hispanic students.

At this point, it should be stated that this is not a commentary on equality. The statement is that there has been a dramatic shift in the education divide between the sexes. For decades now, a majority of college degrees have been earned by women. Women are better educated than men, and have been so for a while. A third of all women will be forced to marry down education-wise.

2.2 Employment

We live in a time where terms like ‘mancession’ [5] and the ‘End of Men’ [6] are part of our everyday lexicon. Female labor force participation (say FLFP) in 2013 was 57.2% [13]. MLFP was 69.7% [13]. This is up from FLFP of 43.3% in 1970 [12] and 33% in 1948 if [12] is to be believed. Since we’re talking about mate selection, the 16 to 34 year category is what interests us. Then, FLFP for 25-34 (2012) = 67.9%. MLFP for 25-34 (2012) = 82.2%The overall unemployment rate for women in 2012 was 7.9 percent, compared with 8.2 percent for men [11]. To sum, [11]

  • FLFP(1948) = ~33%
  • FLFP(2013) = 57.2% [13]
  • MLFP(2013) = 69.7% [13]
  • FLFP for 25-34 (2012) = 67.9%
  • MLFP for 25-34 (2012) = 82.2%

Women have made significant gains in the past few decades, whilst not ignoring the fact that more work remains to be done. The point is that their gains have overturned the traditional dynamic. From [31],

In 1960 young, never-married women were spoilt for choice. For every 100 of them aged 25-34, there were 139 young, never-married men with jobs vying for their attention. In 2012 there were just 91.

2.3 Income

Women’s earnings have gone from 63% of men’s to 81% between 1979 and 2012 [10]. From [19], women between 20 and 34 earn ~90% of what men earn as show below. For 25 to 34 year olds, this is up from 68% in 1979 [10]. Economists put the difference down to due to differences in characteristics such as education, hours worked, work experience, occupation, and to discrimination. Without commenting on the difference, note that women between 20 and 34 earn comparably with men.

2.4 Marriage

We cannot but discuss marriage if we are to discuss changing gender dynamics. Few would disagree that from 1950 onwards, marriage has changed in the US. Let’s start with a crude measure: Historical marriage and divorce rates. Taken from [16], for the US we have,

From a glance, the best thing you can say about the marriage rate is that it’s stable but has decreased in the past few decades. The divorce rate, however, consistently rose till the late 1970s and has subsequently steadily declined. What immediately grabs your attention is that the marriage rate is decreasing even faster than the divorce rate.

If we slice the marriage rate by income, a trend emerges. [17] We see that marriage is a luxury more affordable for the rich.

This graph shows the relationship between education level and marriage. [18]

2.5 Changing Ideals of Marriage

How have the ideals of marriage changed in the preceding fifty, hundred, two hundred years? For the sake of brevity, let’s make some terrible generalizations, shall we? Traditionally, marriage has been viewed as “for life”. Divorce was out of question. Childbearing was considered an important component of marriage. Since women did not work, marriage was seen as a way for women to gain financial security and social standing. For men, it was a way to enter ‘respectable’ society, as the head of a household. Traditionally, you did not marry for love. Instead, both genders carried out their expected gender roles. Fast forward to today. It is only in the past few decades that marriages are viewed as the logical conclusion to the hunt for a ‘soul-mate’. Marriages must be based on love. The purpose of marriage is less childbearing or social standing and more individual satisfaction. Contraception allows marriage without children. Instead of following prosaic but stable gender roles, marriage must now fulfill exacting standards of personal satisfaction. Nothing less than a ‘soul-mate’ is acceptable. The point is that both sexes now look for a “soul-mate” instead of looking for someone to play their assigned gender roles. It is possible that the sexes have converged in what they look for. The degree of convergence is left to your perspective, but the point is that the ideals have grown more similar.

2.5.1 Effect of Education Difference on Marriage

We talked about the difference in education levels between the sexes earlier. This means approximately a third of all women must marry down in terms of education level. This changes the traditional dynamic where women marry up. It certainly changes the status equation between the sexes.

