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.
Like most people I have an uneasy relationship with awards. I profess not to be bothered about them but then feel bereft when I lose out on one and nearly wet myself when I do win one. In the very first year I entered the prestigious Jasmine Awards (given out for writing about fragrance) I was shortlisted in three separate categories and still managed to come out of the ceremony empty handed – a crushing defeat that almost scarred me for life. And then, in the year I did actually win one I couldn’t collect the thing because I was simultaneously appearing in court (as a witness I hasten to add). A video message didn’t seem appropriate, or legal.
Thankfully, I was able to make last night’s inaugural Fashion Monitor Journalism Awards, though, and am glad I could because as you can see from the pic above (also featuring host Laura Whitmore and nail guru Leighton Denny) I actually managed to scoop a gong for Beauty/Grooming Blogger of The Year. This particular award means a lot to me partly because, whilst I get paid for my journalism, blogging is essentially a labour of love. I’ve been blogging for about four and a half of the 23 years I’ve been a journalist and as all bloggers know, it’s something you really have to want to do because the rewards are few and far between!
It also means a lot because the shortlist – created by members of the fashion and beauty industry itself – included amazing bloggers like The Beauty Shortlist, A Model Recommends, Vivianna Does Makeup and my good pal British Beauty Blogger – someone I look up to myself.
But anyway, it was a fantastic evening (I suspect the Fashion Monitor Awards will become the Oscars of the Beauty & Grooming world) and now that my wine-induced headache is finally subsiding I’m actually beginning to appreciate it!
PS. Don’t you just love the fact that I look like I’m missing a finger in the photo?
PPS. When I refer to “The Grooming Guru” in the title I mean the blog not me personally. The day I start referring to myself in the third person is the day I call it a day! Or the day they carry me off.
There are so many grooming awards these days that I thought, what the hell, why not have my own, with a few unique Grooming Guru categories thrown in for good measure? In fairness, I don’t think this year has been a stellar one in terms of new launches and innovative products but amongst the assorted lowlights there have been a few genuine highlights. The great thing is I don’t have advertisers to answer too so can reward who the hell I like and for what I like. So here are my awards, the ‘Gee Gees’ if you will. Who gets the gongs this year? Well, here goes…
MEN’S SKINCARE LAUNCH OF THE YEAR – Him by John Barrowman.
We may sneer at celebrity-endorsed ranges and fragrances but John Barrowman’s Him range for men, launched exclusively on QVC earlier this year, is a genuinely good- quality, well thought out and nicely-formualted range of skincare essentials for blokes. Sure, I suspect the people who are buying it are JB fans wanting to improve their men (or make them look like their idol) but that’s fine right? As John himself said at the launch the more well-groomed men out there the better. For more of my thoughts on the range read this.
BEST AD CAMPAIGN OF THE YEAR – Braun Oral B Pro-Expert Toothpaste
This advert has made me laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh. I simply never tire of watching it. It doesn’t just cross the line where bad becomes good it actually pole-vaults right over it into uncharted territory. As comedy goes, it’s certainly miles funnier than Come Fly With Me, making me think the Beeb should have just shown this instead and saved license payers a fortune in the process. A friend of mine is convinced that, like the cringeworthy Jenson Button Head & Shoulders ad and the laughable Just For Men Luis Figo one, it’s intentionally this awful so that people remember it. If so, it deserves the most fulsome praise I can give it.
NB: Alas Oral B have pulled this ad from YouTube now. They might be known for saving teeth but it looks like in this case they wanted to save face too!
BEST NEW GROOMING GADGET – Panasonic ES-LV61-K Wet/Dry Foil Shaver
Back in the summer, Panasonic launched this, the first wet/dry foil shaver, transforming the lives of guys who prefer foil shavers to rotary ones but who wanted the convenience of shaving with a traditional shaving prep or even in the shower. Losing my beard for a week to give it a whirl I was hugely impressed by the closeness of the shave and how beautiful it felt in the hand. Which is what matters most to us men right? The last bit I mean.
