Men groom. Wait, men groom? No; men - groom! Yes. We can, and many of us do, in ever-increasing numbers. Despite the lingering presence of outdated attitudes towards men's beauty - which reduce the concept of 'grooming' to splashing some cold water onto the cheeks, slapping the face a couple of times and growling into the mirror - the number of men taking a growing amount of care in their appearance is rising every year. In fact, experts estimate the men's beauty industry will be worth $2.4bn by 2024; and if there's ever an accurate measure of how acceptable something is within society it's how much money people willingly spend on it.
But what's sparking this change? Quite a few factors, actually. Society is shifting away from traditional gender roles - in which men ought not to concern themselves with trivial things like 'looking good' - and a general awareness about both essential routines like skincare to more advanced beauty practices such as using makeup. With this awareness is coming acceptance, with more men breaking the 'macho' stereotype and allowing themselves to look and feel beautiful (however they define it). For this shift you can thank shows like Queer Eye, or the feminist movement - even Facebook advertising! Preconceptions about how men 'should' behave are kept alive in an echo chamber, and all it takes is for some people to stand up and be the difference for others to begin realising they can do the same.
Awareness has also been raised by the desire to be good to the planet - the growth in popularity of veganism, for example, has brought the world of skincare and makeup into the view of men and helped educate them about a market that, traditionally, was primarily dominated by women. It's all rather exciting if you're a guy who's ever looked at someone applying makeup, seen the difference it makes and thought: "wow, I wish I could do that." You can! You always could, of course, but now you don't need to worry so much about judgement. There's a tidal wave of change happening; one that is both societal and economic - and the chances of it receding are minimal.
What can we expect to see in the future of men's grooming? A 2018 thinkpiece from international men's magazine GQ believes that we'll reach a point at which not only will most men be wearing makeup every day (and not only bronzer - they also think that products like mascara, foundations and concealers will be the norm) but non-invasive surgeries such as botox, fillers and thread facelifts will be very common too. Whilst spas, salons and surgeries still aren't diving into marketing such procedures towards men as of yet, with the amount of money predicted to be found within the industry in the next five years this is almost guaranteed to change very soon.
On a personal note, as an actor I've worn my fair share of makeup, and it truly can make a huge difference to how we look. I've entered dressing rooms feeling 'meh' and left them feeling 'my, oh my' all due to makeup. And yes, stage makeup is very obvious - walk into the street wearing it and people will likely notice. But your average cosmetics don't need to be; learn how to do it, and you can apply products that make your face pop without being noticeable at all. I'm now in the habit of applying contour to various parts of my face (cheekbones and jawline, mainly) - especially before auditions. It's not because I'm particularly unhappy with how I look, either; it's simply nice to walk into such a setting feeling that I look as good as I can. It's really easy to do, taking only around five minutes, and it really does provide a confidence boost that can't be understated.
Skincare, too, is so important. This applies both to health and beauty (ignoring skin health drastically increases your chance not only of external sun damage but also far more dangerous issues such as skin cancer). In all honesty, I didn't care very much about it in the past - I'd wash my face, of course, and moisturise; but the latter was only because I suffered from fairly dry skin. My girlfriend, on the other hand, spends around half an hour each night on skincare before bed - and it's not just for vanity. For her, that routine is self-care from the outside-in. It's a chance for her to do something nice just for herself, and metaphorically cleanse herself of the day's stress whilst also cleansing her skin too. I've begun doing the same - not for quite so long, nor with as many products as she does (I still don't know what half of them do) but certainly much more than I did in the past. And it makes me feel good. There's no better reason to do it. I'm not sure I personally want any form of aesthetic procedure such as those we offer here at MAG - certainly not at the age I am now. But later in life, if I feel it would make me more confident in how I look? Sure. I'd definitely consider it, and if I decided not to it certainly wouldn't be because I'm male.
What's the point of this article? In essence, I'm simply wanting to add to the ever-growing number of voices that are turning the narrative on men's grooming, and masculinity in general, on its head. There's not a huge amount more that I can do. Hopefully this has made at least one man think twice about what they feel 'allowed' to do when it comes to caring for their appearance. If not, well - things are changing anyway, with or without this article and my humble opinions. Anyway; I'm off to wash my face, apply some toner, exfoliate and use some (premium) moisturiser. That's as far as my routine goes at the moment, but we'll see how it develops...