2.6 Conclusions

As they say “you can torture the data to support any conclusion”. Here are conclusions from the data above. We focus on men and women aged 20-34 because that is the age when we’re all finding ‘The One’.

Data-supported conclusions
  • Men are worse educated than women.
  • A third of women are faced with marrying down by education level.
  • Women’s income is close (90%) to what men’s income is.
  • The marriage rate has declined. The decline is inversely proportional to income.
Circumstantially supported hypotheses
  • Contraception fundamentally changed sexual and dating attitudes. Sex no longer results in pregnancy.
  • Marriage ideals have changed. Marriage is less about social status and children and more about finding an ideal partner.
  • The two sexes have marriage ideals that are more similar than they used to be.

3. The Question Raised by the Evidence

Therein lies the question. Women place a premium on male status and ability to provide. But women themselves are gaining status relative to men and can provide. How then does this affect the way men display status? Do men continue to display status or do they attract women in other ways?

4. Trends in Male Culture

You can see men responding to these changes right now, around you. Mainstream culture has identified at least three distinct male subcultures we can think of that specialize in attracting women. Can you think of them? We’re talking about bros, hipsters, and metrosexuals (I’m not even going to start on lumbersexual and spornosexual). You see men who identify with these subcultures everyday. Women find these subcultures attractive. Of course, I’m certainly generalizing, and everyone has their own preferences. The argument is that these latest iterations in male cultural symbolism are unique in that they are a response to our rapidly changing gender dynamics! I hope you are as fascinated too! These three subcultures appear to have emerged in the 90s. Perhaps that is a coincidence, or perhaps it is an indicator that the 90s are when changing gender dynamics overcame cultural hysteresis and began to change gender norms.

4.1 Bros

I have always waited for the day when I could discuss bros in an academic context, while throwing around evolutionary psychology. Ha. What are bros really? We love disparaging bros as the dregs of male culture. But are they on to something? [7]. Note that lads are the Brit version of bro. I suppose one might disparagingly describe bros as the Cro-Magnons of our age. Typically associated with fraternities at universities, they work out, flaunt six-packs, drink a lot of light beer, and party with attractive women all while being DGAF. Yes, bros are associated with men (or should I say boys) in college. This makes sense because their strategies seem to fail as they get older. We have this oh-so-fascinating graph from the dating website OkCupid to tell us so. This graph shows the number of women that a man flaunting a 6-pack in his profile picture meets versus his age. The graph shows that the effectiveness of such “Cro-Magnon” tactics falls off with age. Aww! And yes, bros emerged in the 90s!

The Denver Post noted back in 2012 that, [38]

The postmodern bro went to see Mumford & Sons at Red Rocks last month, but he’s also thrilled about Jason Alden’s new endorsement deal with Coors Light. He manscapes, he tans, he puts product in his hair, but he’s not necessarily a metrosexual. He took his girlfriend to see “Battleship,” then she took him to see “Moonrise Kingdom.

…which brings us to metrosexuals.

4.2 Metrosexual

Metrosexual is used as a blanket term for men who take noticeable pains to groom and wear stylish clothes. They are overly concerned with their appearance in a manner one would associate with women and that would be called out as ‘gay’. Emerged in the 90s!

4.3 Hipsters

Hipsters assert status through interests, music tastes, dress, vintage goods, handmade goods (Veblen goods), aesthetics, and pretentious knowledge. They too emerged in the 90s! Think hipsters and you think plaid flannel, PBRs, tattoos, beards, and skinny jeans. These are obviously male behaviors. There are hipster girls but, in my humble opinion, they are not what first comes to mind when I think “hipster”. Hipsters eschew technology in favour of artisan goods in typical Veblen-good status assertion. They copy symbols of the blue-collar working class (flannel/PBR). Hipsters are able described in [40].

