What comes to mind when you think of a man? A rugged, Bear Grylls, outdoorsy-type with bulging muscles and a no-nonsense attitude, or an effortlessly cool Paul Newman type: handsome, well dressed, but nonchalant? Is it time to polish up our image of men?
We’re all guilty of romanticising masculinity as something innate, natural and completely untamed. While there’s nothing wrong with channelling your inner caveman once in a while, forgoing basic grooming in the quest for unpolished manliness could be a big mistake. If you’re rocking a sharply tailored suit, but have scruffy facial hair, a mop of head hair, unkempt nails, and skin that shows the signs of having one-too-many beers, your suit won’t save you, no matter how good it is.
Back in the day, men who spent too long in the bathroom were treated with suspicion. Women were expected to preen and pamper, but men needed to be in and out in a matter of minutes. Today, thankfully, we’ve moved on. There are hundreds of products out there for the discerning gent looking to refine his look. There’s just one problem: where do you start?
In honour of August 15th, National Male Grooming Day, we’ve put together a definitive guide to everything you need to know about male grooming.
Barnet Fare and Hair Care
Call us shallow, but it’s undeniable: hair is one of the first things we notice about a person. A fuzzy mop of wild hair gives the instant impression that you’re not bothered about your appearance and that you’re generally disorganised and unkempt. Going overboard with the gel with a way-too-slicked back hairstyle can make you look sleazy, out-of-date and greasy (just like your hair).
Fran Lebowitz couldn’t be more right: you’re only as good as your last haircut, so check in with your barber regularly. As a general rule, men with short hair should be heading to their barber every two to four weeks for a trim. The key is to be proactive, not reactive. If someone else notices your due a cut, you’ve already left it too late.
But don’t forget, your hair is a great way of showing off your personality and unique style. You just need to figure out what works for you. The market for male hair products is vast and there’s something for everyone — it’s not all Brylcreem and elbow grease like it was in the old days. If your hair is thick, go for waxes and pomades, but if your hair’s on the thinner side, steer well clear, unless you want to emphasise those scant strands. Instead, stick to lighter products and sprays that give your barnet a boost, without drowning it in product.
The Razor’s Edge: Facial Hair Care
Men and their facial hair: it’s an ongoing love story. Growing a beard isn’t just an excuse used by men who didn’t want to shave this morning — it’s a great way to show your creativity, personal style and, even, eccentricity — mutton-chops, anyone? Whether you opt for a bushy beard, classic stubble or hipster tash, it’s never been a better time to get a bit experimental with facial hair. But there’s just one rule to remember. None of us want the Tom Hanks in Castaway look, so keep it tamed.
We know you don’t have time to spend an hour in the morning refining your wet-shaving routine, but you don’t need to. Getting into a weekly or daily (depending on your style) habit of tidying up your facial hair is all it takes. To really get the most out of your shave, prepare your skin with shaving oil before you run a razor over your face. This will both protect the skin and soften the hairs, so you get a close shave. If you suffer from painful razor burn, try dabbing hot water on your face or take a warm shower to open up your pores and free your hair follicles. Finally, make sure you use a good razor. There’s nothing worse than using a poor-quality razor that tugs on the skin and leaves stray hairs behind. It’ll be one of your best ever investments and before you know it, your chin will be as smooth as a baby’s bottom.
If that all sounds too much or you’re the kind of guy that likes to leave things to the professionals, why not get a professional shave? Sweeney Todd may have given barbers a bad name, but the experts are the best way to go if you need to look extra fresh.
Back to Basics Facial Care
Men are creatures of habit. For most of us, a quick splash of water in the morning to revive dull skin is just about all we can muster when it comes to any kind of skincare routine. But have you noticed how, with each passing year, those dark bags under your eyes are deepening in colour and becoming puffier; how your skin colour is becoming sallow and dull; and how more and more lines are creasing your skin — making you resemble more raisin than Robert Redford? Sadly, nothing shows our age or our propensity for drinking beer than our skin. Brace yourself, because it’s time for us to step up our facial care game.
Firstly, a splash of cold water in the morning is absolutely fine, but, at the end of the day, you need something more effective. All day, your skin is exposed to a host of pollutants, bacteria and other things. By the time you come home, your face is covered in the grimy residue of the day. If you don’t tackle it head-on with a good cleansing facial wash, that grime will sink into your pores and cause you to break out. Invest in using a low-alcohol facial cleanser every day and, if you’re feeling a little fancier, try exfoliating your face once or twice a week with a gentle scrub.
The next step is to moisturise. This stuff works like magic to restore hydration and maintain your skin’s natural defence barriers. There are loads out there, so just try out what feels good for you. Remember that the skin around your eyes is more delicate and will require a different approach. Ideally, you should have two sets of cream: one for your face and one for your eyes. We promise you won’t regret the investment — the extent of the wrinkles, puffiness and dark circles around your eyes can make the difference between looking young and fresh or old and tired. While we’re at it with the creams, wear sunscreen every day. English weather isn’t exactly famous for its excessive, sweltering sun, but UV rays are wily and can damage your skin without you even noticing. SPF15 is more than enough for daily wear. With more moisturisers available with SPF15 built in, you can kill two birds with one stone — no excuses.
Find Your Fragrance
Our sense of smell is the most primal and mysterious of our senses. We’ve been using our noses to survive since the times of our caveman ancestors. Even today, on a subconscious level, smells drive our behaviours and reactions to people and things. Why not harness scent and fragrance to trigger positive psychological reactions in others? That’s right, we’re talking a dab of cologne or aftershave.
The number one mistake men make with fragrance is putting it on by the bucket load. You’ve been there: you’re minding your own business only for someone to walk past doused in an intense, heady fragrance that lingers way too long. Don’t be that guy. Keep it subtle: a couple of dabs under the jaw and at the wrist is enough to give you that sensorial edge.
The second mistake men make is using any and every fragrance they can get their hands on. Whether it’s a freebie in a gift basket, something you found in the bathroom cabinet or one that seems to have been passed from pillar to post as a repurposed Christmas present, splashing on any old thing is something we’re all guilty of. But when it comes to fragrance, you’re looking for a signature scent. Stick to just two fragrances: one for winter and one for summer. Of course, fragrance is a personal choice, but woody, herby or spicy notes work well in winter, while lighter, citrusy notes are great for spring and summer.
Did you enjoy our definitive guide to male grooming? The world of male grooming is extensive, but the key is to start small. Get into good habits and slowly introduce new steps to your regimen as you go on. Once you’ve got the hair, the skin and the right scent, all you need to complete your look is an expertly tailored suit.