Like all overnight successes, the multimillion-dollar industry of modern day ‘Man Grooming’ didn’t happen overnight; it happened slowly, at the turn of this century, based on the loose theory that if men were sneaking off into the bathroom to dabble with their wives’ moisturisers and eye creams, there may be a market for their very own space on the beauty counter.
At first, such suggestions were met with incredulity, not from men, nor the advertisers, but from the mainstream media, which struggled to come to terms with this new dawn of pampering. Men’s magazine journalists, who had previously proved their bravery by riding shotgun with the LAPD through Compton, or wrestling bears, suddenly found themselves sitting in sterile rooms having Botox injected into their foreheads. But then, as with all new trends, came the celebrity endorsements. Once Simon Cowell admitted to being a committed Botox fan there was no turning back. Within seven short years the UK cosmetic market alone had risen by 800 per cent (to be worth roughly Dhs337 million a year), with everyone from Boots the chemist to Jean Paul Gaultier releasing their own ranges of under-eye creams, face masks and fake tanning products. Indeed, men’s grooming is one of those strange trends that has happened despite media validation, rather than because of it. Phil Hilton, Editorial Director of men’s magazine, ShortList, is under no illusion about who has led the charge into man-pampering land: ‘The media is largely run by middle-aged men who still find it slightly astonishing that 20-something heterosexuals spend so much time thinking about hair products,’ he insists. ‘Advertisers have probably led the wake-up call to media owners.’
The big question, of course, is whether the Alpha male, so long identified within the context of sporting or business success, can adapt to the new parameters placed on him by the advertisers. Long gone are the days when a quality shaving kit and expensive aftershave were enough to mark the man out from the crowd; today’s generation is expected to display a robust understanding of body grooming, from hair to shoes. ‘It’s a bit Patrick Bateman, only without all the murdering,’ explains Hilton. ‘It’s not weak to take care of your appearance. In fact, if anything, a man who lets himself slip out of shape is considered odd. The Alphas have hair gel along with their ambition and drive. When it comes to the office – if you can’t manage your sideburns how can you manage your team?’ The message is clear: take care of yourself, and the rest will follow.