It was my great pleasure to talk to the Harvey Nichols team recently about all things fragrance. If you want to know what my favourite eau de toilettes are and want a few tips about how to buy and wear fragrance check out my Q&A with them here.
The Bluebeards Revenge is a Great British success story. Founded by former Royal Marine Commando David Hildrew (a man who, as much as anything, is living proof that moustaches can look cool) it’s gone from being a small company based around a high-performance shave cream to one with a whole range of grooming products stocked in the likes of Tesco. Its signature products contain an ingredient designed to slow down stubble growth and as a brand it’s fun, clever and accessible. Here the Bluebeard-in-Chief himself chats to me about blogging, his best shaving tips and yes, that impressive ‘tache.
GG: David, on a scale of 1 – 10, how well groomed would you say you are?
DH: I would award myself a “Len Goodman style” 7! All the essentials are covered (I shave daily of course) but there is room for improvement.
GG: You’re the owner of a fantastic ‘tache I must say. What are your best tips for moustache maintenance?
DH: Yes – mine harks back to the day when any self-respecting Bootneck would sport a growler to grow icicles off as he yomped across the Falkands or Norway! Luckily, I come into fashion once a year now that Movember is all the rage. As for maintenance – sorry to disappoint but mine is a free-spirited beast and is left to its own devices bar the odd trim. That’s not to say that it might not benefit from a dab of Grecian 2000 one of these days.
GG: What’s the biggest mistake men make when it comes to shaving?
DH: Rushing the process, a lack of preparing the skin, and using poor quality shaving products.
DH: The traditional shave has made something of a comeback over the last few years – double-edged razors, shaving brushes and the use of shaving creams have all become popular again. But top billing goes to an unprecedented interest in cut-throat shaving – mainly as a result of the scene in the James Bond Skyfall movie of 2012.
GG: What’s your best skincare tip?
DH: Man up and moisturise – sorry men, we are not immune from the ravages visited upon us by time, the elements and a busy lifestyle. The ladies are right on this one!
GG: Desert island grooming product?
DH: A fine, Damascus steel cut throat razor – so useful in so many ways beyond just the shave.
DH: As a married man with 30 years before the mast I have long since worked out that my favourite fragrance really ought to be what Mrs Bluebeard prefers! Right now she seems to be keen on the classic Alvarez Gomez range.
GG: What’s your best shaving tip?
DH: Take your time (preparing the skin properly before the shave is vital), use good quality products and watch some of the better “How to…” videos on YouTube.
GG: You use the term “The Ultimate Shaving Experience For Real Men!” in your branding. What do you mean by “real men”?
DH: The strap line is meant to be tongue-in-cheek – we make no real judgement as to what we believe a “real man” is – even though in a shaving sense it’s someone who suffers from ultra-tough stubble and has a five o’clock shadow by lunch. In truth though most men are pretty much convinced that they qualify for “Real Man” status and we are just appealing to that belief. Taken in context, most everyone understands that The Bluebeards Revenge is all about a self-deprecating, humorous approach to life in general and grooming in particular. Hopefully we bring a sense of fun and adventure to the daily routine.
GG: As a former Royal Marine Commando what do you say to guys who reckon taking care of their skin isn’t very…butch?
DH: Sorry guys it’s only a matter of time before the penny will drop! Life isn’t a rehearsal and I can give you a rock solid guarantee that you will eventually regret not taking care of your skin from an early stage in life.
DH: Our original Shaving Cream – it is what started the whole thing off! From vanity project to an internationally recognized and respected brand in three years. An amazing product that has taken us on an incredible journey.
GG: How important do you think male grooming blogs are these days are what do they bring to the discussion about male grooming?
DH: I am totally biased on this one as it is has been the support of the online, specialist blogging community that has taken The Bluebeards Revenge from a humble start-up to where it is now. Crucially it is the variety of opinion and expertise made so accessible to all and sundry, on a world-wide basis that makes them so valuable.
GG: Fantasy grooming product?
DH: We are currently working on a creating a new slant on the Double Edged Razor with a view to making it as easy to use as the mass market cassette style razors that dominate the shaving landscape. May not sound too exciting but the engineering and manufacturing challenges we are facing places the project firmly in the land of fantasy at the moment!