4.4 Dandyism

The keen Devil’s Advocate among you will argue that metrosexuals are simply the dandies of the 20th and 21st centuries. However, the opinion is, from [29],

Metrosexuals belong to the 21st cen­tury. Dandyism was the pur­suit of an élite, aris­to­cratic, or wan­nabe aristo group of men and was largely a way of advert­ising their wealth, idle­ness and refined taste. Metrosexuality is a main­stream, mass-consumer phe­nomenon involving the com­plete com­modi­fic­a­tion of the male body. It takes Hollywood, ads, sports and glossy magazines as its inspir­a­tional gal­lery, rather than high clas­si­cism. The met­ro­sexual desires to be desired. The dandy aimed to be admired. Or at least bitched about.

…and this one…

Metrosexuality also rep­res­ents a switch in the power rela­tions between the sexes and, in tra­di­tional terms, an “emas­cu­la­tion” of the male. On the other hand, met­ro­sexu­al­ity is a sign of a cer­tain kind of sexual con­fid­ence or “lib­er­a­tion” on the part of men – they can express “unmanly” desires they have always har­boured but have had to repress for gen­er­a­tions. It can also be a way of assert­ing a new, aes­thetic power in an aes­thet­i­cized world. A wealthy, suc­cess­ful male like Beckham can enhance his suc­cess and wealth via a “sub­missive” met­ro­sexu­al­ity, and even be per­ceived as a bet­ter ath­lete as a res­ult.

The contention is that metrosexuality is indeed a new behavior that borrows from more feminine norms. It is behavior that used to be called out as more befitting of gay men but has now gained mainstream acceptance. It is now okay for a man to adopt what were considered “feminine” or “gay” behaviors like grooming, spending discretionary income on personal care products etcetera. Ah, the fresh smell of progress!

4.5 Plastic Surgery Rates in Men

Allow me to start with this quote: [21]

Since ASAPS began collecting statistical data in 1997, there has been a 273% increase in the number of procedures performed on men. “This is not a trend we expect to see wane anytime soon. Facing a challenging and sometimes ageist job market, men, like women, are starting to consider their options to maintain a youthful appearance that exudes exuberance and energy and the full spectrum of care offered by board-certified plastic surgeons caters to their individual needs,” explains James Grotting, MD, President-Elect of ASAPS.

Additionally from [21],

Additionally, more men are turning to aesthetic cosmetic procedures, with dramatic increases seen in both surgical and nonsurgical options over the past 5 years and a 43% increase overall.

The quotes speak for themselves. Men are increasingly turning to plastic surgery. And we don’t have to discuss the “beard implants” that hipsters love, do we? From [23]:

“[Clients] want full beards because it’s a masculine look. Beards are an important male identifier,” he added. Epstein performs two or three beard implants per week — up from just a handful each year a couple years ago, he said. The specific hipster-inspired style — a lumberjack-meets-roadie hybrid — was made popular in neighborhoods such as Williamsburg, Bushwick and Park Slope, doctors and patients said.

Hah! Beard implants!

4.6 Male Personal Care Products

I am no expert on this subject and I’m simply going to quote [22] on “mampering”,

Since 2012, beauty and personal care launches specifically targeted at men have increased globally by more than 70 percent, according to Mintel. In 2014, total U.S. sales for the men’s personal care market hit $4.1 billion, up 6.7 percent from 2012 and 19 percent from 2009, making it one of the fastest-growing segments of the beauty industry. Mintel predicts sales will grow to $4.6 billion by 2019.

…and…

Primarily driving the charge are the male millennial, now moving into the 25-plus age group. “Younger guys are willing to try lots of stuff because they are growing up in a world where it’s OK to care about your grooming,” McCarthy said. “Men have been engaged in grooming products for hundreds of years, but it used to be around fragrance and shaving. Now it’s become so much more than that,” he added.

‘nuff said. Millennial men, of our dear focus age of 20-34, are increasingly “mampering”.

