Nice products, shame about the name

mancaveTwo products have found their way on to my desk this week that manage to both delight an infuriate me. The first, is a rather good concealer (nice texture, colour and coverage and at £6.99 a great price) and the other is a new grooming range priding itself on its natural approach to skincare that smells great and is free of all the petrochemical industry’s natsy leftovers.

medium-shadeSo what’s my gripe? Well, for me, both products are let down by their names. Given that we now live in a positively post-metrosexual world, where using some kind of skincare (even if it’s just a face scrub) is pretty much part of most men’s lives it’s a shame that some companies still feel the need to heavily man-brand their products.

I know that blunt sign-posting is often necessary if your product is going to sit on a crowded supermarket shelf but surely Mancave can only be aimed at the ever-shrinking number of men who still think skincare is for sissies and need to be reassured that it’s still a butch –  nay, Neanderthal –  pursuit. And Mancealer is as daft a name as Guyliner, except the latter rolls off the tongue better.

I’ve personally always found the ‘man’ prefix superfluous and silly (though I still think the “For Men” tag has value for brands like Nivea, Clinique and L’Oreal who need to differentiate their men’s lines (often reformulated to suit men’s skin and its unique needs) from women’s. So come on guys, don’t spoil your perfectly good products with thoroughly daft names okay?

For more info about the Mancave grooming range see mancaveinc.com and to buy yourself a Mancealer go to manza.co.uk

Hey beauty world – the men are coming!

Just been reading a fascinating little news story in Beauty Magazine which highlights the rise in men entering the beauty industry. According to the story Simply Business, a UK business insurance provider, has seen a 17% annual increase in male-run health and beauty businesses in the last year and there’s also been an 11% rise in the number of male make-up artists and beauticians too.

Personally I think this is fantastic news. Many of the industry experts and entrepreneurs I know are male and contrary to uninformed belief, they’re not all gay either. Unfortunately, while many men have gained the utmost respect by reaching the top of their profession, others in the beauty industry are still often exposed to prejudice and snide remarks.

Hopefully, though, as more and more men enter the industry tired preconceptions about men working in the world of beauty and male grooming will fall away. It may even be time for institutions like Cosmetic Executive Women – a girls-only club for women in the beauty industry –  to thow open their doors to men. Or, maybe it’s time, as my male colleagues and I have discussed on many occasions, for the establishment of Cosmetic Executive Men too. Whatever happens, the men are definitely coming!

 

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David Beckham gives good hair

As someone who sported his own quiff many years ago (yes, there was a time when I had hair) I’m insanely jealous of the height David Beckham’s achieved with his in these pics taken by Doug Inglish for the new issue of Men’s Health. In my book, the quiff (the ultimate salon-produced penis substitute) is still the greatest male hairstyle ever and this one, styled beautifully by Ken Paves, is sublime. There’s much to envy about Beckham – the wealth, the body, the cultural influence –  but it’s his hair (that ever-so-versatile hair) that impresses me the most. Beautiful game? Beautiful mane more like.

Real men wear face masks don’t ya know?

Much has been said about the constant need for male grooming brands to ‘butch up’ their products to make them acceptable to the average bloke in the street and though we’ve come a long way, most brands still use hyper-masculine brand ambassadors to give everyone else permission to use ‘beauty’ products. If you want proof this trend is still going strong just check out the campaign for Montagne Jeunesse’s new face packs for men.

Featuring five separate masks to give skin a deep clean, tackle blackheads, perk up morning-after skin, rescue tired eyes and deal with blemishes, the masks have been ‘put through their paces’ by the Cardiff Blues Rugby Team. So clearly, if they past the locker room test they must be ok.

Ironically, of all sports, rugby always comes across as the most metrosexual one to me, with the majority of players comfortable enough in their own masculinity not to give a damn about appearing ‘girlie’.  Ex-Lion Gareth Thomas’ coming out was greeted with a chorus of  ‘so whats’ and Ben Cohen, though straight, is a champion of LGBT equality. So the use of  rugby players in campaigns like this strikes me as being both perfectly natural but surprisingly tame. Imagine the impact if the line up above had been Millwall players. And how everyone would have reacted then. Just saying.

