Shopping & Design: Nature may abhor a vacuum - but what about blokes?

There's a whole new generation of ultra-designed vacuum cleaners on the market. The big question is, which ones are most likely to get grown men sucking the carpet?

In the Seventies, men would rather have shaved the floorboards with an industrial sander than given it a quick once over with a vacuum cleaner. Freddie Mercury apart (who famously gave a wielded a vacuum while in drag on the promo video for "I Want To Break Free"), the only Hoovering self-obsessed Eighties man contemplated was along a line of coke. And Nineties man - well, we just don't do spring cleaning. Build some shelves and you can extract years of smug self-satisfaction from your accomplishment. The feel-good factor from regularly cleaning a house from top to bottom, though, has always seemed minimal.

The times, though, are a changing. Dirt is about to become the national neurosis. Having resculpted our homes into MDF homages to Changing Rooms, and ditched 90 per cent of our possessions in manic attacks of feng shui, what will there be left to do in the aftermath of the New Year Big Bang other than contemplate our navel fluff and the hairy rhinoceros's furballs blowing like ragged tumbleweed across the hardwood flooring?

If you need any evidence to back up this theory that the 21st century will herald a new age when men get off their arses and do some housework, just check out the technology. Vacuum cleaners have become post-modern art, Top Gear and design icons all rolled into one. Jeff Koons stuck a couple of Vaxs under glass and called it art. Samsung invited Porsche to give their vac design a shake up. And Dyson single-handedly reinvented the cleaner as a cross between a rocket engine and the Pompidou Centre. Nicky Wire of the Manic Street Preachers even bought three of them. What more proof could you want?

SUKKA PUNCH

Name: VAX Sukka

Price: pounds 180

Stockists: 0500 112 113

Description: This robust industrial powerhouse is the Dr Marten of the vacuum-cleaning world. As well as doing the usual Hoovering, the Sukka can be used to shampoo carpets and suck up liquid spillages (although the effort involved in taking out the bag to do this means you'll probably never get around to utilising the function, unless someone throws up on your Axminster). This one comes in designer green and yellow rather than the normal blue and orange. And no, they're not the ones with the stupid cartoon faces on them.

Suitable for: People who like wearing utility clothes. Couples that eat in Belgo.

Style: KKKK

Anything else worth recommending?

Bosch's Ultra 13 (0870 908 7070, pounds 199), if you prefer something with a label that fits in with your power tools rather than your microwave.

MY OTHER CLEANER'S A PORSCHE

Name: Samsung TC-9015VP

Price: pounds 149.99

Stockists: 0800 521 652

Description: On first impression, the bright yellow TC-9015VP looks similar to many other standard cylinder machines. On closer inspection, however, you can see the subtle way in which Porsche have redrawn the blueprint. The body is streamlined like the bonnet of a Formula One car, and under the casing lurk compartments for neat tools, the dust bag and a 1500-watt engine that positively purrs. The handle doubles as a shock-absorbing roll-bar while the tube and nozzle fit together like something Edward Fox would have used in Day of the Jackal.

Suitable for: Goldeneye fans and Volvo drivers who secretly aspire to doing 0-60mph in six seconds.

Style: KKK

Anything else worth recommending? Samsung's TC-9014V (pounds 99.99) if you want it in red, or the Samsung VC6713H (pounds 79.99) should you prefer something that looks as if it was modelled on a creature from Alien.

POST-MILLENNIUM HOMESUCK BLOWS

Name: Millenea Apollo 1

Price: pounds 279.

Stockists: 0870 908 7070.

Description: Have you seen Wallace & Gromit's spaceship? This machine looks just like that, only made out of polished aluminium instead of bright orange Plasticine (though the black plastic wheels rather diminish the overall effect). Stylish in an East German car factory kind of way (despite being a true Brit), this machine also boasts "second generation" technology, in that it has a 10.5-litre dust pod rather than a bag.

Suitable for: stainless-steel fetishists who live in loft apartments.

Style: KKK

Anything else worth recommending? AEG's Vampyr Croma (pounds 150, 01582 588 397), if you dig the polished chrome "look".

EVERYTHING YOU HAVE MUST GO

Name: Dyson DC02 Clear

Price: pounds 220

Stockists: 0870 527 5104

Description: Imagine R2D2 redesigned by Apple's iMac team. You can see Dyson's trademark turbine through the outer casing of the DC02 Clear, which works without a dust bag to ensure maximum airflow efficiency (downside - spilling dust everywhere when trying to empty it). Some people find that Dysons lack punch, although this has 1200 watts under the hood. Before getting dirty (and it's tempting to just look at it rather than use it) the DC02 looks fabulous, its azure-blue parts glowing as if they're under neon nightclub striplights. But it's also practical. Unlike its big brothers, this sits happily on the stairs, and has a 2-metre flexible hose for reaching those cobwebs on the picture rail.

Suitable for: clubbers and die-hard Star Wars fans.

Style: KKKK

Anything else worth recommending? Dyson's 700-watt, upright DCO3 Clear (pounds 280), if you prefer a more traditional upright, although according to tests carried out by the Good Housekeeping Institute, it's neither as efficient nor as versatile.

Clockwise from top left: Vax Sukka, pounds 180; Millenea Apollo 1, pounds 279; AEG Vampyr Croma, pounds 150; Dyson DC02 Clear, pounds 220; Samsung TC-9015VP, pounds 149.99

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