THE “I DON’T THINK SO” AWARD OF THE YEAR – Guylashes
Guylashes. Please. A couple of years ago the big story was men and makeup. I bigged it up myself. Did men buy it? Did they buggery. In fact, many companies launched cosmetic products for men only to quietly ‘retire’ them within a matter of months. And if men aren’t going to use concealer (a genuinely useful product and one I heartedly recommend) do you really think they’re going to be fluttering fake eyelashes? Eylure, kindly collect your gong! If I was being cynical I’d give you another one for ‘Best way to generate publicity for your company by grabbing a headline in The Daily Mail award’ too. If I was being cynical.
BEST NEW FRAGRANCE – Potion by DSquared2
I have been to so many fragrance launches this year you’d think it would be hard for me to pick my favourite. Not so. Most left me decidedly cold with their tiresome top notes bland basenotes. This one, woody and sexy with notes of amber and a host of ingredients actually used in magic, like angelica and gentian, is one I wear regularly. It’s not as long-lasting as I might like but that’s a minor flaw. Being the only fragrance that really cast a spell on me this year (sorry!) I’m proud to give it a ‘Gee Gee’ for Best New Fragrance.
BEST BUDGET GROOMING BUY – Montagne Jeunesse’s face packs for men
Sure I like a bit of luxury but like all good working-class lads I can do cheap-as-chips grooming products too and my favourites this year were these face masks for men. Costing just over a pound each (except for the eye one which is wallet-busting £1.99) they’re practical, effective and (best of all) great fun to use. I challenge any man not to enjoy using the peel off one.
BEST INDUSTRY BLOG – British Beauty Blogger
Okay, I’m slightly biased because British Beauty Blogger is what you might call my ‘Twitterwife’ but even if I didn’t happen to know the person behind it I would still give it my vote as Best Industry Blog. I read it religiously – and I have absolutely no interest in make-up or the beauty side of the industry whatsoever. And yet, it’s still utterly compelling.
In terms of providing an honest insight into the (sometimes ludicrous) workings of the industry it’s unrivaled and as a window onto the turbulent and much-maligned art of blogging it’s an absolute must-read. If you’re a blogger, journalist, PR or just a beauty junkie who wants to know what shade of blusher is hot this season it should be your very first port of call. Best of all it’s a BS-free zone. To check it out click here.
MOST GOBSMACKINGLY DESIRABLE THING – Tom Ford’s Neroli Portofino Collection
When I first clapped eyes on Tom Ford’s Neroil Portofino Collection in its entirety I had a glimpse into how Howard Carter must have felt when he first peered into Tutankhamun’s tomb. Revealed to me in Claridges by the PR, the range, when seen in its entirely, is gobsmackingly lovely. It costs over £500 – well out of the reach of most of us – but thankfully we can all buy into a small piece of its delicious luxury. Oh and it smells bloody fantastic too.
BEST NEW MASS MARKET SKINCARE PRODUCT FOR MEN WITH BEARDS OR STUBBLE – Nivea For Men Sensitive Hydro Gel
Okay, so it’s quite a specialised award buy hey, it’s my blog so I can do what I like. This inexpensive non-stick moisturiser (for want of a better description) is just brilliant for beards. Why? Because it’s lightweight and hydrating but doesn’t make your facial fur all sticky like some things can. It’s also great for preventing beard dandruff so for that reason alone I am giving it a much-deserved award.
Best Home Fragrance – Jonathan Ward Russia Collection
I’ve been on something of a mission this year to get men to invest in scented candles for their homes. There’s nothing girly about it. Scented candles rock. As does having a house or flat that doesn’t smell of last night’s curry. Jonathan Ward’s Russia Collection, launched late this year, impressed me for being decidedly man-friendly, delightfully complex, beautifully conceived and reasonably priced to boot. Besides, two wicks are always better than one in my book.