The five masks are available from www.montagnejeunesse.com priced £1.09




The times they are a changin’…

I always think mannequins are an excellent refection of where man is at any one moment in time. After all, they’re supposed to reflect the customer or what the customer wants to be. And if you want vivid proof of how far the modern man has come, just take a look at this young chap, spotted in a shop window in Bristol. I don’t know what to say really. A touch too much blusher perhaps? Watch it with the mascara as it can end up a bit claggy?

Insider Interview: author, journalist and ‘motherfather’ of the metrosexual Mark Simpson

Few people know more about the rise of the well-groomed man than Mark Simpson. Described as ‘the world’s most perceptive writer about masculinity’ and the person credited with coining the term ‘metrosexuality’ (something that’s gained him praise and opprobrium in almost equal amounts), like me he’s lived through what amounts to a revolution in how men relate to their appearance. His lastest book Metrosexy: A 21st Century Love Story has just been released, providing me with the perfect opportunity to speak to him about how men’s interest in grooming (or beautyas ardent Simpsonistas would have it) has burgeoned over the last twenty years as well as to take a more intimate peek into his own personal regime…

GG: You and I are pretty much contemporaries and we both saw the beginnings of the grooming boom in this country. Having written my first article on male grooming back in 1985 I feel a bit like I was there at the birth and the graduation! Can you isolate one pivotal moment when taking care of their appearance suddenly became a totally acceptable pursuit for men?

MS: Well of course the youth cults of 70s Glam Rock and early 80s New Romanticism – which I believe you were pretty part of, Mr Kynaston: I’ve seen the kabuki photographic evidence – played a big role in telling men it was OK to be Prince Charming. That ridicule, in the immortal words of Adam Ant was ‘nothing to be scared of.’

But much more globally important was… Top Gun. The Tom Cruise cold-war fly-boy movie directed by Tony Scott in the style of a pop promo which came out in 1985, the year you started writing about male grooming.

After all, it’s a block-buster movie about male hair gel. Pretty much all the men in that film look fabulous, darling – even when they take their helmets off after a long, hot, sweaty dogfight. The famous volleyball sequence and long, lingering locker-room scenes also introduced a generation of young men to the delights of working out.

Despite being quite possibly The Gayest Movie Ever, Top Gun, an all-boys’ action movie, gave a generation of young straight men permission to take care over their appearance. It presented male narcissism as traditional, Republican, and patriotic. The young Tom Cruise as an All-American glamour boy.

GG: Is the rise of male grooming/beauty simply a reflection of men’s desire to be desired? Or is the availability and acceptance of grooming/beauty products driving narcissism?

MS: There’s a feedback loop between the two. On the one hand consumerism wants men to buy product – it effectively doubles the potential market for cosmetics. On the other hand… it turns out that men don’t need much persuading. Or much permission. Their desire to be desired, especially in an increasingly visual, Facebooked, webcam culture like ours, turns out to be pretty insatiable when given half a chance. So we’ve seen a kind of exponential growth in men’s interest in products that get them noticed. I mean, just a few years ago the working class orange male poseurs of ‘Geordie Shore’ would have been unthinkable, except perhaps as gay stereotypes….

GG: What’s your favourite men’s fragrance and why?

MS: To be honest, I don’t like men’s fragrances. At least on me. I like them all for about five minutes but then I get sick of them. On other men I like old stalwarts like Acqua di Gio. Even Aramis. And Jean-Paul Gaultier. Stuff like Brut or Old Spice was crap when I was a kid and is still crap, despite big recent marketing pushes. Irony doesn’t smell so good.

GG: What’s the one male grooming/beauty product you wouldn’t be without?

MS: My Phillips SensoTouch electric razor. I’m terrified of growing, even accidentally, one of those fashionable Soho beards. Wet shaving brings me out in a rash. The SensoTouch, in addition to looking like something you’d find in Darth Vader’s bathroom cabinet, is the next closest thing to a wet-shave – but with zero irritation.

