Allies or enemies? Harry’s unveil results of new study for Pride 2018

If you’re a straight man reading this it’s probably hard for you to imagine what being a gay man actually feels like. I’m not talking about what it feels like to be intimate with another man (a study conducted by the University of Quebec found that nearly half of all men have had same-sex fantasies so that’s unlikely to be entirely beyond your comprehension) but what it feels like to be treated, often on a daily basis, as though you are a freak, an outsider or a defective; to be bullied at school for a sexuality you probably haven’t come to terms with yourself; to be discriminated against, shamed or embarrassed in the workplace and threatened in the street for the way you walk, talk or carry a bag. Or to live in fear of publicly showing affection for the person you love just in case it results in an unscheduled visit to A&E. It’s probably hard for you to imagine having to select what clothes you wear for a night out based on how likely they are to trigger a homophobic attack. (A gay London barrister lost four front teeth last year simply for wearing bright orange brogues so that’s always a consideration.)

These things, though, are still the daily experience of many LGBTQ people across the world – and not just in countries famous for their intolerance towards the LGBTQ community like Russia, Jamaica and Iran – but in the U.S. and U.K. too. Yes, huge advances have been made in terms of LGBTQ rights in recent years (marriage equality is the most obvious example) but there’s still much work to be done, not just in terms of building upon hard-fought-for rights but, as politics becomes increasingly polarised, to ensure that those rights aren’t reversed by retrograde legislation or executive order.

It’s why ‘straight allies’ – heterosexuals who actively support the LGBTQ community – are crucial because that work can’t be done by LGBTQ people alone. Minorities have always needed the support of majorities in order to flourish. It’s an uncomfortable truth to many in the LGBTQ community, but it’s a truth nonetheless. And before you ask why you should bother offering support, bear in mind that it’s actually to everyone’s benefit. In my experience, the best and most prosperous societies tend to be those that harness the unique skills, talents and life experiences of all their members, embracing and utilising them for the good of everyone.

To discover the state of straight ally-dom in the U.K. grooming brand Harry’s commissioned pollsters Ipsos/MORI to survey over 2,000 British 16-75 year olds as part of their Pride campaign for 2018. Dubbed the ‘Proud Allies’ study once the data came in, it aimed to examine the relationship between the straight and LGBTQ communities and to explore what it means to be a straight ally in 2018. A slew of surveys appear around Pride ever year, focusing on the LGBTQ experience, but the Harry’s survey takes a different approach, looking at things from a different angle. And interesting reading it makes too.

In broad terms, the research reveals a majority of heterosexuals have embraced the idea of same-sex marriage, are unfazed by the prospect of a child coming out to them and are ready to leap to LGBTQ people’s defence in the face of homophobia in the street. A significant number even said they’d happily attend a Pride event if asked.

And although the news may sometimes seem full of stories about homophobia, prejudice and inequality the results of the survey offer a slight glimmer of hope and a more positive and optimistic view of straight people’s relationship with the LGBTQ community, with the vast majority of people already ‘instinctive allies’.

Especially encouraging was the response to a question about how people would react if a child came out to them. Coming out is never easy for an LGBTQ child – fear of a negative reaction often delays the decision and causes significant psychological pain – but encouragingly only 1 in 10 straight people said they’d be ‘disappointed’ if their child came out to them. One in five said they’d feel ‘trusted’ to be told, 18% say they’d be ‘proud’ and a similar amount said they’d actually be ‘happy’. Thankfully, and in a sign of how attitudes are changing, the least common reaction was ‘disgusted’ – a response expressed by just 2% of people. It’s often difficult for people to comprehend how any parent could actually be disgusted by their child’s sexuality but as any LGBTQ teenager who’s been thrown out of the family home because of their sexuality knows, it’s a response that’s all too real, even in 2018.

Also encouraging were straight people’s reactions to homophobia. A whopping 79% of people said they’d do something if they saw a member of he LGBTQ community being verbally abused in the street because of their sexuality, with over half saying they’d intervene directly to stop an attack. If true (and bear in mind with surveys there’s sometimes a gap between what people say they’d do and what they’d actually do) that’s pretty much ally-dom in action.