I’m very please to announce that I have now joined leading online men’s grooming retailer Niven & Joshua as Lifestyle & Grooming Editor. Not only will I be reviewing some of my favourite products for them, I’ll also be providing ‘how to’ guides, explaining the the ins and outs of skin, hair and bodycare and will be on-hand to answer those niggling grooming questions too.
I’ll still be carrying on with all my other stuff, of course, but with online business booming I can’t think of a better time to be joining such a cool grooming website. So if you’re interested in looking good make sure you check it out!
I was going to compile my Top 5 fragrances for Autumn for a blogpost on here but since Men’s Health pipped me to the post and asked me to compile a list for them I thought I may as well simply share the link with you. So to discover why I think Dsqared’s Potion is magical and Roja Dove’s Danger Pour Homme is positively pornographic simply click here!
The thing I love about about blogging (and Tweeting too actually) is that it makes me feel part of a community in away that working in magazines never did. It’s generally less competitive, less territorial and there’s a fluid exchange of thoughts, opinions and ideas. In that spirit I’m pleased to say I will we taking part in the Handpicked Media Gets Social event at RIBA in London on November 21st.
A day-long interactive blogging event, it’s a place for bloggers to meet, mingle and discover how to develop and enhance their blogs, build on their successes and pick up a few tips on how to interact with (and occasionally fend off!) PRs, drive traffic to their sites and deal with the ever-changing blogging landscape. There’ll be luxury goody bags on offer too, of course, and there’s the chance to meet some of the biggest brands and bloggers in the business! And me.
I’ll be appearing on the Beauty Panel, along with Fluer de Force, The Beauty Button and A Beauty Junkie in London, and will be providing an insight into the male grooming side of the industry and a male perspective on proceedings. I don’t bite (well, only when excited) so if you fancy giving me a grilling do come a long!
For more info, and to book your place click here.
For anyone who missed my piece in the Telegraph Style Supplement, you can read it by clicking on the image below.
Oh, and here’s a little paragraph that ended up on the paper’s cutting room floor but which I think gives you an insight into why I fear anything to do with hair restoration!
“This is certainly a far cry from the days when men either reluctantly accepted baldness or threw caution, along with self-respect, to the wind and donned a toupée – an accessory guaranteed to elicit derision and terrify small children. I myself am psychologically scarred after seeing corner shop owner Arthur Moore’s syrup tumble into a crate of apples when I was a seven year old (I thought the top of his head had fallen off).”
Harrods has to be one of the most famous department stores in the world and also happens to be a great destination for all your grooming gear too. And next time you there why not pick up a copy of Harrods Magazine? Yours truly has just started a monthly column for it, featuring some of the very best male grooming products the store has to offer. To see the kind of thing I’ll be doing simply click on the image above.
You know how they say ‘the more things change the more they stay the same’? Well, I realised the other day that, although my journalistic career spans over 20 years and takes in working for and editing both women’s and men’s magazines, I’m strangely back where I started when it comes to writing.
Back in 1987, when I was just a student with journalistic ambitions and a fantastic head of hair, I contributed features to my college newspaper, The Sheffield City Press, on a diverse range of subjects – from Phobias, Gypsy Rights and why I hated Margaret Thatcher to the burgeoning men’s magazine industry and…yes, male grooming (though I’m not sure it even had a name back then).
If memory serves, leading the way product-wise was The Body Shop where I bought most of my skincare products – not that there really were many to buy back then. They certainly allowed the average man on the street to explore skincare at an affordable price. I see from the piece (pictured below) that they had a face wash for all of £1.55.
Clearly, even back then I was an advocate of men taking care of their appearance as the final rally cry of ‘isn’t it about time that men caught up with women and entered the Skintrade?’ shows. Even I could never have dreamt where it would all end up though!
A while ago I was asked to edit a little digital magazine on the importance of male grooming (and those finishing touches that make all the difference) on behalf of ClarinsMen, in association with Men’s Health where I’m Online Grooming Ed. In a world where we’re constantly being scrutinised – by potential employers or potential partners – attention to detail has never been more important. So if you fancy having a read of the booklet yourself simply click on the image below.