Remember metrosexuality? Wasn't that momentary? Queer Eye for the Straight Guy was the hottest show on television, and straight men everywhere waxed their backs and explored the benefits of dermabrasion. Meanwhile, those of us out of the fashion loop, lounging about in our wrinkled clothes and errant body hair, rested safe in the knowledge that the whole thing was a big phase, destined to follow the Macarena and "Baby On Board" signs into pop-culture obscurity.
Except it stuck. Somewhere in there, cosmetics and fashion industry mavens realized that they were marketing to only half the population, and they coaxed metrosexuality from fad to full-on mainstay of modern civilization. Although I prayed for an eventual backlash, like a "Disco is dead" movement for the new millennium, it's just not happening.
I'm a roll-with-the-punches kind of guy, though, and this being the time of year to do such things, I've made a hearty New Year's resolution to develop something resembling fashion sensibility.
But where to begin? The idea of lolling in a day spa and having my nails done makes me queasy, and my past style attempts have been dubbed "hamper chic," "name that stain" and "those shirts you see at TJ Maxx that you don't think anyone ever buys." To keep my New Year's resolution, I did the only logical thing: I turned to the experts; namely, a couple of gay guys who generously took time out from looking better than I do to help me stop being such a leper. I have duly noted and summarized their advice, opinions and secret hideouts so that all the trend-impaired men of Houston might partake. I will be fashionable, damn it, and I'm bringing everyone else down with me.
As Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals have taught us, true beauty is not on the outside. And this means one crucial thing: manscaping. After all, does it really matter what you're wearing if you don't feel fabulous underneath? I'm pretty sure it doesn't, if only because playing your fashion cards right might lead to someone seeing you naked. As such, my team of experts directed me to Metro His Spa, the first full-service spa for men in Texas (2606 Grant, www.metrospa4men.com). Founded by local massage authority Raul Guzman, Metro His offers a comprehensive line of services, ranging from aromatherapy to seaweed body wraps to the infamous large- or small-area "trim." (I'm not quite sure what a men's Brazilian wax is, but what could it hurt?) Pampered in a stately Montrose home with a handy privacy fence, clientele can bask in luxurious treatments and not have to worry about prying eyes or judgmental giggles. And since Metro His caters exclusively to men, you can let any inhibitions about compromising your manliness for the sake of a mani-pedi fall to the wayside. All the other guys padding around in big plushy robes feel just as girly as you do.
I'm told the eyebrow shaping is entirely painless. Personally, I don't want hot wax on my face unless it's part of a story that starts out "This one time I was totally wasted " But you go right ahead.
When it comes to outerwear, the first instinct is to go over the top, to descend upon the Galleria and hit high-end outlets until MasterCard begs you to stop. This is a big no-no, my style gurus inform me -- doing so inevitably leads to unnecessary debt and emotional scars. The employees of such shops are not known for their charitable personalities, and more than a few unsuspecting customers have been chased out for not wearing the right shoes. It's like that scene in Pretty Woman, except you can't come back the next day wielding Richard Gere's money to teach the clerks a Very Important Lesson, since (according to my sources) the salespeople don't have souls. Besides, designer prices being what they are, you'll be able to afford only the bare minimum of items. Yes, you'll own a Prada shirt, but you'll be able to wear it in public only a handful of times before everyone realizes that you own only one Prada shirt. And it'll be weeks before you'll have saved up enough for a Versace alternate.
When looking for brands, think proactive. The current labels to be seen in all have assertive, energetic names, so they tend to stand out on the racks: Diesel, Caffeine, Backer and Juicy are all big, and they've earned enough textile cred to remain in style for at least a couple more seasons. Plus, they're affordable, which means you can stock up on couture now and not have to overhaul your wardrobe until at least 2008.
The overall up-to-the-minute trend in men's fashion is the deconstructed look, which as far as I can tell translates to "messy but nice." Unstructured sports jackets over jeans and dress shirts detailed with random patches or stenciled graffiti are popular, and they manage to blend casual and formal in a way that makes you appropriately dressed for a wide array of social occasions, barring funerals and inaugurations.
As for where to find such dashing new threads, my experts sent me straight to a little slice of fashion heaven called Todd's Place (1151-06 Uptown Park Boulevard, 713-877-8630). The boutique not only features friendly, nonjudgmental salespeople, it keeps the men's section to a reasonable area: There's a good enough selection of merchandise to give you options, but not enough to overwhelm or terrify you.