GG: Ball-shaving, hair transplants, guyliner. All were once considered rather exotic but aren’t any more. Are there any taboos left in terms of male grooming/beauty?

MS: I remember that when women started having Botox injections it was said that men would never have them. And then when men started having them it was said they’ll never have them on the forehead. And now men are having them on their forehead.

It’s pretty clear that pretty much everything – with the possible exception of vajazzling – that women have used to enhance their attractiveness will eventually be taken up by men. (There is such a thing as a Pejazzle, of course, with Vajazzle.me.uk claiming 40% of customers are men. GG)

In the meantime however you see cosmetics manufacturers going to frankly camp extremes in trying to reassure the few (mostly middle aged) men who are holding out against metrosexuality that using moisturiser or deodorant is a really, really masculine, utterly butch thing to do. And not at all gay. Which is very good news for Gerard Butler and Eric Cantona’s agents.

GG: Describe your own morning grooming/beauty routine.

MS: It’s less a grooming routine these days – more damage limitation exercise. I rise and stumble into the shower. Where I remain for as long as I possibly can. I use Nizoral shampoo because I’m balding and studies suggest it can help slow that process. I use a buff-puff even though it makes me feel vaguely ridiculous because I’ve found it best for getting rid of dead skin, which I have a lot of, and unclogging pores, which I also have a lot of. Then I shave with my electric razor. I don’t use moisturiser, because I have rosacea, which gives you a big red face unless you use a prescription gel which I apply after my shave.

GG: How manscaped are you on a scale of 1 – 10?

MS: Probably a 9-10. I’m very Graeco-Roman in regard to body hair. Shave it off, I say. Show off the musculature – and add an inch where it counts. But also, in the words of the ‘YMCA’ song, get yourself clean. Which I don’t think you can do too easily if you’re hairy. In fact, I think they should bring back strigils, the curved metal scrapers Romans had their slaves use on them in their bath-houses.

GG: Make up for men has pretty much been a flop in commercial terms with many companies who launched products having since discontinued them. Why do you think this is when things like manscaping and even eyebrow shaping have taken off?

MS: Oh, I suspect male make-up will make a comeback in the near future. I hear it’s already been a success in the Asian market. After all, make-up is just another, more ‘in-yer-face’ form of cosmetics – and even good old Gillette shaving gel is choc full of cosmetics these days.

The problem though for men’s make-up and the reason why most men in the West are still holding out against it is that it isn’t something you can deny. Most other male cosmetics come with the alibi that no, you haven’t fake-baked you’ve just been working in the garden a lot….

The problem for men is that while they are increasingly expected to and indeed want to look good, unlike women they often feel they have to go about it semi-secretly. They need to be beautiful but they should also feel slightly ashamed about it. There’s a double standard about male beauty now. Men are expected to look fabulous, but pretend that they haven’t tried ‘too hard’. Make-up is currently defined as ‘trying too hard’.

On the other hand, Russell Brand gets away with it all the time.

GG: Many commentators complain that men are ‘becoming more like women’ with their grooming/beauty regimes. What would you say to this?

MS: I think it’s more a case of men no longer tying one hand behind their backs when it comes to the increasingly important business – both in private and public life – of looking good. Happily married Lord Sugar, for example, sometimes seems to display a weakness for an attractive, nicely turned-out male candidate. And of course, more and more bosses are female.

Instead of men becoming ‘more like women’ what we’re seeing is men being less inhibited in their behaviour by worries about what’s ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’, ‘gay’ and ‘straight’. In much the same way that women have been since the feminist revolution of the 1970s. Likewise, ‘male beauty’ is no longer a completely verboten conjugation that has to always be euphemised with ‘male grooming’.

Basically it’s the end of the Victorian division of bedroom and bathroom labour that persisted for most of the 20th Century. Men want to be beautiful and sensual too now. And no one, even bitchy commentators, is going to stop them.

GG: Finally, who are your top three best-groomed men?