For more info on The Bluebeards Revenge visit their site at bluebeards-revenge.co.uk
It’s already hit the top spot of the best selling men’s fragrances in the UK and now that we’re in the frenzied run up to Christmas you can be sure that Paco Rabanne’s Invictus, which launched at the end of July, is going to be at the top of many a man’s festive wish list.
It’s success, of course, comes in the wake of a fragrance phenomenon – Paco Rabanne’s 1 Million. Since its launch back in 2008 1 Million has become the envy of fragrance houses worldwide. So popular has it become that, remarkably, a bottle is sold every five seconds. Such popularity isn’t without its drawbacks though. After all, how do you follow a fragrance that that’s become a modern classic and also a benchmark for commercial success in a notoriously fickle market?
It was this very question that I put to Paco Rabanne Vice President Vincent Thilloy when I met him in Paris a while back. “In truth we could not have imagined how successful 1 Million would become or how it would end up a market leader,” he told me. “Although I suppose key to its success was the fact that we took a risk with it, especially with the bottle. Few companies are willing to take real risks these days but the way I look at, it’s not taking a risk that’s the risk!”
Certainly, 1 Million‘s gold bullion bar bottle and the novel ‘trophy’ flacon of Invictus are both unlike anything on the market but according to Thilloy it’s still the ‘juice’ inside that matters most. “Having a great bottle is only part of the story,” he believes. “Ultimately, the smell of the fragrance is everything because you’ll only buy a fragrance again if someone says you smell great.”
So how does Invictus – a fragrance that was over two and a half years in development – smell? Well, if you haven’t tried it yet it’s at the other end of the spectrum to 1 Million. Where that fragrance is sweet, warm and sexy Invictus is fresh and sporty. Sure, it features earthy patchouli and warm woody notes but there’s a fresh ‘marine’ vibe (think the smell of ocean spray) and a slight metallic something going on there too. Fundamentally, though, it’s a fragrance of two halves.
“With Invictus we really wanted to create something that was fresh but not in a traditional ‘cologne fresh’ way – we wanted a fragrance that had two distinct sides to it,” says Thilloy. The beauty of this olfactory duality – and what differentiates it from 1 Million is that you can wear Invictus in the day and into the night, as the warmer base notes develop.
Paco Rabanne’s fragrances have always tapped into man’s most ardent aspirations. 1 Million was about a desire for wealth and the playboy lifestyle, Black XS was about wanting to be a rock star and Invictus is about being a champion. So now that this latest fragrance is firmly on the fragrance map what next? “I can’t tell you,” says Thilloy coyly. “But what I can tell you is that we’re already working on it!”
Apart from David Beckham I can’t think of another Brit that looks as well groomed as model David Gandy. Surprisingly, though, the man himself is remarkably low maintenance, something I discovered when I played a little word association game with him earlier today. Reassuringly, I also discovered that even although he’s as near-perfect a masculine specimen as you’ll ever find, even he’s not 100% there. In fact, there’s one physical attribute many men take for granted that he’s rather jealous of…
DG: “Ok, I’ll give it a go!”
DG: “Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue of course. The fact is, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for that iconic ad with the white trunks! It’s where it all started for me and is what led me to where I am today.”
DG: “Yes! Have some! Actually my hair has a life of its own. It’s so thick and curly it can be a real nightmare. Luckily I have a guy called Larry King who looks after it for me. Everyone in America laughs when I say Larry King does my hair. I have to explain to them, no, not that Larry King!”
“I don’t. Well, I don’t wet shave anyway. Haven’t for years. I just maintain a little bit of stubble with a beard trimmer.”
DG: “Hey! That’s my word! It’s one of my favourites. You’ve got to get a bit of manscaping in there I think. Absolutely!” (note David’s always-tidy trunkline).
DG: “Organic Rosehip Oil. I mentioned this a while back in an interview and everyone’s gone wild about it ever since. A make-up artist introduced me to it and it’s absolutely fantasic for hydrating skin – especially if you’ve been on a long flight.”
DG: “Never polish them! I’m all for male grooming – and it’s important to keep your fingernails – and toenails – tidy, but highly polished fingernails on men? Noooooo.”