Of course, there’s still progress to be made. Although the study revealed that over 80% of straight people felt comfortable around lesbians and gays, slightly less were comfortable around bisexuals and the figure dropped significantly, to just 63%, when it came to transgender members of the community. The very fact that the survey included a question about feeling ‘comfortable’ around LGBTQ people at all is an indicator of quite how much work remains to be done.

What was also noticeable from the study was the gender divide. Although men do score pretty highly when it comes to supporting the LGBTQ community, women are still more likely to know someone who is LGBTQ; more likely to attend a Pride event if asked; more likely to support straight ally schemes in the workplace and more likely to respond positively to a child coming out as LGBT than men.

Education remains an issue too. Right across the board the survey revealed that the better the education the better the acceptance of LGBTQ people, echoing a controversial Australian study by the University of Queensland which highlighted a link between cognitive ability and attitudes towards LGBTQ people. Respondents with education to A-level, for example, aren’t just twice as likely to know someone who is openly LGBTQ than those with no formal qualifications, they’re also far more likely to be sympathetic towards issues that affect that community.

The study also revealed that there are improvements to be made in the workplace. While 73% of LGBTQ people think that more companies should have straight ally schemes to tackle homophobia, less than half (43%) of straight people think it’s a good idea. Encouragingly, however, that figure improves amongst younger people, with 56% of workers aged 16-34 saying ally schemes are a good idea.

For me, though, the most important finding from the study is also the most basic and glaringly obvious: that actually knowing someone from the LGBTQ community – whether as a friend, family member, colleague or neighbour – drastically increases the likelihood of you being supportive of them. Only 9% of people with close LGBTQ friends or family, for example, would have a negative reaction to a child coming out, whereas that number leaps to 17% amongst those who know no LGBTQ people. And knowing an LGBTQ person affected the results positively across the board. Familiarity, then, breeds not contempt, but acceptance, awareness and understanding. It’s a bit like sushi: when you have absolutely no experience of it it’s unfamiliar and scary but once you try it, it’s really no big deal (wasabi burn excepted).

Ally-dom, however, is a contentious issue in the LGBTQ community. There are those who say, with some justification, that straight people shouldn’t have to be nudged into being decent human beings.  Others sneer at ally-dom as nothing more than virtue signalling. There are some who don’t even want the support of people they view as enemies because of the life-changing homophobia they’ve encountered. Companies and celebrities that (rainbow) flag their straight ally credentials, meanwhile, regularly find themselves coming under friendly fire from the very community they’re hoping to reach out to. When an organisation is simply exploiting the community for commercial gain without contributing to it in any meaningful way that’s entirely justified but I worked closely with Harry’s on their Pride campaign and know that they are not one of those companies: their commitment and support for diversity is genuine and their activity around Pride well thought out and three-dimensional.

Truth is, every single company that rejects bigotry and casual homophobia is making a small contribution to a larger, greater goal, while every celebrity proclaiming support, however shallow or headline grabbing it may seem to the naysayers, is setting a positive example to millions of fans, many of whom will never have seen someone offering support to a member of the LGBTQ community. The ultimate goal, of course, is a world where people being different matters so little there’s actually no need for allies. We can but hope. In the meantime, though, every single one of them (and yes I’m looking at you here) is worth having on side.

So how do you actually be an ally? Well, that’s easy. You don’t have to deck yourself out in rainbow flag and join a Pride march (though the study did reveal that nearly a quarter of straight men would attend a Pride event if asked so feel free to – you’d be more than welcome). Instead, you just need to challenge stereotypes and homophobia and be supportive through deeds as well as words.

Don’t put up with ‘harmless’ homophobic banter in the workplace, locker room or in the street. Call out your kids if they use pejorative terms like ‘that’s so gay’ and don’t just be be woke – be real. Support your gay friends by offering trust, acceptance and empathy. Defend them against injustice, abuse and inequality in the same way you yourself would expect to be defended against those things. Be like the majority of men in the study who said they thought the best way to support LGBTQ people was to treat them the same as everybody else.