MS: David Beckham (now that he has dropped that Das Boot beard). Andrej Pejic. And my dad.

metrosexy is out now on Kindle. For more info click here.

For more information on Mark go to www.marksimpson.com. You can follow Mark  on Twitter @marksimpsonist

* Note: I don’t have a problem with the term ‘male beauty’ at all but do believe that had ‘male grooming’ been called ‘male beauty’ all these years the uptake would have been much, much slower. I’ve spent a decade at the coal face of the industry, encouraging men – in a very practical way – to take an interest in their appearance and whilst I know male ‘grooming’ is an artificial construct to give beauty a butch face I also know it has allowed metrosexuality to flourish in a way male ‘beauty’ never would have. It may be beauty by the back door but that’s fine by me. As long as men’s interest in their appearance continues I don’t care!  GG

Insider Interview – Barry Alford, co-founder of Alford & Hoff

AlfordHoffBarry Alford, co-founder of cult US grooming brand Alford & Hoff isn’t just someone who’s clearly managed to avoid the ugly stick, he’s also a man who could teach our jaded politicians a thing or two about conviction. His enthusiasm for the Alford & Hoff luxury skincare brand is truly infectious, though as an ex-athlete  there is no way you’d want to argue with him anyway. A big guy physically, he has equally big ambitions for the brand and so I was thrilled to eek out a few insights from him for this week’s insider interview…

 

GG: What’s men’s biggest mistake when it comes to grooming?

BA: Education. Typically, most men only understand the basics. Washing your face and shaving alone is not enough to fight off the harsh affects of the environment and ultimately aging. Showing signs of aging is becoming a major concern among business professionals in any field as they are realizing that they need every little tool to compete and that includes looking your best. Men must incorporate a healthy, daily grooming regimen into their busy schedules and stay consistent with it. They need to learn more than the basics. Men must understand how to “treat” their skin. This includes learning how to exfoliate and when. Also, what nutrients are good for the skin and why. What products work well together etc.

GG: 
What are your all-time  favourite fragrances?

BA: I have three. 1. Creed – Millesime Imperial. Beautiful fragrance from the opening thru the bottom notes. Puts me in a good mood.. 2. Gaultier’s Le Male –  very interesting for its time. First fragrance to introduce oriental spices with vanilla infusions. 3. Tom Ford – fragrances from the pachuli collection and black orchid. Tom Ford takes chances in his fragrances and are his personality. I like his taste.

productlineupGG:
 Biggest change in male grooming in the last five years?

BA: The biggest change in male grooming is that the word “metrosexual” has finally gone away. Men do not need a term to take care of themselves. I think male grooming is out in the open and it is accepted that men take care of their skin. Many big companies have since developed products specifically for men and are starting to engineer the products products to specifically have anti-aging benefits. Now the education must start because the customer is now there that wasn’t there before.

GG:
 Desert island grooming product? 

BA: 
Probably a nutrient-packed super charged serum with a nice fragrance and finished off with a light SPF. This way I could get a lot in one. A serum that could hydrate the skin…serve as an eye treatment…protect the skin and have a nice scent but not too strong. Is this possible!?

GG: Next big thing in male grooming?

BA: I think eventually everything that is offered in women’s beauty products will also be offered in the men’s category as well. Self tanners…make-up lines, high tech skin treatment…As a result we will probably see the shelf space in department stores and perfumeries consist of more men’s lines with a broader offering. We are already starting to see the shift now…

GG: 
How influential is the internet when it comes to male grooming?

BA: 
The internet is huge for men’s grooming. One thing we won’t change about most men is that they do not like to shop. The internet offers a great tool for men to educate themselves and buy product in the comfort of their own home. The “macho” man who uses products but too proud to admit is a big advocate of this tool. Some men do not like to go into the store and ask question about grooming? The internet is a great source to learn, read blogs about the latest grooming trends, purchase products etc.

Alford & Hoff is exclusively available at Space NK. The Grooming Guru’s favourite product from the range is Microdermabrasion

Oh, and look out for their own – rather fine – signature fragrance later in the year.

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