A couple of months ago, a dear friend stood during the testimony meeting and stated clearly, vibrantly into the microphone “I am so grateful for my husband’s manscaping.” Nah, I though, she said LANDscaping, right? I glanced over to another friend, who was looking straight back at me, eyebrows raised, with the same question. Did she say MAN- or LAND-? Turns out, she DID say manscaping; and clarified that she was glad her husband didn’t manscape. She stood, smiled and shared her gratitude that her husband was “humble enough to stick to clean grooming styles”, and “not get into the whole vanity male beauty regime thing”.
Her testimony made me consider the changes I’d seen in male fashion styles and grooming, and what level of personal grooming and styling I appreciated in personages of the male variety. I grew up in an age, area and culture where a bloke smelt either of Brut 33, sweat, beer, the barbecued sausages and onions he was cooking, or an adaptive mix thereof. The extent of attention to hair by a man was minimal, with the most extreme makeover being the shaving off of the winter-grown beard in early spring. Facial hair was the only body hair interfered with. Ever. (Unless it was a result of a manly accident involving a chainsaw, a V8 engine, beer or barbecue. ) My grandfather – and his mates – never grew a beard or moustache, preferring to stay clean-shaven, though they always applied some sort of hair crème or pomade each morning, leaving the comb’s teeth marks clearly visible for the entire day. I’ve seen pictures of my (much younger) Dad with wavy hair brushing his shoulders, though can’t remember it in real life, or even imagine it on his current buzz cut “It’s to save time!” scalp.
About five years ago I flew from country Queensland to the state’s capital of Brisbane with my Mum, a trip of about 1000kms/620 mi and several light-years beyond Mum’s comfortable reality. I’d joked that she might see her first “Metrosexual” while in “the big city”, to which she scoffed disbelief. Sitting in Starbucks, though, watching her study a perfect specimen (tiny waist, pointy-toed leather shoes, hair messily gelled just so, lightly tinted moisturiser, trendy tie and shirt, the artful trace of eyeliner) check out his reflection in his phone, I couldn’t help but lean over and say “I told you they existed.” She nodded – goldfishing the air – and was speechless long after he had sauntered out of the shop.
I’ve worked with guys who: wax everything south of their nostrils; only ever use soap to wash their hair (once a month); think wearing socks constitutes high, almost black-tie fashion; and blokes whose teeth are living mosaics of their last seventeen meals. I’ve known guys who care more for their toenails than their cars, guys who sniffed their own armpits during a date (proudly inviting their shocked companion to “Cop a whiff of that pong!”), men who shower daily (more if required), and some who take over an hour every morning for their grooming routine. All this, not even broaching the “the clothes maketh the man” argument when it comes to a well presented guy.
Last week at work, I jumped off my forklift to sign for a delivery. The truck-driver was clean-shaven, with short-cut hair, his ironed shirt tucked into his pants. As he smiled and handed over the paperwork, his cologne drifted closer and softly ambushed my attention. The man was quite similar to most of the other truckers I see daily (clothes in high visibility colours, steel capped boots, pen or two in the chest pocket, grease ingrained and calloused hands), but it was quietly obvious that he had taken time and interest in his personal appearance. It wasn’t ostentatious, but it definitely stood out. He was quietly, cleanly, neatly different simply because of the attention he paid in his grooming.
The difference with grooming is always in the details, and the distances between points Argh! to Ohh..! We as women are used to having appearance and grooming being examined, be it by ourselves, media, culture, men and particularly other women, with men seeming to have avoided the same pressures, standards and expectations. So the swing to manscaping becoming a verb, noun and accepted practice is fascinating to me, albeit with some ill-concealed hilarity. I don’t understand the manscaping enthusiasms, but a man who takes quiet care in his appearance? I can testify to my appreciation of that!
What changes in male dress and grooming standards have you seen? Do you like guys taking care with their appearance? Do you wish guys would dress and present better or more relaxed? What grooming standards would you teach to boys?