DG: “Jealous. You know, I really wish I could grow a beard but I can’t. I have a friend who has a great one but if I try to grow one it’s just patchy – like a badly maintained lawn! I wish there was a Miracle-Gro for beards!”
DG: “Paul Newman”
DG: “Fragrance. I think it’s essential to find something you love and that suits your personality. And something women find attractive obviously!”
David Gandy also writes for Telegraph Men
Established in London’s trendy Shoreditch in 2006 Murdock has become a prime destination for guys seeking good grooming and barbering in a classic, stylish but unstuffy environment. The ultimate example of an instant heritage brand (i.e. sounds as though it’s been around for decades but hasn’t) it’s been such a success that there are now sores at Liberty, in Mayfair and in Covent Garden.
Building on the success of the barbershops they’ve even branched out into their own skincare products, accessories, candles and fine fragrances – the Patchouli one being one of my own favourites (and I’m very fussy about my patchouli fragrances).
Here I find out what makes founder Brendan Murdock tick and manage to get some invaluable grooming tips from him in the process.
GG: What’s the biggest mistake men make when it comes to shaving?
BM: The biggest mistake is undoubtedly lack of preparation. The best shaving results will be achieved when the skin and facial hair is prepared, a combination of a hot flannel or water, pre-shave oil, and perhaps a badger brush to apply the cream. The pre-shave oil softens the whiskers and prepares the skin for the razor’s edge.
The fine tips of the hairs on the brush create a smooth and creamy lather, while the remarkable softness of badger hair cleanses the face gently, ensuring a comfortable and close shave. The action of a razor is quite harsh and surface skin cells are removed. If the skin and facial hair is not prepared you may suffer from an itchy, sore face post-shave.
GG: What trends in male grooming have you noticed of late?
BM:Men have gained more confidence when it comes to shaving, and are becoming increasingly inquisitive as to how to perfect the art. When we first opened in 2006, gentleman would simply purchase a shave cream to shave. Most customers were not even using post shave balms after shaving, despite complaining of sore, red faces after shaving!
Today, men are more informed and educated about best grooming practice. Coupled with more visible brand and places to visit for grooming, more educated choices are made.
GG: What are your favourite men’s fragrances and why?
I also like the scents by Carthusia they are light and summery and remind me of wonderful holidays in Italy.
I really enjoy wearing our Murdock Patchouli Cologne too. It’s a subltle, sensuous and mysterious scent, suitable for all seasons; great all year round.
GG: What’s your best shaving tip?
BM: Always use a post shave balm after each shave. Shaving strips the skin of essential oils and you must ensure that the skin is moisturised and soothed post-shave.
GG: What’s your best skincare tip?
BM: Moisturise, moisturise and moisturise.
GG: Desert island grooming product?
GG: Body hair. To trim or not trim?
BM: If, for example, you are an athlete and your decision to wax or trim is to enhance your performance in your chosen field, then I am in favour. Conversely, if your decision to wax or trim is purely based on vanity, then I am not as convinced. For me, masculinity is reflected in natural body hair; to wax or trim detracts from this. Ultimately, the decision lies with the individual; each to their own.
GG: Fantasy grooming product?
BM: A miracle cream that prevents hair loss and baldness, without any side effects!
To check out what Murdock has to offer go to www.murdocklondon.com
I’ve given lots of interviews in the ten years or so I’ve been writing about male grooming but the one conducted by Australian Beauty & Grooming Expert Will Fennell for DNA magazine has definitely been the most fun.
More a playful game of tag than an interview I found it hugely entertaining to take part in (and as a journalist I don’t say that often) and though being pictured next to Will was always going to leave me looking decidedly like ‘the ugly friend’ I thought I’d share it with you anyway. So if you fancy reading it click DNA INTERVIEW 147. And no, that’s not my quote about the flashlight by the way!
I get the distinct impression that if authenticity were a fragrance note, like jasmine, lavender or amber, it’d be slap bang at the very heart of Jonathan Ward’s increasingly popular fragranced candles. In fact, it permeates everything he does – from the formulation of the candles themselves to the inspiration behind them (often very personal), right down to his frank and open blog (a must-read for industry types and anyone thinking of starting a business as well as fans of the brand itself).
