Wednesday, 9 May 2012

One Direction: The boy band it's okay for men to like?

I'd like to admit something; I'm not too savvy with the whole "being a man" thing. I don't really understand masculinity and I don't subscribe to it. Though I do know one thing, if there is a "dos and don'ts" list for machoism, and who's to say there's not, the adulation of boy bands is near the top of the "don'ts" list. It's akin to being a member of the Klu-Klux-Klan and listening to N.W.A. Boy bands are the preserve of females and any man to breach this sacred code is without question homosexual. Though the times they are a' changin'.
And in One Direction, we have a boy band who are beginning to bridge the gender barrier. (Well relatively speaking I mean, their fanbase is still 99% female but do read on). 

What largely helps with One Direction's male appeal is their accessibility. Boys see One Direction as bona fide lads. One Direction are portrayed by the scribes in the gossip columns as red-blooded, bed-hopping, adult-copping immature yet loveable hedonists. They're seen as almost normal, just a coterie of lads who happen to be in the biggest boyband in the world. Every boy band in the world long for this image but very, very few actually succeed in attaining it. Their characters and personalities don't come across as extensively polished or excruciatingly rehearsed. 

A befitting example of their normality was their appearance on The Late Late Show last November. They made jokes about alcohol, underage drinking, sexual innuendos and when they were given a replica dolls of themselves they proceeded to tear the clothes off the figurines and fix them into uncompromising positions. They came across as the kind of boys you could imagine drawing phalluses on pencil cases and adding the affix "that's what she said" to the end of a mildly sexually implicit sentence. They came across, as well, a bit laddish. This is atypical of boy bands as most are neat, mannerly androids who wouldn't dare make a joke related to sex for fear of alienating their fanbase.

You could, for instance, imagine yourself on a night out with One Direction. You could bring them down the pub and discuss manly things like Roy Hodgson's appointment as England boss and the soaring price of alcohol with them and they'd be able to converse proficiently about said topics. Could you imagine bringing Justin Bieber down the local with you? It'd be like bringing Paris Hilton to the Castleisland Mart. He'd just keep yapping on about 'destiny' and 'dreams' and other nonsensical, meaningless American concepts (I'm aware he's Canadian, shut up). 

Indeed, One Direction's prodigious influence on young male culture has become almost ubiquitous. Take the wearing of chinos for instance. Now One Direction are certainly no chino pioneers, they were not the first celebrities to don the twill fabric breeches, but they certainly popularised them. When One Direction first impinged on the public consciousness, on the X Factor, they were usually seen enrobed in baggy, loose fitting jeans that were tucked neatly into a pair of gaudy high-tops. But ever since they have broken away from Cowell's emporium for broken kids they've become noted connoisseurs of the chinos. 

Take the video for What Makes You Beautiful for instance. All five members of the band are in their best pair of chinos. And even in public and at concerts, One Direction work the chinos. And ever since the influential boy band have selected chinos as part of their regular attire, teenage boys have plundered stores in their droves for the lustrous, twill britches. No I'm not saying there is a definite correlation between One Direction wearing chinos and half of the male-teen population wearing chinos but it has to more than coincidental.

Of course, One Direction are still a boy band and even if they were to wake up in a sand dune in Santa Ponsa with nothing on them but a dickie bow and a smile after a particularly raucous night of booze and partying they would still be seen as a bit soft, a relatively acceptable collection of pretty boys; but still a collection of pretty boys.

While that point rings true, they are still seen as a bit, well, metrosexual, one incident, well it was more like an accumulation of incidents, helped cement their place as, if not the cool boy band that men should like, a boy band that men are permitted to approve of. I am of course talking about Harry Styles copping off with that ol' lass. Or, in more eloquent English, his brief sexual dalliance with the considerably older TV presenter Caroline Flack.

Now this relationship was not well-received by the British Press, or adults over the age of 30, who could not see why a 33-year-old woman would even entertain the idea of courting a 17-year-old boy or even large swathes of Directioners, who are obviously going to be averse to any woman romantically related to any of the One Direction crew. But boys approved of it. Boys thought Harry was a "legend" and a "pure lad" for "pulling" an extremely attractive woman almost twice his age. He was living the fantasy of many a 17-year-old; engaging in sexual relations with a "mature" woman. This brief relationship helped One Direction shed any of their supposed innocence and exposed them fully as red-blooded, sex-thirsty devils. Like all other 17-year-old boys.  

Now don't go thinking that all boys love One Direction and that they are the 21st century's answer to The Who with their hell-raising ways. They don't and they're not. But One Direction is a band that it has become mildly acceptable for men to like. Mildly. Obviously some men would be aghast at such a proposition. Now whether this is down to their affability and laddishness or whether it's down to a different society in which the definition of masculinity is being rewritten, that's up to you. But a change is happening. 

1 comment:

  1. I think it is fine, but please omit the screaming fest as only girls do that stuff. Loving their chinos!
    what are chinos