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Move over metrosexuals, here comes the "yummy"

A new report discovers rich young men

Mary Elizabeth Williams
March 25, 2014 10:47PM (UTC)

Ah, so THAT'S who's been buying up all those monocles. In a bit of demographic branding that makes words like "hipster," "millennial" and "MILF" sound somehow great in comparison, a growing population of status label loving men has been identified. And we shall call them ... yummy.

Sure, at first you might believe that the yummy, or "young urban male," has been in existence since the dawn of both cities and men. Who were John Keats and Alexander the Great, for example, if not charismatic youths with indelible swag? But because the world has to be completely reinvented every few years or so, the aspirational dreams of those long bygone days of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" have given way to what the corporate bank HSBC has declared a "reason to rejoice" -- Carrie Bradshaws with penises.


HSBC's report on the "Rise of the Yummy" notes – as no doubt you yourself were just saying this morning as you pawed the closet for your Gucci floral embroidered smoking slippers -- that until recently, "Luxury names have reeled from emerging market macro doubts." But the yummy is here to change that. He is kind of man who, based on the report's accompanying stock photo collage, thrives on sunglasses, bowties and enough hair product to make One Direction stage an intervention. He's a man who's made, or, come on, inherited, his money and wants to show it off via some conspicuous consumption. In the report, Mintel researcher Richard Cope explains that more young men now are getting into "yoga, beauty goods and the act of shopping itself." (Not mentioned but clearly implied: frozen yogurt.) Think he's just blowing smoke? Luxury sales are expected to grow up to 9 percent this year, and it's not just the ladies who are fueling all that retail therapy. Here in the West, men already represent an impressive 40 percent of the high-end brand market. In China, that figure is 55 percent.

HSBC says that these consumers are "getting younger," and they're "driven by psychological and social trends whereby consumers prefer to display social status earlier on (while older, better-off consumers may have less to prove and will tend to buy for themselves rather than to impress others)." In other words, if you're some 22-year-old whose social media platform just exploded, a hoodie will no longer cut it, bro. Or as Andrew Davis, the style director of Wonderland magazine, told the Evening Standard last week, "They have everything from the right Chanel backpack to the correct Lanvin silk jumpsuit and the studded Louboutin sneakers. Oh, and they love floral Prada luggage … they usually have these huge, huge bags." Wait, did he say jumpsuit? Silk jumpsuit? I swear to God I don't know if this yummy business is real, but I am definitely not yet seeing enough dudes in jumpsuits who aren't superheroes or members of the Beastie Boys prowling the streets of my metropolis. "It’s a very specific kind of customer who will make a snap decision to spend £2,000 or £3,000 on a metallic mac or a cashmere jumper with a fox on," Davis continued, adding that "Eyebrows are very important" and making me want to live forever in his magical, possibly Yvlis-ruled universe.

The fact that literally three people who work for a bank came up with the notion of yummies (Yummys? Yummi?) hardly matters. It is but a mere quibble that the researchers declare that "The metro-sexual, that cliché from twenty years ago, is now becoming a commercial reality," while conveniently forgetting that if there ever was a period in the entire history of the planet that young men were conspicuously not metrosexual, it'd be 1994. Bespoke. Let's just say it's happening, because it looks genius.


Male vanity is not new. Forty years ago, those Bradley Cooper in "American Hustle" perms really happened. The most obsessive yummy of 2014 would look like a sorry hobo next to a totally average Joe of the 1920s. But if retailers -- or least a few people at HSBC – have discovered anew the buying power of young men with money and no mortgages or kids to support, rock on and good luck, trendspotters. The discovery of this strange new species has already prompted CNBC to breathlessly report that these beings "could reshape the $1 trillion luxury landscape," because "Stylish young men are coming back into vogue." Oh, at last. And if you'd put your money on "creepy Internet troll" or "'Duck Dynasty' cast member" becoming the next hot thing, apparently you backed the wrong horse.

Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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