4.7 Male Fashion

From my inchoate understanding of male fashion, male fashion is spread between two extremes: Clint Eastwood-esque classic style and Pitti-Uomo-esque peacocking. However, I’m no expert here so I’m simply going to quote sources,

On male fashion and supermodels, [32]

The idea of a stable of male supermodels equivalent to Naomi, Kate, Claudia and Christy seems remote, sure, but men’s fashion is on the up. Estimated to be worth£10.4bn in 2013, it’s grown 12% in the past five years, and a study by Mintel suggests this will continue, with growth to 2017 predicted at 11%. In line with this change, the interest in male models is also growing. Forbes magazine now publishes a list of the highest-paid male models alongside its one for women, and there are a couple of names on there – David Gandy, Sean O’Pry – that might just resonate outside of the industry.

On male fashion, from [33]

But in recent years, the global men’s fashion market has boomed, outpacing the growth of womenswear, and a modern form of dandyism has not only appeared, but become widely accepted. “There are fewer hang-ups about men being interested in buying a bag or buying a new bracelet. The stigma attached to it — that may have been potentially stopping men from buying something in the past — has moved away in a big way,” said Tom Kalenderian of Barneys New York. “Men are more comfortable being fashionable. Men are more comfortable being dandy. The attitude has really changed.”

Read [33] for a discussion of peacocking ref “the peacocks of Pitti Uomo”.

Here’s some data on the menswear market to back that up. From [34],

since the depths of the economic downturn in 2009, growth in the market for men’s ready-to-wear has outpaced that of womenswear, increasing between 9 and 13 percent year-on-year.

From [35],

In 2013, menswear sales grew by just under 5% worldwide, slightly outpacing womenswear
global menswear sales have skyrocketed 70% since 1998; U.S. menswear sales have spiked 16% since then.

Refer to [34] and [35] for an overview. They state that it’s millennials who are driving sales. Our dear 20-34 age bracket is shamelessly back at it again! Ah, I love gender dynamics.

4.8 Millennials wear Tighter Clothes

This section is extremely important, explained after the quote. From [36],

Younger men are choosing tighter fitting clothing which is designed to closely fit the body. This change in style drove men to make more purchases, updating their wardrobes to fit this new style. The trend started with skinny jeans, but has spread to all aspects of the wardrobe. Manufacturers are updating their lines with appropriately sized clothing. Mitchell Lechner, President of dress furnishings group at PVH stated, “Slim fit represents 50% of our business now”. This trend started with younger millennial consumers, but has now spread to men of all ages.

Traditionally, women wear tight-fitting clothes while men wear looser-fitting clothes. Obviously, tight-fitting clothes easily show one’s physical appearance, objectifying the wearer. Additionally, they restrict movement, emasculating the wearer. This claim is supported because in conservative cultures where appearance is de-emphasized, the clothes worn are far looser. Tight clothes are not acceptable in such cultures. I personally feel the move towards tight clothes is a huge indicator of how men are increasingly objectified and sexualized. The Boston Globe even ran an article on “Male Body Shaming” that starts with “Men, have you been more conscious of the fact that your six pack rolls more like a keg? Don’t fret. It’s not you; it’s the media. We’ve entered the era of man shaming.” [37] I’d take that with a pinch of salt, but there you go.

4.9 Conclusions

Men are increasingly paying attention to their appearance. Two data-supported conclusions are

  • Plastic surgery rates are increasing in men relative to women.
  • Sales of male personal care products are greatly increasing among millennials.
  • The global and U.S. menswear markets are growing faster than womenswear. Millennials are driving the growth.

The circumstantially supported cultural observations is

  • The three male subcultures of hipsters, bros, and metrosexuals all arose at the same time.
  • All three emphasize appearance in different ways to appeal to women.
  • Men are paying more attention to appearance, grooming, and dress.
  • Men are increasingly objectified and sexualized.

5. Evolutionary Psychology of Sexual Selection of Males

This is the fun part! Read on.

5.1 Relative Male and Female Parental Investment

Male humans are rare among mammalian species in the amount of parental investment in their little ones. From [24], “The basic pattern is especially pronounced in mammals, where male parenting is found in less than 5% of species and where females invest heavily in offspring (Clutton-Brock, 1991).” Humans are truly unique in the degree of parenting that men contribute.

