Queer Guy for the Alpha I

Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:

I’ve been amused in recent years to see terms and ideas seemingly derived from the “Game” blogosphere turning up in respectable outlets. The rise of the word “alpha” has been particularly interesting. Yes, I know that “alpha male” is not a new term, but its use outside of nature shows, and especially within a marketing context, strikes me as being pretty new. Commercials which use the term seem to be telling guys that, if they buy X product, they will instantly cast off the chains of betadom and become irresistible to women, just like when they use Axe Body Spray.

I see that Dockers has a whole line of pants branded as “alpha,” though the logo has the last “a” in parentheses for some unfathomable reason. Here’s a commercial:

Despite the apparent attempt to appeal to regular joes, the commercial strikes me as being kind of, well, gay. I don’t know if it’s the close-up crotch and butt shots or the ridiculous man-Uggs that the model is wearing, but there’s definitely a faux-hetero vibe about the whole thing, as though it was made by gay dudes trying their best to think straight. I also love the use of the term “rugged fit.” Can anyone explain to me what that’s supposed to mean? Because it sounds like a promise to make my balls feel like they’re encased in gravel or something. (Now THAT might have interesting possibilities . . .)

After experiencing this reaction to the commercial, I clicked around Youtube in search of some additional advertising for the brand. I was relieved to find this second commercial, which seems to confirm my take. Here it is:

The host of the spot is someone named Sean from Dockers, but I’ll simply call him Mr. Gay. Listen, I don’t want to hear any complaints about my jumping to conclusions, stereotyping, etc. You don’t need to have Jedi-level gaydar to know that Sean is most likely not batting for Team Hetero. Let’s all agree to pretend it’s okay to see what’s in front of us for a few minutes, okay? Anyway, Mr. Gay wastes no time in telling us that he’s in San Francisco with a few buddies to talk about “our newest pant, the Alpha Khaki.” Hey, if going to Frisco to talk over fashion with your pals isn’t alpha, what is?

Each of the straight-seeming dudes at this event is on his way out for the night, and each happily submits his fashion choices to Mr. Gay for approval. Thankfully, Mr. Gay is a pretty easy grader — he praises them, then sends each of them off with a chirpy, “Good luck tonight!” At this, the khaki wearers seem as pleased as teacher’s pets.

Maybe it’s a good idea for straight guys to ask gay guys to vet their wardrobes. The less slovenly straights there are out there, the better, right? But is it accurate to portray gays as holding the keys to alphadom and female attraction? That was the basic premise of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” and though I enjoyed that show, I never bought into the central idea. The cast always seemed intent on transforming the show’s subjects into either their wives’ best friends or appeasing pushovers. And while there are all sorts of successful relationships out there, that seemed like a potentially problematic strategy to me. Do most wives want their husband to be more like their gay best friend? Or do they want him to be more like Sean fucking Connery?

Hey, where relationship advice for dudes is concerned, I’ve always found blogger Dave from Hawaii to be pretty good. He’s more realistic than the “Queer Eye” guys (he’s also less gay), and he frames the issues in a way that dopey straight dudes can understand. His blog can be found here.

And yet these Dockers commercials still confuse me. I have two theories:

1) That the folks in control of advertising at Dockers are predominantly gay, and this is their honest (though somewhat weird) attempt to appeal to straight guys.

2) That it’s as “The Simpsons” predicted back in the ’90s in the episode in which Homer takes Bart to a steel mill in order to teach him about manliness. If you haven’t seen the episode, you can watch its punchline below. To paraphrase Homer, maybe the whole world has simply gone gay.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to get me some Alpha Khakis. And some gravel for my balls.

About Fabrizio del Wrongo

Recovering liberal arts major. Unrepentant movie nut. Aspiring boozehound.
This entry was posted in Personal reflections, Sex, Television, Women men and fashion and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Queer Guy for the Alpha I

  1. Toddy Cat says:

    “That the folks in control of advertising at Dockers are predominantly gay, and this is their honest (though somewhat weird) attempt to appeal to straight guys.”

    I’d guess the above is close to the truth, but I find almost all modern comercials to be so weird, I can’t really say. I’m just an old married guy and no sort of a PUA, but my take would be – if you’re relying on a gay guy to judge how you look in your Dockers, you’re not alpha.


    • Fabrizio del Wrongo says:

      I think it’s okay advice to take some style tips from gay dudes. I mean, why not? What I think is weird about the commercial is the attempt to frame the product as being, simultaneously, “alpha” and gay-approved. It’s kind of discombobulating. It’s also a funny bait and switch. Dockers is luring guys in with the word “alpha,” then giving them a gayish pitch. It’s a lot like Homer taking Bart to the steel mill in order to teach him traditional manliness…and discovering everyone working there is gay.

      BTW, I’m using “alpha” here in the Roissy sense, not as a synonym for “capable” or “successful.”


  2. Scott says:

    I finally figured out what these trousers remind me of…old-timey outdoorsman pants. Those are even a mod take-off on lace-up hunting boots and how hunters tend to wear them (also, quasi-military.)


  3. Maule Driver says:

    I’m not very conversant on Roissy, game, alpha, etc. And I think of Dockers as a jeans alternative for the casual workplace.
    But if you put a bunch of <40yo middle class hetero couples and singles in a room for a social function, you quickly discover that the women tend to be attractive and often hot (think MILF) and most of the guys seem to have given up trying to attract the opposite sex, at least with their dress and grooming.
    On the other hand, the stereotypical young gay guy dresses better and is more carefully put together because he is stereotypically, always on the hunt. So if straight guys want to dress like they are on the hunt, who better to get advice from? I always thought that was the logic behind "Queer Eye" and this may just be a variation.

