In order to ensure that this column is in no way sexist, Jessica Cusack turns her attention the men…
The fashion and beauty worlds are somewhat rare in the realm of multi-billion pound global industries in that they place women at the forefront of their business. ‘Male Beauty’ has to be specified; much like ‘Women Voters’ are singled out in politics. But it would be foolish to dismiss the male beauty industry as completely secondary to that of the female. Historically, men have always been at the forefront of the beauty scene – just think of images of the court of Louis XIV in the 16th century, or the prevailing image of Michelangelo’s ‘David’ which still stands as an emblem of male beauty. But it wasn’t until 1994 that the term ‘metrosexual’ was coined, opening up a whole other can of worms.
Metrosexuality has lead to the popularisation of ‘guyliner’ and ‘manscara’, and while it is true that such make-up products are not every man’s cup of tea, their popularity has been staggering. But skin care is where the beauty industry for men has really taken off. While it is common for most women to use face wipes, cleanser, exfoliator, anti-wrinkle cream, serum, night cream, day cream, eye cream (I could go on), the majority of men will never come into contact with such things – or even have heard of them. Capitalising on men’s ignorance of such products, and indeed their curiosity about them, are brands such as Nivea, Dove and No.7, among others. Of course the marketing is stereotypically ‘masculine’: black and charcoal grey packaging, names like ‘Aqua Impact’ and ‘Fresh Awake’, and of course the ubiquitous gorgeous female draping herself longingly around this bloke who’s just dabbed a bit of moisturiser on his face, smiling knowingly at you from the side of a bus. Funny how advertisers still assume (or perhaps recognise) that men need an incentive – namely sex – to shift beauty products.
But what’s a boy to do amid these new and potentially scary packages? My advice is go for it. It’s about time guys started looking after their skin as much as they do their hair, especially when skin, as the biggest organ in the body (see Issue 6), is far more important. I don’t see any shame, or indeed emasculation, in taking such a step. Personally, I don’t really go for a hair-straightening, fake-tan-applying, body-hair-shaving kinda guy (unless you’re Michael Phelps) but each to their own, and judging by the amount of Joey Essex look-a-likes walking around these days it’s obvious they’re pleasing someone. Men shouldn’t be afraid to look after themselves; it doesn’t taint your masculinity or your sexuality – if you’re of the straight persuasion – to do so. Plus, if the adverts are anything to go by, using face wash once in while is going to make you the next Don Juan so you may as well grab the bull by the horns, as it were. If you got it, flaunt it.