Most importantly of all, support your child if they come out to you as LGBTQ. Parents might not be an LGBTQ person’s first straight ally (that’s often a trusted friend at school) but in some respects they’re the most important allies of all because if the people who brought you into the world can’t be your ally who else is going to stand by you unconditionally? If you’re a parent your love and acceptance will shape the psychological wellbeing of your LGBTQ child for years to come. No, scrub that. Not for years: for life.

I began this post by pointing out how difficult it must be for a straight man to understand what it’s like to be a gay one – or, in actual fact, like any member of the LGBTQ community –  but in reality it’s not that big a leap of imagination: you just need to ask yourself whether you, your brother, sister, child or best friend would like to endure any of the horrific abuses I mentioned at the top of this piece and, if the answer is no, all you need to do is ensure that no member of the LGBTQ community endures them either.  That’s what it means to be a proud ally.

Bulldog address shaving’s elephant in the room with new Bamboo Razor

Anyone who follows my writing will know that I’m a huge fan of grooming brand Bulldog Skincare For Men. Not only do I love their excellent Original Moisturiser (there’s always a tube of it in my bathroom cabinet) I love their affordability, animal-friendly credentials and the chutzpah they’ve shown in taking on the big boys of skincare – and how they’re winning. Plus, of course, they’re a British brand (and we all understand the importance of buying British now that Brexit is  less than a year away.) So I’m thrilled to see that they’re about to enter the highly competitive razor market this summer with their Original Bamboo Razor.

With five tempered steel blades, a lubricating strip and a flexible head, it offers everything you want from a razor (i.e. a decent, smooth shave) but what sets it apart from other brands is its eco-credentials. No razor is perfect when to comes to sustainability but Bulldog are the first major grooming brand to at least try to lower shaving’s environmental impact in a meaningful way. As well as having a natural, non-plastic bamboo handle, for example, the packaging is kept to a minimum and is made from fully recycled stock, using environmentally friendly inks. Couple that with Bulldog’s shave products, which are certified by Cruelty Free International, suitable for vegans and are free of synthetic fragrances or artificial colours and you’re just about as near to a guilt-free shave as you can get at the moment.

Needless to say, we still have a long way to go to reduce the environmental impact of the daily shave (in the US alone two billion razors are tossed into landfill ever year while the amount of plastic used in both product and packaging is still ridiculously excessive) but it’s a start. I wrote about how we might all want to move towards a zero-waste bathroom in my column for Balance magazine recently, and I care passionately about the need to consider the environmental impact of our beauty and grooming regimes, so I applaud anyone who’s at least trying to make a difference, however incremental.

Shaving brands tend to be great at pumping money into snazzy social campaigns and high-profile sports sponsorships but woefully behind-the-curve when it comes to addressing the elephant in the room: the environmental impact of their products. With customers increasingly conscious of the need to reduce waste that’s a real mistake and one that I suspect will cost them dearly in the future. On this issue, as they were in offering more natural grooming products to the masses, Bulldog are once again leading from the front.

Bulldog’s Original Bamboo Razor is available from Boots stores nationwide from August, priced £12.

 

Harry’s launch ‘Shave With Pride Set’

It’s all too easy to be cynical about the launch of Pride-themed products these days – after all, so many companies cash in on the annual celebrations now – but the new Shave With Pride Set from award-winning grooming brand Harry’s is a bit different. I was lucky enough to be privy to the creation and design of this set and know first hand the level of care, thought and meticulous attention to detail that went into the razor, packaging and the overall campaign of which it’s a part.

Housed in a special presentation box designed by acclaimed graphic design duo Craig & Karl (one you’ll want to keep to house all your bits and bobs in once you’ve removed the contents), the iridescent ‘rainbow’ razor is that rarest of things: a Pride-themed product that’s useful, helpful to the community (100% of the profits from it go to LGBTQ+ charities like the Peter Tatchell Foundation) and genuinely cool to boot. What makes this razor so special is that the design process ensures that no two handles are exactly the same: like the customer it’s aimed at, each one is a one-off and unique. Which is rather appropriate for a company that genuinely celebrates individuality and diversity.

