Stock markets crashed on the announcement that Steve McLaren had dropped David Beckham from the English squad and his possible departure from international soccer. Companies specializing in cosmetics, accessories, and clothes all reacted with shock and disbelief at the news. Even cell phone and paper product company stocks took a steep dive.
A spokesman for Oakley, a company specializing in the manufacture of top of the line sunglasses, in a hushed voice announced that profit projections would have to be drastically lowered in the third and fourth quarter. Armani’s top executives convened an emergency meeting of skittish insititutional shareholders and assured them that one man does not represent a movement. However, there were many who felt, that the man is the movement. They did not want to be identified for good purposes but expressed their profound skepticism at the optimism shown by the company.
The unprecedented growth in the mens grooming business translating into a multi billion dollar business in the last 14 years since metrosexuality was declared a phenomenon with David Beckham as the founder spokesman of this movement, led to the belief that this sector was an omnipotent one. This is not to say that the sector was living in a fools paradise because David Beckham was going to retire on his own terms eventually but the torch would have been passed down to Freddie Ljungberg, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Kaka, in a more unambiguous way. With the unceremonious way that Beckham has been dropped this has raised deep consternation and furrowed brows. There is a great deal of doubt whether Ljungberg is really the hier apparent. He does appeal to a large male audience but not particularly the straight ones. Cristiano Ronaldo has been hurt by the Rooney affair, and the fear is that if he takes over, then sales will drop in Britain. Of course, they might rise in Portugal but it is a smaller market then the British one. And Kaka does not know the language, and companies are not going to wait for him to take ESL classes. The clincher that all is not well, is that none of them are married, or if they are nobody knows who the are married too. The young married men earning bags of money demographic that Beckham appealed to, might drop out if any of these three become the next icon of metrosexuality.
The recent uncovering by British police of the plot to bomb 12 planes has led to further anxiety. An ordinary chapstick cannot be carried on board. Forget those bottles of perfume. And tweezers to pluck your eyebrows in mid air while staring into the toilet mirror. Do not even go there. Not since the publication of The Feminine Mystique has such a series of events, so roiled the beauty business. Will they recover?
Well, the pragmatic part of me said that there are parts of the world that don’t really care too much about David Beckham. We can always get by in those new emerging markets. Sell cheap, sell more. What about Iraqi metrosexuals? “They first have to live, ” said a spokesman for Neutrogena, grimly but pointedly. But surely, Donald Rumsfeld realizes their plight being a ‘merk’ himself? “I haven’t seen him in ages. Plus, we don’t understand what he says anymore” said he rolling his eyes. Does this become an election year issue? “I think it does, we were promised new markets in Syria and Iran by Dick Cheney, and now with Beckham’s retirement we are going to hold him to it. Otherwise……. ” He scrawled a picture of a donkey. Not a very good likeness, but given his trembling hands, the intention was clear. It was going to be Ned Lamont all the way.
Meanwhile the public is now divided between ‘the man is the movement’ and ‘the movement is larger than the man’ camps. The divide is being reflected in academic circles too in the departments of culture studies and anthropology, and human sexuality. The fact remains that metrosexuality is a colossal business phenomenon. In a survey, 62% of Brit teens hated the way they looked and 25% were considering plastic surgery. 72% wanted makeovers and 90% used hair products. The results have cosmetic, accessory, clothing, and pretty much nigh, anyone remotely to do with the beauty enhancement business, licking their lips, which in turn has chapstick companies, like Wyeth Healthcare, drooling. Cosmetic surgery is now a $20 billion business, largely fueled by a new wave of young male professionals who want to look more like Marcus Schenkenberg or the newer metrosexual icons.
As Chiza’s article notes, there is nothing that a Speed stick and a clean shirt won’t solve but I am afraid it has gone beyond that. David Beckham’s demise has its least echo in the football world but the future in the other spheres of human existence, the ones that distinguish us from primates, (apart from that opposable thumb), looks very dark. We have to wait for Mark Simpson to cut through this swath, to pronounce whether this is really the end or just an uncertain transition into a post Beckham era.