Male grooming: where have all the real men gone?
To the tanning salon, perhaps, via the beauticians. And it may not be such a bad thing that men are taking an interest in their diet and appearance.
It was the ever erudite Bonnie Tyler who asked, all those moons ago, where have all the good men gone. Had she released Holding Out For a Hero today, she might as well have questioned where all the men had gone, full stop.
Consider the evidence: Shane Warne, cricketing hero and expert boozer, a man who once had a McDonald’s burger named after him and a philanderer who romped with two models and a blow-up doll, has now become a doll himself – a walking, talking Ken-like creature who tweets about his favourite beauty products and reportedly now wears make-up. He’s also said to have lost two stone in four months.
Next into the witness box, we have one William Jefferson Clinton, former President of the United States of America, seducer of interns and a man who generally had the ability to make women’s clothes fall off simply by looking at them.
He has abandoned his former diet of Krispy Kreme doughnuts, steaks and burgers, and is now a vegan, eschewing all meat, eggs, dairy and oil. He’s raved about losing 24lb in a matter of months, as well as lowering his cholesterol levels. He says his goal now is to get down to 185lb – what he weighed when he was 13.
Last but not least, we have Hugh Laurie, now best known for his role as the grumpy doctor in House, but who once played Bertie Wooster. One wonders what Jeeves would have thought of his old boss using L’Oreal products, a brand for whom Laurie has recently become an “ambassador”. Speaking about his latest role, Laurie said that: “At first I thought it was a mistake, but then I realised that L’Oreal wasn’t looking for models but for people with strong personalities, who 'are’ worth it… and who aren’t afraid to proclaim that using cosmetics can be a very masculine decision after all.”
So where have all the good men gone? To the tanning salon, it would seem, via the beauticians and nutritionists, not to mention the Bikram yoga studio down the road. Last week it was revealed that one in eight men is unable to travel abroad without a set of hair straighteners, while one in five admits to taking a hairdryer on holiday with them. The survey, by Dixons, found that if allowed to travel with just one electronic device, four times as many men than women would take an iron. In fact, portable speakers for iPods come below hairdryers, straighteners and a male grooming kit in the list of travel products men claim they cannot live without.
“We are increasingly seeing men coming into our stores to pick up last-minute travel essentials, such as a hairdryer and travel iron,” said Daryl Humphries of Dixons. “They often hope their girlfriend won’t notice.”
Newsflash, boys: we have noticed. We know that you sometimes use our Estée Lauder Advanced Night Cream (we can smell it on you), that you occasionally reach for our tweezers, and we have seen you studying your wrinkles in the bathroom mirror. And you know what? It’s really OK.
From the moment that the term “metrosexual” was coined, way back in 1994 by the journalist Mark Simpson, people have mocked and pilloried all men who might fit into this category. David Beckham, strolling out in his sarong almost 14 years ago, is ubermetrosexual, as are other footballers such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Frank Lampard, both of whom look like they probably wax their chests and everything else.
But there has been a subtle shift in recent months, with previously macho men such as Warne, Clinton and Laurie taking to metrosexuality like ducks to water – and perhaps we should follow them in changing our views of girly men.
Manx (Spanx bodyshaping underwear for men, as sold in Asda under the name of “Bodysculpt Trunks”) and Muggs (Ugg boots for men, yours for just £12.50 in branches of Peacocks from September) might be pushing the feminine side a bit much. But I have come to the conclusion that far from being a horrific turn-off that indicates vanity on an epic scale, male grooming is actually a giant leap in the right direction in the battle for equality between the sexes.
For a start, it is a huge win for all those women who have previously felt as if they were “nagging” for telling a bloke to iron a shirt or tuck it in or even – gasp! – wash it. The partner of a metrosexual will never have to tut at his diet of curries, pizza and beer, or tell him to eat more vegetables. This is a very good thing, as long as he does not get so obsessed that he starts to question your own eating habits.
Metrosexual men also live longer, according to research from Glasgow University published in 2007 – another bonus. Finally – and perhaps the biggest bonus of all – they now understand why we ladies spend all that time in the bathroom. Plus, there is something undeniably endearing about a man who blushes when you find him trying to squeeze the last bit out of a tube of Nivea moisturiser (“it’s only because I have dreadfully dry skin!”). You see, it is not true that women are attracted to ruthlessly macho men; there is, after all, a reason we have moved on from the Neanderthal seduction technique of being clubbed over the head and dragged back to a cave. Shane Warne may look a bit weird now, but in the process of becoming a girly man he has stopped philandering and settled down with the gorgeous Liz Hurley. And, one might argue, is far more attractive than an overweight bloke who eats McDonald’s and has a penchant for blow-up dolls.
Who knows where this might end? Perhaps Buzz Lightyear is in the process of replacing his jet pack with a Mulberry man bag. Maybe Action Man will ask his manufacturers to stop dressing him in army fatigues and start thinking about a snappy little suit from Prada. And really, would that be such a bad thing?