If the set were the extent of Harry’s involvement with this year’s Pride festivities that would probably be enough. The company’s engagement, however, runs a little deeper than that. As well as the limited edition shaving set, they’re also offering support for the community in the shape of their ‘& Proud’ campaign, featuring the likes of TV presenter Dr. Ranj Singh and Queer Eye’s break-out star Jonathan Van Ness, which encourages members of the LGBTQ+ community to reject harmful labels in favour of ones they choose themselves.  (Van Ness describes himself as a “Hair Flipping Free Spirit & Proud” while Singh is a “Super-Nerdy Gaysian”.)

Finally, following on from the company’s detailed Masculinity Report last year, Harry’s have commissioned Ipsos/Mori to conduct a ‘Proud Allies’ survey which examines the relationship between the straight and LGBTQ+ communities in 2018 – the results of which are to be published shortly. Having clocked them already I can tell you they make for very interesting reading.

Taken as a whole, this considered, multifaceted approach shows a level of committment rare in Pride-themed campaigns. As for the Shave With Pride set itself, it’s great if you happen to be from the LGBTQ+ community and are looking for something to zhuzh up your shaving routine or, indeed, happen to be a proud straight ally who’s looking for the perfect gift for an LGBTQ+ pal. Basic message?  Give with pride, shave with pride, support with pride.

Harry’s Shave With Pride Set is available for a limited time from harrys.com priced £24.

 

 

 

 

New by me on Ape To Gentleman: The Art Of Manscaping

As a grooming writer I’m used to providing answers to men’s questions about haircare, skincare and fragrance but the subject they’re most curious about is manscaping. Since it became ‘a thing’ roughly ten years ago I’ve written countless pieces on the subject but nothing quite as comprehensive as the guide that is my first major piece for leading men’s fashion and lifestyle blog Ape To Gentleman. A top-to-toe guide to removing hair, wherever it may sprout, it’s an ideal resource for any man wanting to pluck, prune or depilate. So grab your wax strips/razor/hair removal cream and have a read of it here.

The 5 best mists for men

It’s the hottest delivery system for male grooming products at the moment, with everything from self tanners to post-shave balms appearing in spray form, so here’s my pick of the very best mists for men.

 

1. Harry’s Post-Shave Mist, £11 for 100ml, harrys.com

Harry’s entry into the UK shaving market last year didn’t just offer punters a cost-effective shave – there are some great skincare ancillaries on offer too. Their Post-Shave Balm is one of the best on the market and at £7 is as good as ones four times the price, but it’s their brand new Post-Shave Mist that’s my go-to product at the moment. Since I have a beard I only have to use this on the few areas that I do shave but since it calms, refreshes and hydrates, I also keep it on my desk and use it as a face mist whenever I’m feeling tired or my skin feels dry and tight. A trio of refreshing essential oils (mint, eucalyptus and tea tree) make it the perfect pick-me-up. A cool product. Literally.

2. James Read For Men Hydra Tan Mist, £20 for 100ml, jamesreadtan.com

Nobody in the world self-tanning of is as innovative as James Read. Repeat, nobody. His approach to tanning products is to always go beyond basics to deliver products that do so much more than simply leave you with a natural looking glow. This great-smelling mist is designed to build up your tan gradually with each application, ensuring you don’t rock up to work on a Monday morning looking all mahogany, but also features cooling agents and skin-soothing aloe vera so can be used immediately after shaving, soothing skin while tanning it. With a colourless formula that won’t ruin your shirts or pillowcases, it’s quite possibly the best tanning product for men I’ve come across.

3. La Roche-Posay Anthelios Invisible Fresh Mist SPF 50, £14 for 75ml, feelunique.com

One of the main reasons people fail to protect their skin from the sun is because so many of the products on offer fail the basic likeability test: they’re messy, greasy and smell horrible (one spray I used last year actually smelt of curry). This SPF50 mist addresses those problems by providing sun protection in the shape of a light-as-anything mist that’s a cinch to use, has a dry, invisible finish and smells great too. It’s also good for protecting the scalp if your thatch isn’t quite as thick as it used to be. And it’s not just me who rates it – last October it was voted ‘Best New Suncream’ at GQ magazine’s annual Grooming Awards.

