Is male grooming so wrong?

Marie Carberry/Garreth Murphy

Yes, says Marie Carberry

THE news that the online retailer, Net-A-Porter is preparing to launch a sister website called Mr Porter, conceived with the "stylish man in mind", is a worrying development in men's determination to encroach on the once female-dominated area of beauty and styling. And the fact that the bastion of female delights, Grazia magazine, will also start producing a male monthly called Graz7etta, may be the final nail in the coffin. Soon we women won't be able to visit the beauticians without falling over a pair of size-11 feet undergoing a pedicure.

Personally, I blame Elton John. When he decided to knit his hair back into place he gave men authorisation to lose the run of themselves altogether and it's been downhill ever since. Up to then, men who had regarded their balding pates as something to be put up with realised they could have all their follicles back.

Granted, the original transplants were dire -- a series of plugs that stood to attention on the head like toy soldiers -- and were likely to induce a fit of the giggles in anyone who beheld them -- but, in latter years, a more natural hairline has been developed which has emboldened men to take the transplant plunge.

During the past couple of years it wasn't unusual to attend a dinner party where the host, who was as bald as a coot the week before, suddenly appeared with a tray of canapes in one hand while running the other hand through a silken mane that would have put Cheryl Cole's tresses in the shade.

Paul McCartney, at Heather Mill's alleged insistence that it would make him look younger did it, but all he really looked was desperate -- (although not as desperate as he looked after he'd married her).

Movie star Robert Redford is another culprit. His face is 74 years old but for some reason he sports a head of sickly orange curls that don't match anything except his liver spots.

If they had left it at the hair women might have stood some chance, but no. Led by Simon Cowell, the Hollywood craze for perfect teeth has spread among men like the H1N1 virus. Perhaps they saw it as a statement of their manliness or just felt a need to 'go large', but veneers the size of tombstones suddenly started appearing in mouths that had previously held just a couple of incisors.

In some instances these teeth were so big that some women bought saddles for their men in the mistaken belief that they were now living with a horse. Females everywhere asked the question: where was all this madness going to end?

The answer, sadly, was not with hair transplants or veneers. The floodgates cannot now be closed as younger men have decided that they, too, need fussing and pampering. Supermarket and chemist shelves are groaning under the weight of all the moisturisers, facial scrubs and foot creams which are being produced by the tonnage for men. Every new male scent is greeted with an advert of a half naked, glisteningly oiled young man, driving a fast car with his hand on the thigh of a finger-sucking siren, who obviously can't wait to have some of that oil rubbed on her. The oil glistens enticingly on his chest only because it has been waxed to within an inch of its life.

Once the sole preserve of women, waxing is now forming the backbone of the male beauty industry. The toe-curling 'back, sack and crack' procedure is becoming routine, as testified by cries heard all over the country of "Jaysus, leave some skin on, will ya", can testify.

It can't be long before beauty salons start installing stirrups so men can hold their leg in the air while they get their bikini -- sorry Speedo -- line done.


The fact that Net-A-Porter and Grazia are willing to bet their money on men buying into the fashion and cosmetic industry during these troubled economic times, says a lot about men's evolving self-image and their willingness to spend as much money on themselves as women do.

They are being scrutinised like never before and old behaviours such as only having a bath when there was an 'r' in the month are dead. I'm grateful for this but I also feel a bit miffed. I'm no slave to fashion and don't buy too many beauty products but, when I do, I don't want to be sharing my aisle space with some young fella. After all, these were once our products and our dreams and men muscling in our scene takes away some of the glamour with which we like to surround ourselves.

And if I catch that young fella even taking a sideways peek at the volumising mascaras, he's going to get the benefit of my dulcet tones with a very loud "BACK OFF SONNY!"

No, says Garreth Murphy

THERE are worse things than male vanity. I should know. I've had my chest waxed, my eyebrows plucked, my hair dyed, my eyelashes tinted and my nasal hairs removed with hot wax. If all of that wasn't enough ritual humiliation for one man, I've also stripped down to my underpants and been spray-tanned by a woman I had met just seconds earlier.

My foray into the world of extreme grooming was for a Herald article on what women do as part of an average beauty regime, and is not something that I plan to repeat any time soon. But if you're a bloke, that way inclined, and have the money to spend, what's the harm in having a grooming regime?

Plenty, it seems. The almost universal howls of derision over the announcement of a new magazine, Gaz7etta, and a high-end retail website, Mr Porter, to cater for the ever-growing male grooming market are unnecessary.

"How dare men be so vain as to take an interest in their appearance," they yelp. "That's our job," they forget to add.

Blokes just can't win. Or rather, women won't let us even on to the subs bench -- never mind the playing field. They gaze adoringly at the likes of George Clooney, Daniel Craig and David Beckham in the pages of glossy magazines and sigh, mumbling something about why we can't be more like them?

So we try. God help us, we try.


We go to the gym in an effort to lose a few pounds. We elevate our interest in our hair (or what's left of it) beyond an early morning ruffle and a whispered prayer that it'll still be there tomorrow. We look at our wardrobes and come to the conclusion that it's unlikely Declan Kidney will be requiring our services this weekend, so that rugby jersey can be shelved.

And what do we get in return? Suspicion, cynicism and disbelief. Why are we taking such an interest in our appearance? Are we having an affair?

No, we're not. But women seem to take a perverse delight in wanting something and not wanting it at the same time. They'd like us to look more stylish but only on their terms. And, even at that, they're not quite sure how well they want us to look. What's definite is that they certainly don't want any of their bathroom shelf space annexed by any boy-creams.

So, much like an apprentice rebelling against his master, when the time comes that we stretch our sartorial wings, we're immediately slapped back down.

"It's fine," she snorts as you try on that new jacket you bought on your -- whisper it -- own. "Are you sure it's you, though? It's not a bit young for you? Doesn't make you look a little fat?" Now, imagine we said that when she produced the bags from a Saturday expedition to town.

But what's wrong with a little vanity? What's wrong with trying to look halfway decent? And if that involves splashing out on a face cream and a few new threads, so be it. Nobody's condoning dying your hair or getting a weave. That's just silly. Is a bit of moisturiser or eye-cream to alleviate the signs of a late night such a heinous crime? Heaven forbid she finds a stash of anti-wrinkle cream in the bathroom that doesn't belong to her.

And suddenly we're being accused of retreating into a metrosexual netherworld?

No. Men are still men. Given half a chance, we'll still spend our weekends on the couch, watching sport and drinking beer, in our underpants.

It's just that they'll be a better class of keks and our hair will be combed.