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Why Metrosexuals and Quirkyalones won't be the next big fling.

Byline: Carolyn Hitt

SPARE us the Next Big Thing. As sure as the first week of January is marked by a sad surfeit of coffee creams in the dregs of the Quality Street tin, so we have to endure the endless lists of What's Hot and What's Not for 2004.

I used to think I didn't have a proper job until I read about 'leading edge trend analysts'. These are the people who decide yellow is the new black. The precise source of their predictive powers is a mystery. Methods of research seem to consist largely of following Japanese teenagers around or asking inner city delinquents where they bought their trainers.

We are then instructed what we will be buying, wearing, eating and watching for the next 12 months. Whatever the verdict you can guarantee that the Next Big Thing in fashion will be something you wore first time around in your late teens (and it didn't suit you then either when gravity played no part in your bodily appearance). The Next Big Thing in interior design will signal complete vandalism of last year's decorative scheme. Style gurus who advocate the return of wallpaper and carpet are evil sadists who know the nation has spent the past five years plastering walls and laying wooden floors. And, most depressingly of all, the Next Big People will be so much younger than you, they're practically foetuses.

If you think the zeitgeist was a New Romantic band from Dortmund, then the annual trend forecast will not bother you. But the pressure to have one's pinkie on the pulse of popular culture has never been more intense. I have spent Christmas feel- ing a social outcast for the following reasons: couldn't name the Pop Idol finalists (but did know one of them was a bit plump); never watched The Office so couldn't engage in 90% of conversations on Christmas telly, and when did the dis- turbing Cult of Shane Ritchie begin? Never mind. Soon they'll all be so last year.

Pressure to conform to fashionistas' diktats is easier to resist. One analyst is pushing a particularly alarming trend for this year, 'Rockabilly is big for 2004,' she says. 'Think early Roxy Music and Stray Cats. Flat tops will replace mullets - we've taken the mullet as far as it can go.' Taken the mullet as far as we can go? This woman has obviously never been to Rhyl. And we're talking original-surviving- mullet rather than retro-chic-ironic-mullet.

It's not all bad news. The boundaries of single life will be re-drawn in 2004. Forget the stereotype of lovelorn females who live in fear of dying alone surrounded by a mewling cat and a half-eaten Tesco Finest Meal For One. The buzz word is now Quirkyalone. This is the title of a new book by Sasha Cagen who urges women to, 'Renounce the blind date, resist the tyranny of coupledom, reject this year's husband-luring work, The Program, and anything else that encourages the idea that you should abandon all your free time in panicky pursuit of a relationship.'

Ms Cagen's reckons that 'the era of the pitied single is out', adding that she is 'certainly not anti-love, and even more vehemently not anti-sex', but merely 'anti-dull relationships. It's about respecting yourself despite the onslaught of subtle and not-so-subtle messages that there's something wrong with you if you're not dating.'

This is just as well as many single men in 2004 may be too busy being Metrosexuals to bother with Quirkyalone women. Being Metrosexual has nothing to do with kinky behaviour on underground railways. It's about men getting in touch with their feminine side without being considered gay. According to forecasters Euro RSCG Worldwide, metrosexuality is one of the top ten trends of 2004, 'We'll see more pandering to the metrosexual population, including publication of gentlemen's guides, more spa facilities at high-end sports clubs, and richer, more luxurious fabrics and bedding aimed at the male market.' This wussiness is already filtering through to Wales. There's a new range of blackhead-extracting nose strips for men in the Canton branch of Boots this week.

Other 'trend-sightings' contained within 'Year in Prospect: 2004' include 'Going Local'. Neighbours will entertain neighbours to home-cooked meals of friendship apparently. And the world will become more aware of pet obesity. So if you really want to be with it in 2004, wear yellow, get a flat-top, inflict a stew on next door, be a Quirkyalone or a Metrosexual and put your podgy puss on the Catkins Diet. Or you could forget the Next Big Thing and just carry on Doing Your Own Thing.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 5, 2004
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