    If a man rejects the pitch, are they rejecting it's gayness or are they rejecting the concept of dressing to be attractive and hot?


    • Fabrizio del Wrongo says:

      Could be that some guys see the commercials and think, “Hey, these gay guys know what they’re talking about, and they’ll help get me women.” But I bet the typical guy responds more positively to the Axe ad I linked to in the opening paragraph.

      Not that I think either response is more correct than the other, mind you. I’m just guessing that a good number of guys find these Dockers spots to be sort of weird and funny.


    • Toddy Cat says:

      I can only speak for myself and my friends when we were that age, but the last thing we wanted to look like was gays, and if a gay guy was pitching something or admired something we would have avoided it like the plague. Not saying that’s right, that’s just how young guys were. Maybe that’s changed, but the Dockers ad shown above would have been very ineffective on my younger self and friends. Yes, we wanted to look sharp, but more like Joe Jackson or Elvis Costello or Billy Squier or, for the more traditional among us, James Bond.


  4. agnostic says:

    “That the folks in control of advertising at Dockers are predominantly gay, and this is their honest (though somewhat weird) attempt to appeal to straight guys.”

    Yes, the defining characteristic of gay males is their infantilization compared to normal males. Just physiologically, they’re shorter, lighter, and have freakishly narrow boy-hips. They animate their already boyish faces by always raising their eyebrows and leaving their mouth open in one way or another, as though in child-like wonder at new things. And their social, emotional, and moral juvenility mirrors the outward.

    So, when they do try to appeal to straight men, they can’t help but do it through a kind of child’s game of playing dress-up. It’s not like if you tried to dress like someone from a different tribe, where you might get it right or wrong, depending on how keen of an eye you have. It’s specifically a trying-too-hard caricature, stemming from good but inept intentions rather than dominance (as straight men might show by dressing in blackface). Their ability to empathize (distinct from sympathizing) just is not as developed or mature as it is in a normal male.


  5. agnostic says:

    “The cast always seemed intent on transforming the show’s subjects into either their wives’ best friends or appeasing pushovers. . . Do most wives want their husband to be more like their gay best friend?”

    The makeover was like one great big infantilizing anti-rite of passage, transforming a grown-up if schlubby male and into a helpless child. Taking him for his first haircut and his first trip to the department store, teaching him to ape the instructor’s gestures of politeness and thoughtfulness, and showing him how to cook on the dangerous stove-top like a big boy. For the great reveal to the gf or wife at the end, it was like her seven year-old son or little kid brother had shown up for a long-awaited family reunion.

    This bizarre ritual stems from gays’ relationships with their close fag hag friends, and projecting that cluelessly onto what the straight man should aim for. The woman always plays an older-sisterly or even maternal role to the helpless, childish gay bff. You ever notice how, unlike normal male-female friendships, a fag hag might be quite older than her gay bff? They spontaneously use maternal or nurturing imagery to describe how they feel toward their gay friends — fiercely protective, like the mama bear toward her defenseless cubbies.


  6. Handle says:

    Don’t be afraid to learn from the gays. It’s always helpful to ask advice from amateur experts who have built up that expertise through thousands of hours of personal interest, and gays adore thinking about male fashion. Then again, gay fashion sense for men is all about flashy first-impressions (for which there is obviously a large market), but not stable style and elegance. For that, I’d highly recommend Masculine Style.


  7. anon says:

    Slightly OT, but huge pet peeve of mine: referring to pants in the singular as “pant”. Unless you’re cutting the pants in half down the middle and selling them one leg at a time, they are not a “pant”; they are a pair of pants – yes, one singular item is plural. PANTS. Not pant. I would think that our fashion conscious gays would know something about the history of clothing and fashion, but apparently not.


  8. This ad is marketed specifically for the gay market, so all you heteros out there should just relax. This ad is not for you. What makes you think that Dockers is trying to sneak one by you? It is overt and proud of it. You guys!!!


    • Fabrizio del Wrongo says:

      The piece is a a playful take on what seem like mixed messages in the ads, as well as on the general gayness of contemporary culture, not an expression of outrage at Dockers trying “to sneak one by” anyone. Also, while you might be right that the gay message is “overt” and obviously aimed at gays, I’m not sure why you’re so positive about it. Do you have inside information on this? Maybe I’m not the best judge, but the non-host guys in the second ad do not seem intended to read as gay. Remember, this is not real life where it can sometimes be hard to tell who is gay and who is not. It’s a commercial. If Dockers wanted those guys to read as gay, they would have made them gayish, as they did with the host. All in all, I think my take — that it’s a “Queer Eye” type of situation wherein a gay guy is providing style advice to straight guys — is a better explanation of what is going on.


      • Maule Driver says:

        I’d have to agree that this ad is aimed at the broader straight market using the “Queer Eye” template.

        Going back to the comparison with the Axe commercials, I’d have to say that the Axe stuff seems aimed at the adolescent/teen segment. Thirty-somes+ might have a hard time taking the over the top scents and the pitch seriously. The “Queer Eye” approach is somehow more serious and appealing to some.

        Of course, I never miss an episode of Fashion Police so what do I know.


  9. I agree with your take on the commercial,but I wonder when we are going to see mainstream ads for the gay market that move beyond the Queer Eye template you have identified.

    I like this piece and understand your analysis. At best, this ad will remain a sort of compromise for gay shoppers, who also appreciate advice on how to look good. Of course, is there anyone who DOESN’T need advice on how to look good in a pair of (ugh) Dockers?


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