By Peter Lawrence Kane
Remember “metrosexuals”? If you’ve forcibly repressed any recollection of the phenomenon, here’s a primer. In 2004 or so, there was a brief moment when some straight men allegedly stopped living in mortal terror of moisturizer or plucking the occasional errant eyebrow hair, and Carson Kressley may have been involved. Almost nobody self-identified as a metrosexual, but 10 years later, the word persists as a zombie metaphor.
Now the metrosexual has been overtaken – supposedly – by the Yummy, or Young Urban Male. As if the word weren’t already atrocious enough as an overused adjective on Yelp, now it’s a noun, too. Get ready for the latest It-demographic, who are going to save retail the way NASCAR Dads saved George W. Bush. Yummies are the new face of high-end luxury, cultivating a taste for “yoga, beauty goods and the act of shopping itself.” But instead of only aping the presumed consumption patterns of affluent gay men in order to attract chicks, a Yummy can also bro out to his heart’s content on Ferragamo boat shoes.
If you’re not dying of barfness yet, the origin of the term “Yummy” might do it to you. It’s not from an underground movement’s manifesto like Yippie, nor is it a semi-acronym that bounced around the media before coming into general use, like yuppie. It’s actually from HSBC, the giant banking corporation, which issued a marketing report coining the term. It’s kind of confusing, since the young urban males they’re talking about aren’t the same young urban males some politicians talk about. Sometimes, bad things happen when the two meet.
But aren’t millennials different? They’re supposedly not so into buying cars, and seek once-in-a-lifetime experiences over flaunting conspicuous consumption. It’s only partly true – because from a global financial corporation’s perspective, it’s the newly flush upper-middle class in East Asia who’s really driving things now. But #FOMO aside, if there’s one niche of the post-recession U.S. economy that doesn’t need “saving,” it would be the luxury end of things, considering how the 99% haven’t been doing so hot lately. Meanwhile, male vanity has always been with us, and when market researchers figure out new ways to repackage it, it kind of sounds like scientists who “discover” facts like, oh, sleep makes you look better.
It’s extremely easy to be deeply cynical about luxury branding even though it does have potential to do good. But this entire thing is the definition of a fake trend, manufactured and promoted with the hope of steering reality in its direction. It’s possible it will all blow over, but in the meantime, you’ll probably hear the word yummy lot. Never out of the mouth of an actual Yummy, though.
Image by Ysbrand Cosjin via Thinkstock