4. L’Occitane Aqua Réotier Fresh Moisturising Mist, £14 for 50ml, uk.loccitane.com

New for 2018 this light but intensely moisturising mist for the face fuses fresh spring water from Réotier in southeastern France with hyaluronic acid and glycerin – naturally occurring ingredients that help draw moisture to towards the skin – to instantly hydrate and energise. It’s a brilliant product to have in your office drawer – especially if that office is air-conditioned – but it’s good for travel too and I can imagine it’d be perfect  for freshening up on long summer drives.

5. Kiehl’s Oil Eliminator Refreshing Shine Control Toner For Men, £16.50 for 125ml, kiehls.com

With men’s skin oiler than women’s and fiddling with skin a known trigger for oil production this needs-no-fingers-to-apply oil eliminating facial mist is perfect if you’re prone to spots or a shiny schnoz. Designed to cool skin (that’ll be the menthol in contains) and neutralise oil so skin is left with a matt finish, you can literally just spray and go without having to massage it in. Like all the mists mentioned here it’s incredibly simple to use and allows you to tackle your skincare concerns in seconds – and single-handedly at that. What’s not to love?

Lab Series launch multifunctional Grooming Oil

Of all the mainstream premium grooming brands, Lab Series is possibly my favourite. Innovative, trend-setting and cutting-edge, its products are as interesting as they are effective – as is the case with their brand new offering: The Grooming Oil. The latest salvo in the battle to make grooming routines less complicated and bathroom shelves less cluttered, it’s a multi-functional little wonder that serves, not only as a shave oil, but as a beard and stubble oil too. It can even be used as a pre-shave cushion beneath your regular shave cream or gel to give you enhanced razor glide.

Lightweight and non-greasy, with a barely-there fragrance, it features a trio of nourishing oils (Sea Buckthorn, Jojoba and Sweet Almond) blended with skin-protecting vitamins and moisturising hydrators to ensure skin as well as facial hair always feels its best. I’ve tried hundreds of beard and shaves oils in the past and this is certainly one of the best. What’s more, since you have to shake it to mix everything before use it’s great fun to use.

Is that last feature a gimmick? Possibly, but then in an increasingly competitive market, this kind of interactivity is everything if you want that all important edge. I  must admit I  hate the way some companies insist on putting the word ‘The’ in front of product names (fellow Estée Lauder brand La Mer are the other main culprit) because it ensures the name never quite slips off the tongue and it never looks right written down in the middle of a sentence but otherwise it’s great. And, hey, just look how purdy it looks.

Review: Nivea Men’s new Body Shaving Range

Like many trends in male grooming, manscaping (the removal of body hair) was a bit of a slow burner to begin with, but also like many trends in male grooming – think facial hair for example – once it took hold it rapidly became the norm. So much so, in fact, that according to one survey 64% of men are now removing hair from somewhere on their bodies. And it’s clearly a trend that will be sticking around for a while yet. For proof of this you only have to look at Nivea Men’s brand new Body Shaving range. Featuring a trio of products (a Body Shaving Gel, a Body Shaving Stick and an After Shave Lotion) it’s as much a recognition that manscaping is now part and parcel of the modern man’s grooming routine as it is an opportunity to exploit a niche few mass market skincare brands have, as yet, fully explored.

Of the three new products the most interesting is the Shaving Stick. Shaped like a solid deodorant and around the same size, you apply it to wet skin before shaving. As well as having and anti-irritation formula, it’s transparent (so you can see where you’re shaving) and, cleverest of all, it’s been designed so it won’t wash off mid-shave if you’re using it in the shower. Nivea are pioneers when it comes to ‘in-shower’ technology, owning the space with products like their In-Shower Body Moisturiser, so I guess it’s no surprise that they should extend this concept to these manscaping products. The Shaving Gel performs the same neat trick but it’s the Stick that wins my vote, partly because it’s more fun to use and you don’t get gunk all over your hands when applying, but also because its ideal for travel and for gym bags. Recommended.

Nivea Men’s Body Shaving range is available now priced £4.50 – £6.