It’s important to note that contraception and monogamy mean that mean men have greater sexual success, that does not translate into more offspring. This is important because the explanation for the difference in strategies between the sexes is that women have a far greater investment to make in their offspring. They can only have a child every year whereas men can father children easily. However, with contraception and monogamy, this no longer holds. If men only father offspring through monogamous marriage, then theirs is an extremely high level of parental investment. From [28], where investment is equal, sexual selection should operate similarly on the two sexes.

One could argue that men still are “less directly” invested in their offspring. Men could still father children outside of marriage or divorce. A counter-argument is that they must still invest in a sense through alimony. However, it would be interesting to examine if the form of parental investment is changing. As gender roles shift, do men and women increasingly share responsibilities instead of dividing responsibilities? From [25],

As for fathers, those with a job and a college degree spend far more time with their children than fathers ever used to, and 105% more time than their less-educated male peers. These patterns can be found around the world, particularly in relatively rich countries.

Well-educated men chip in far more than their fathers ever did, and more than their less-educated peers, but still put in only half as much time as women do.

The only data source I could find is the American Time-use survey (ATUS). From the first ATUS in 2003, men and women spent 1.53 and 2.14 hours a day caring for household children. In 2013, the numbers were 1.68 hours and 2.13 hours. [26][27] I don’t know of a source of data that goes further back than 2003. In percentage terms, this change is on the order of ~10%/decade for men. What would be interesting is to look at the division of labour between young couples today and young couples six decades back. However, the time spent by men working and earning money that provides for their children is indirect parental investment. After all, children cost money. A better way of stating this is that while male parental investment is staying the same, the nature of it is slowly changing. This might be an indicator of changing gender dynamics.

5.2 Sexual Selection of Men

There are two kinds of sexual selection of males identified in the literature:

  • Intrasexual selection: Men compete among themselves.
  • Intersexual selection: Men are selected by women

5.2.1 Intrasexual Selection

Intrasexual selection occurs when men compete between themselves to gain access to women. This is most easily understood by looking at the animal kingdom. Male elephant seals physically confront each other to gain access to females. This intrasexual competition results in almost comical sexual dimorphism with a male northern elephant seal about four times the weight of a female elephant seal. In contrast, the closest primates to us, chimpanzees, are only slightly gender dimorphic with males weighing 40 to 60 kg and females 32 to 47 kg. [R] Us Humans? In the United States, the mean mass of an adult male is 78.5 kg, while the adult female mean is 62.0 kg. [R]

All right. So what’s this got to do with us? When was the last time you heard of men, say, dueling? Are fights over women a common occurrence? Do men compete with each other? Yes, they do. But, obviously not physically anymore. Evolutionary psychologists divide male strategies into two groups:

  1. Weapon-like
  2. Ornament-like

Let’s go back to the animal kingdom. Weapon-like behavior refers to stags growing massive horns to compete with each other. Ornament-like behavior refers to the displays of male peacocks who completely outshine female peahens in visual displays.

Which of these two do hipsters, bros, and metrosexuals choose? Is a bro’s six-pack a weapon-like behavior or an ornament-like behavior. Well, do women like six-packs? I think so. That brings us to intersexual selection.

5.2.2 Intersexual selection

If a bro wears a bro-tank that’s obviously cut to show off carefully honed abs, is that ornament-like behavior? It is. Depending on your perspective, it’s also weapon-like because physical appearance is a status indicator that partly decides the male hierarchy. Ref [20] discusses the two kinds of ornamentation and argues for the view that ornament-like behavior occurs under intersexual selection and weapon-like behavior under intrasexual selection. To the point, from [30], we have

Beckham wants to turn his muscles into art objects instead of war (or soccer) machinery. He builds a masculine body but appropriates it cosmetically. He’s happy to be gazed at by men alongside women. And while the gay male gaze is not new, what made Beckham unusual was his mentality—he was happy to use his body “inappropriately.”

