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No Sacred Cows  
Toby Young
Sunday 31st October 2004

Real men eat quiche and proudly wear pink


Diana Vreeland, the famous fashionista who edited Vogue in the 1960s, once declared that pink was the navy blue of India. Judging from my recent wanderings around London, it's recently become the navy blue of Old Bond Street, Draycott Avenue and Savile Row as well. These days, real men don't only eat quiche. They wear pink as well.

According to fashion experts, this trend originated with hip-hop artists, particularly the Harlem rapper Cam'ron Giles. In spite of his reputation as a fearsome tough guy, Giles proudly boasted a pink cell phone and a pink Range Rover. He made it acceptable for the hardest men in America to be 'pretty in pink' without jeopardizing their masculinity. His range of accessories may have been straight out of a Barbie catalogue, but woe betide anyone who dared to call him a batty boy.

More recently, it's a trend that has been popularized by Jude Law, who sports a range of bespoke pink shirts in Alfie. In the original 1966 film starring Michael Caine the central character is a classic male chauvinist pig, but in the remake he's just a slightly confused modern man with a few commitment issues. What better way to soften the character than to dress him in pink? The modern-day Alfie, cruising the Manhattan singles scene, may be a "girlie-man", to use Arnold Schwarzenegger's phrase, but that doesn't mean he isn't a ladies man.

The sudden popularity of pink is reflective of a wider trend whereby women prefer their men to be a little androgynous. It's the reason so many wives and girlfriends fantasize about their partners being visited by the team from Queer Eye For the Straight Guy. These days, women want men to be JGE--or "Just Gay Enough". Being metrosexual is more alluring than being a red-blooded heterosexual.

Twenty five years ago, most women's definition of a perfect man was Steve McQueen: hard and icey on the outside, but pink and soft in the middle. Now, that combination has been turned on its head. Today's perfect man is pink and soft on the outside, but tough and masculine underneath. I'm thinking of Tobey Maguire, Jake Gylenhaal and Orlando Bloom, as well as Jude Law.

Of course, pink doesn't work for everybody. A couple of years ago my wife and I were invited to a 'pink' fancy dress party and turned up in a couple of very outré outfits. I was dressed in a light pink corduroy suit with a pink shirt, while Caroline sported a pink book tube and a pink mini skirt. The first person to greet us at the door pointed at us and said, "Don't tell me, let me guess. Posh and Becks?"

Neither of us has ever worn pink again.

Lost For Words

Well, it happened. My worst nightmare came true. In the middle of the first night of How to Lose Friends & Alienate People, the stage play based on my book about my misadventures in Manhattan, I forgot my lines. I stood there on the stage like a deer in the headlights, not knowing what to do. A yawning chasm opened up before me, and my first impulse was to jump into it.

Luckily, the last thing the director had said to me before I went on was, "If you forget where you are in the script, don't look up and say, 'I've forgotten my lines.' Just do something--anything--until you remember them.'" So I began to pace up and down frantically, doing my best to disguise the fact that I didn't have a clue what I was supposed to be doing next. Then, miraculously, the missing lines just popped into my head and I carried on where I'd left off.

In real time, this snafu only lasted about five seconds, but it felt like an eternity. Indeed, it actually seemed longer than the rest of the play, which zipped by. I just hope the same thing doesn't happen when all the critics come in next week.

A Man of Our Times

I was very sorry to hear about the death of John Peel. What rotten luck to drop dead of a heart attack at the age of 65. It's ironic, too, because he was so youthful. When it came to popular music, his finger had remained on the pulse for 40 years. Quite an achievement when you consider that the shelf life of most Radio 1 djs is usually no longer than a pint of milk.

I vividly remember listening to him under the sheets as a 14-year-old punk rocker in 1977. I was stuck in deepest, darkest Devon, having left London the year before, and Peeley was my only lifeline to the musical world I'd left behind. He had that ability to create an instant bond with his audience. It was like listening to a friend lying in the bunk beneath you rather than a man 200 miles away in Broadcasting House. He was immensely popular, with a huge cult following, yet I felt as if he was talking directly to me.

As a dj he had perfect pitch: he was incapable of uttering a false note. He was opinionated without being dogmatic, erudite without being arrogant, down-to-earth without being anti-intellectual. He was the sort of person that made me proud to be British. That plinth in Trafalgar Square is still vacant, isn't it? We could do a lot worse than erect a statue to John Peel.

Father, Dear Father

The news that Labour is going to give dads a huge cash incentive to take a fortnight off after the birth of a child is welcome in my household. If Tony Blair is re-elected firms will be legally obliged to pay men 90% of their full salaries for two weeks. My wife is due to give birth on March 1, at which point our daughter will be 19 months old, so she'll need all the help she can get.

The problem is, as a freelance journalist I'm self-employed so I won't be eligible for this perk. Still, if I devote myself to changing nappies and cleaning up baby sick for a fortnight at least I'll have enough material for half a dozen newspaper articles, so perhaps it'll pay off in the end.

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