Yummies, Luxury, and the Fashion Narrative

March 27, 2014 • Fashion

You may have heard by now — Yummies are in, “metrosexuals” are out. No surprise, really, because the only people I know who still actively use the term metrosexuals are slightly homophobic Mid-Western conservatives who I have friends in common with on Facebook (why do I still use Facebook? I do not know). The past few months, basically years in fashion time, have felt very if not “post gender” as Duncan as proposed, then certainly something Other. Fashion moves or it dies, and we’ve been in an active move for something newish. So it’s no surprise really, that the narrative of fashion has shifted and bestowed upon us a new term: yummies! Young Urban Males.

G-Dragon & Taeyang, fashion darlings and KPOP superstars, are definitely Yummies. Photo by Adam Katz Sinding for W Magazine.

G-Dragon & Taeyang, fashion darlings and KPOP superstars, are definitely Yummies. Photo by Adam Katz Sinding for W Magazine.

Luxury is younger (and male), more inclined to dip into ya girl’s beauty supplies, marriage is a distant joke and we’re all pretty and kind of gay. The new term  speaks to a larger narrative of what’s happening in luxury and gender dynamics, and I think that is important, so I sat down with Erich and we talked it out.

Arabelle: What are your thoughts on this?

Erich: I picked up on how some of the same anxieties surrounding metrosexuals are still being translated into how we men in fashion today. It’s like participating in fashion has to be pathologized (“twentysomething men with smartphones and self-esteem issues.”) Bleh. Also, that term “metrosexual” seems so…wrong. “Yummie” is less ostensibly horrible, but it’s the same tradition I think. What were your thoughts?

Arabelle: First, yeah, fashion has to be pathologized. It’s all about marketing and narrative when you consider it as a business first. And with no narrative you get bad marketing. It’s about inventing desires and anxieties to be cashed in on. I do think it’s interesting that there’s a code switching going on– from metrosexuals to yummies — but it’s boring to me that it’s being called “switching” in articles on the subject, when it is more just a blurring. There is less dichotomy of gender and sexuality in general and that’s notable not just in nightlife but in fashion designers and their customers now. The menswear companies that are on the rise, and Eckhaus Latta, HBA, etc, they have gender performance implicit in how they perform their shows (Boychild as a muse among other examples). I think this is not actually anything we haven’t noticed ourselves, and it follows in the tradition of fashion narrative.

The actual word “yummy” is disgusting though. It feels very infantile. It feels like the word “twee,” basically dismissive and florid. Like an internalized machismo resentment or something. Could you call a “Tom Ford man” a Yummy? What’s the difference between a Yummy and a dandy?

Dandy? Yummy? Either way, nice suit, dude.

Dandy? Yummy? Either way, nice suit, dude. Photo by Closet Freaks.

Erich: That’s a good point. Pathologizing fashion does provide a motivation for marketing, which is integral to how fashion works. When discussing the “Yummy” though, there’s something uncomfortable about reading engaging fashion as unnatural. It upholds an understanding of masculinity as opposed to fashion, I think. The “Yummies” are shown to be different from this archetypal masculinity, and the parallel that the articles make between Yummies of today and rich middle aged women of yesterday seems to support that. The report also suggests that Yummies are really hyped about the opportunity to look and seem different, so I think you’re right that there’s not a lot of new here.

The yummies are embracing the fact that they’re not in a ratty jeans and sports team tee shirts. And business is allowing them to turn it into a lifestyle. We’re back to lifestyle branding! And internalized resentment is exactly what I was thinking! There’s a discomfort about seeing men participate actively in fashion. Tom Ford seems more stereotypically metrosexual than yummie, which I think has to do with age. Yummie is young + urban male, but Tom Ford is more interested in a more dandy-esque way of dressing.

The dandy is different than the yummy in the sense that he tries to cultivate an air of aristocracy and superiority that is both material and intellectual. The way Tom speaks about his clothes reveals a lot of that “intellectualizing” of clothes.

Yummies are certainly related, but they seem to be more interested in some kind of competition. The stakes are higher, since the rules of the game are determined by their social interactions with other similar yummies. Or at least that’s what I gleaned from the pieces of the report I read.

Arabelle: I see what you’re saying but first, I don’t think fashion is natural! I think everything is a lie or at least a politic. That’s also what I gathered from your last piece. Are you talking about how THEY’RE postulating that engaging in fashion is unnatural? What makes engaging in fashion natural when the process of consuming is designed for us?

I do get what you mean by masculinity in opposition to fashion rather than within, though. Fashion as a business is gendered to be very feminine, which is funny to be seeing as so most prominent designers are men. So we’re operating on multiple levels right now: fashion designing is operated within a construction of dude desire for what they think women want (and sometimes it’s very true, no doubt) but also the modern luxury consumer with most visibility and power is also the young + urban male. So where does that leave the woman that brands want money from? Apparently, she’s mostly in China?

I’m interested in this idea of competition you bring up, also. SuFu culture and sneakerheads and #Menswear people get really hung up The Game of Fashion. Most of this game is now on the Internet now — whereas before people slept outside for launches, that heyday has arguably passed. Brands are trying to bring internet interaction to their storefronts though as we’ve noticed recently, but customers aren’t having it. I wonder if the customers will eventually go along with the hyper customization in store or will brands have to readjust.

Camping out for sneakers is a dying art. Photo courtesy of Sneaker Bar Detroit.

Camping out for sneakers is a dying art. Photo courtesy of Sneaker Bar Detroit.

Erich: You’re right, I don’t think fashion is natural. We can agree that its a grand maneuver. So yes, I think they’re postulating engaging fashion, for men specifically, as unnatural. Specifically because a resistance to fashion forms part of traditional masculinity. Fashion is gendered as feminine. So a negative reaction to men-in-fashion is what I see as an expected response.

The question you raise about men being most visible is interesting, because visibility might suggest that men are “taking over,” and that’s the direction a lot of writers have pointed to. But I’m not sure that’s going to become the cultural of reality of how fashion is perceived. Even if yummies overtake women as the biggest spenders, I doubt fashion will change from a gendered/feminized world. That displaces women as fashion’s biggest patrons, but it doesn’t change the ways in which women seem to be privileged as the “ideal” practitioners of fashion. That said, as you point out, there’s a lot of sexism in regards to male designers/female designers. I think that has a lot to do with the ultra-romanticized myth of the Artist, which was been long filtered through creative practices. Cuisine, painting, literature, fashion.
In a way, I get the feeling that the dandy is something that resides in physical stores. There’s the Jack Spades, J.Crews or even cobblestone streets that are defined as specific spaces for the current dandy. The same goes for luxury boutiques and physical storefronts for large luxury brands. But the yummy, according to what we’ve read, is more mobile. And his mobility is enabled by the Internet. It’s sort of as if the yummy was made by the Internet. It’s all the trends in e-commerce that have made him a reality.

 

Arabelle: Word. The internet as creation! We’ve created a new myth outside of stores and I think that is what makes yummies so interesting. Mobilization is centered in youth and now youth doesn’t need to be in an urban locale to be the pusher of fashion and luxury. Middle America can be center of attention now and just as fashion as everywhere else. No holds barred. Now that we have a term that divides luxury into gender and age and locale, I wonder what will happen as a result. Because once you define something, someone else will throw a fit. This is going to be so fun to watch.

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