As for metrosexuals, their emphasis on grooming and style is clearly an ornament-like behavior designed to appeal to women through status. Concerning hipsters, we note the preponderance of beards, tattoos, skinny clothes, and colorful socks. The predilection appears to be ornament-like behavior and it seems difficult to characterize such trends as weapon-like. It is commonly noted that women like beards and plaid flannel. The evidence that men are increasingly turning to behavior characterized as female with plastic surgery and personal care products also indicates the emphasis on ornament-like behavior. A man who plucks his eyebrows and manscapes is nowhere near intimidating weapon-like behavior. That is, unless you’re arguing that this ornament-like behavior helps the man gain status over other men. But! That argument only means that gender roles have shifted and that male status is now associated with ornament-like behavior that one would normally associate with women!

It is important to acknowledge that gene-culture co-evolution does not make such distinctions easy. The hypothesis presented here is that men are reacting to changing gender dynamics with ornament-like behaviors that were previously the preserve of women. However, the evidence is circumstantial and clear-cut conclusions are impossible to draw.

6. Counter-arguments

It is hard to distinguish between intersexual and intrasexual competition. Could the behaviors exhibited by men be intrasexual competition? The response is that, even if they are intrasexual, they could still be novel strategies generated by changing gender dynamics. Another question is whether these behaviors are new at all. Perhaps they are simply a result of young people moving to cities and the internet making us ever more conscious of social expectations. However, do women have subcultures that parallel bros, metrosexuals, and hipsters? Sure, there are hipster girls. While a clear-cut conclusion is impossible, my take is that women have no equivalent of these male subcultures that place such an emphasis on appearance. The more astute of us might point to the history of dandyism. Are these male behaviors new then, if dandyism has been around for centuries? In our discussion of “mampering”, plastic surgery, and our discussion of dandyism, I’ve tried to show that the spread of these behaviors is far greater than dandyism was. But, human mating strategies is a most confounding subject and these conclusions must be doused with several helpings of salt.

7. Conclusions

The underlying theme is that, as the two sexes become more similar, their choices, behavior, and strategies become more similar. Obviously, culture and genes bring a huge hysteresis effect with them. Nonetheless, the claim is that the effect can be discerned. Men are more sexualized and objectified than before. Male fashion and grooming is trending in an emasculating direction. Men are turning to “ornament-like” instead of “weapon-like” behavior. These behavioral and societal changes are a result of the closing gender gap and changing status relation between the genders. Switching perspectives, one could also discuss how men’s intersexual choice of women is changing with the rise of ‘power couples’ over the traditional gender roles.

Taking a step back, it is even more interesting to note that the motor of these changes is the gestalt behavior of society. That is, with negligible child mortality, we have fewer children. This means women are rarely pregnant instead of always pregnant. And, a society that allows women to spend that time reaching their full potential does indeed gain so much more than a society that doesn’t. That change means female gender roles become more like men’s. These changing gender roles seep into men’s and women’s intersexual choices, slowly but surely bring the sexes’ mating strategies closer together.

