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'Manly' gets a makeover

Men now have a wider range of masculine models - from sensitive to he-man

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What a time to be a man. No matter what lifestyle a guy wants to publicly embrace - rugged or dandyish - he can. Military men and firefighters are in vogue, thanks to the war on terror, but all the talk about metrosexuals in recent months is adding another dimension to masculinity in American culture.

The idea of straight urbanites who like to moisturize and wear designer clothes, à la TV's "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," is spreading beyond cities like New York and Seattle to the plains of Oklahoma, where designer jeans are rivaling trucker hats as a fashion accessory for guys on college campuses.

The metrosexual trend is one of a number of current cultural changes that are prompting views of masculinity to evolve. These changes are also heating up the debate over what "being a man" should entail. Issues such as greater acceptance of gay culture and more focus on men's bodies (think facials for men) are converging with existing cultural changes such as more equality between the sexes. The result is more choices - and confusion - for men.

"The definition within the mainstream of what is normal and assumed to be true is changing," says Michael Goldberg, associate professor of American studies at the University of Washington at Bothell.

Last month, for instance, Stuff, a men's magazine, reported that more straight guys are dancing together when they go out to clubs in Manhattan. And the metrosexual trend is being used to sell men everything from grooming products to jewelry. (A new magazine, Cargo, was launched last month, targeting men who like to spend.)

Some men think metrosexuality has little to do with masculinity - only capitalism. For others, especially some heterosexual men whose interest in their appearance often has made people wonder if they are gay, it's a chance to fit in more.

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