WORDS BY JAKE WATKINS
From the dictionary: Groom; Verb – to tend carefully as to person and dress; make neat or tidy.
Until recent decades grooming for men was kind of an in-joke. We snickered and sneered at guys who seemed to spend inordinate amounts of time clipping and cleaning their nails, checking for blackheads in the mirror or comparing deodorants at the store. Guys got dirty and ladies appreciated our gritty surfaces and musky odors (at least that’s what we told ourselves). Grooming was the exclusive domain of women and the wealthy who had nothing better to do. Oh how times have changed.
Of Deodorants and Isaac Newton
Today, men’s grooming products fly off the shelf to the tune of tens of billions of dollars in annual sales and with markets like China just beginning to open up to the concept the future seems bright for this once neglected sector of the cosmetics industry. However, as Isaac Newton noted waaay back in the 17th century, every action creates an equal and opposite reaction and it could just be that in 2016 we’re seeing the reaction to good grooming in the form of the anti-grooming trend for men.
2016 An Anti-Grooming Odyssey
It began as the faintest murmur, nothing more than a curiosity really, that crept through the backstage areas at a few fashion houses. Some next-gen male models were tired of spending hours primping and preening before big shows. They wanted an easier way and they found it by just showing up, tossing on the clothes and heading for the runway. A few designers took note of this new “look” and decided all their models should adopt the approach, even ordering them not to shower before big shows.
One thing led to another and style conscious guys on the street began emulating the look. Before long not-so-style-conscious guys began to take notice and ask themselves “Why should I invest time and energy in grooming if nobody else is?” and next thing you know dirty fingernails were popping up all over the place and we had a full-fledged (anti) trend on our hands.
The fashion industry tried to put a responsible spin on the whole thing, stating that it’s very calculated and that their models must still have a healthy glow to their skin etc, but most guys who’ve gone lumberjack aren’t listening. They’re embracing their inner slob and just letting themselves go, much to the consternation of women everywhere.
The Way Forward
While reasonable people can debate whether in fact male grooming may have stepped off the ledge in recent years with the boom in laser hair removal, Botox, eyebrow tats, pectoral implants and waxed butts, abandoning the neat and tidy altogether doesn’t seem like an entirely rational response. Surely there must be a middle ground where men can be well-groomed without having to lipo their spare tire or Botox every one of their crow’s feet. Here are a few suggestions that may help restore balance to the grooming force:
● Beards: Beards are cool as long as they’re not allowed to run wild. Many women actually prefer a neatly trimmed beard to the smooth look, so go ahead and scruff it up, just spend a few minutes every couple of days tending to those loose ends.
● Waxing: If you’re a guy with a normal amount of body hair what’s the point of waxing those glutes unless your partner asks you to? On the other hand, if you’re in possession of a serious gorilla back, waxing can do wonders for your love life.
● Plucking: Plucking can seem like a vain pursuit but the older you get the more aggressively your eyebrows begin to stake a claim to facial dominance. Plucking eyebrows then is one grooming exercise that should probably be retrieved from the waste bin.
● Botox: This is a tough one. Let’s just say that Botox should never be considered a ‘must’ but there are definitely instances when smoothing out a few valleys in the face can provide a welcome boost to the self-esteem. Approach it on a wrinkle-by-wrinkle basis.
I mean, there’s a scene in “Pulp Fiction” where Samuel L. Jackson announces to John Travolta that he’s going to spend his remaining days “walking the earth.” Travolta responds “So you decided to be a bum.” While abandoning good grooming practices may not put you squarely in the “bum” category, if left unchecked it will surely give you a nudge in that direction. So don’t be a bum. Find the middle path with grooming and put a smile back on your lady’s face.