8. References

  1. David M. Buss – Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology http://emilkirkegaard.dk/en/wp-content/uploads/David-M.-Buss-Handbook-of-Evolutionary-Psychology.pdf
  2. “They can tell just by looking at him whether a boy goes to an Eastern prep school or not. Not only that, they can tell which prep school, usually St. Paul’s or Hotchkiss or Groton or Exeter or Andover, or whatever; just by checking his hair and his clothes.”
    —Tom Wolfe in his book Mauve Gloves & Madmen, Clutter & Vine. Taken from [3]
  3. Wikipedia : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phillips_Academy#In_popular_culture
  4. Pg. 270 of [1]
  5. http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/10/the-mancession/
  6. http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/07/the-end-of-men/308135/
  7. http://www.vice.com/read/in-defence-of-britains-sad-young-douchebags
  8. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infant_mortality
  9. http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=72
  10. http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpswom2012.pdf
  11. http://www.bls.gov/cps/wlf-databook-2013.pdf
  12. http://www.bls.gov/spotlight/2011/women/
  13. http://conversableeconomist.blogspot.com/2012/04/falling-labor-force-participation.html
  14. http://www.dol.gov/wb/stats/recentfacts.htm
  15. Fig 3, Pg. 10 http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_21/sr21_024.pdf
  16. http://prospect.org/sites/default/files/styles/large/public/marriage_and_divorce_over_time.jpg
  17. http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/jobs/posts/2012/02/03-jobs-greenstone-looney
  18. http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2010/11/18/ii-overview/
  19. pg. 12 of http://www.aauw.org/files/2014/03/The-Simple-Truth.pdf
  20. Link
  21. Link
  22. http://www.cnbc.com/id/102241557
  23. http://nypost.com/2014/02/25/hipster-wannabes-forking-over-thousands-for-facial-hair-transplants/
  24. http://web.missouri.edu/~gearyd/paternalinvest[ChapFINAL].pdf
  25. http://www.economist.com/news/christmas-specials/21636612-time-poverty-problem-partly-perception-and-partly-distribution-why
  26. http://www.bls.gov/news.release/history/atus_09142004.txt
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  28. http://www1.appstate.edu/~kms/classes/psy2664/Documents/trivers.pdf
  29. http://www.marksimpson.com/metrodaddy-speaks/
  30. http://www.theawl.com/2014/08/a-decade-later-whither-the-metrosexual
  31. http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2014/09/marriage-market
  32. http://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2014/mar/07/day-in-the-life-male-model-tommy-marr
  33. http://www.businessoffashion.com/articles/intelligence/pittis-peacocks-liberation-mens-style
  34. http://www.businessoffashion.com/articles/intelligence/signs-slowing-global-menswear-market
  35. http://fortune.com/2014/03/14/undressing-todays-man-mens-fashion-enters-a-renaissance/
  36. http://www.euromonitor.com/menswear-in-the-us/report
  37. http://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/2015/03/08/manshaming/F4IOidjmYSzlbTvMGua0sJ/story.html
  38. http://www.denverpost.com/ci_21537601/whats-story-bro
  39. http://www.unm.edu/~gfmiller/new_papers/sefcek%20miller%202006%20matechoice.pdf
  40. http://nymag.com/news/features/69129/index.html

2 thoughts on “Hipsters, Bros & Metrosexuals: Male Gender Identity & Evolutionary Psychology

  1. Some thoughtful interpretation of data here. I enjoyed the article. I do have one criticism, I think the claim that ‘tight clothes are emasculating’ is problematic: tight clothes – if made from jersey or including stretch fibres in their composition –  don’t restrict movement: it’s as easy to move in a tight T-shirt as in an oversized one and much exercise clothing is fitted so as not to be cumbersome. Secondly, notions around what is masculine and what is feminine are (to some extent) culturally determined. In the Middle East, for example, loose, flowing clothes are worn by women more than by men: and historically, in the west too, wearing clothes that fitted closely to the body (18th and 19th century tailoring) was masculine, while women wore looser clothing (long dresses).

    You are certainly right that this shift points to a change in gendered attitudes to the body though!

    More generally, the term emasculating is interesting because there isn’t a female equivalent – we assume that when women become more like men this is empowering, but when men become more like women it is disempowering: this isn’t necessarily the case, having the freedom to spend more time with ones children and family rather than spending all your time in an office (for example) might well be experienced as empowerment and enhancement rather than as loss.

    • Karan on

      Glad you enjoyed the article. That’s right. Tight-fitting clothes may or may not restrict movement. I do feel they do emphasize appearance though, which is the point that I should perhaps emphasize more. Regarding the cultural determination aspect, yes my analysis is certainly confined to this period of time and to the US and similar countries. That’s because the conclusions flow from the the socio-economic evidence, so they only apply to areas where that socio-economic evidence holds.

      True, the meaning of “emasculating” is interesting. Perhaps in the US, we still have the male gender roles of independence, doing-it-yourself etc. as a result of the history of a frontier nation that values those qualities. But in say a country like Sweden, they approach male gender roles differently and men who stay home etc., as you say, are not looked upon negatively.

      Thanks for the commentary! Always good to hear others’ thoughts.

      Karan.

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