Given that my own blog is aimed at men, though, and I’m always banging on about the benefits of room fragrance to men, I wanted to quiz him specifically about men and candles, a subject I sometimes think counts as The Last Taboo!
JW: I believe it’s the idea or association that candles are women’s area of expertise and sometimes I think that women can be quite protective of their territory. I often spend time in the trenches, as it were, meeting my customers in stores and at events. Quite often I’ll see couples and if the man notices my products first and tries to steer his wife over to the display, quite often the woman doesn’t like to be “told” by their partner that this might be a good product for them. I definitely feel that they feel this is an infringement! So come one, ladies, let your men develop the confidence to choose their own scents. Of course, some men will never get their heads around the concept of scenting their environments unless it’s with odors other than essential oils!
GG: Presumably, you’d like more men to get into the candle-buying habit then? JW: Men are so cosmopolitan now and the idea of men as shut-down, emotionally-stunted, neanderthal caveman is so dated. Men’s tastes are highly developed and scent is an area that they are embracing without too much prompting. I do believe there is a market for masculine candles but PLEASE, if I see one that has the word ‘sport’ on it, I may retire. My products have a strong masculine handwriting throughout the scent choices and are not overtly floral or feminine.
GG: What are the benefits of having scented candles in your home if you’re a man?
JW: Lighting a candle awakens one of your primary senses and like a magic wand can wash over you uplifting your mood. For men who lead busy or demanding lives, candles can play a part in helping to relax and soothe. Also, the very nature of candlelight as opposed to electric lighting encourages relaxation.
GG: Which of your candles would you specifically recommend to men and why?
JW: The “Kartushya” from my Russian Collection has a striking heart of birch leaf and rich herbaceous notes complimented with pepper and amber. It’s the perfect male (but not overtly so) candle. “Citrine Ivy” is also a good choice since it’s a fresh tart clean citrus blend of lime flower, grapefruit and tangerine oil with uplifting verbena. Perfect for the study and for the kitchen, offering clean positive masculine notes.
GG: Since men are not quite so savvy about fragranced candles what tips can you give them about how to get the most out of them?
JW: For the first burn commit to 3-4 hours. You need to ensure that the wax completely turns to liquid (anyway this is where all your fragrance is released from). When extinguishing don’t blow it out otherwise you’ll just spoil all the aroma you have just built up. Use a small candle dish or coaster and drop it onto the top of the candle so that it suffocates. Once dried, trim the wick to a 1/4″ and relight.
GG: Why is it important to you to use paraffin-free organic soy and beeswax in your candles?
JW: There are lots of natural wax blends, this one just happens to be the blend that we designed for our fragrances.. Its the one that works best with my aromas and I find its perfectly balanced. I don’t think that there is one natural wax blend that is better, they’re just different. I choose a paraffin free wax base because I find that it eliminates soot and smoke from the room and gives a cleaner burn. I try not to get all political about it but I do say to people if you care about your personal space and air quality, choose cleaner products to preserve your air quality.
GG: Is there a best place to place a candle in a room/house?
JW: I consider mine to be statement candles so they look great on the coffee table or fireplace. You really want to position it so that it is in a place with good airflow so that the scent can circulate. Never put candles next to a window or under a fan. Its a huge no no as the charge of wind or oxygen will only force the candle to burn faster, hence wasting precious wax.
GG: Of all the ingredients you use which has your favourite smell and why?
JW: I love amber – its in 40-50% of my candles and enhances that masculine handwriting I mentioned earlier.
GG: If you were to create a Jonathan Ward candle (i.e. one that was just for you) which ingredients/notes would it contain to reflect your personality?
JW: I’m not trying to get out of answering this one but my creations are so personal and are referential to my life, travels and journey that they are all reflective of my personality already. Everything I create is so personal it has me all over it (and in it!)
GG: What’s your favourite men’s fragrance and why?
JW: The original Comme des Garcons fragrance because it is so intense and so unique and reminds me of when I was a struggling student. If I’m not wrong, I spent half my grant at the Comme des Garcons store without a care for what I might eat at the end of term!
GG: Candle making is a dangerous business. Any tips for dealing with wax burns? lol
JW: I embrace them! After all, I’ve always said I hate vanilla……