The Myth of Male Beauty: The Growing Acceptance of Feeling Comfortable and Looking Great | Life and style
UUntil recently, male motivation to look good or strong was often born out of an inherent desire to feel and appear more successful, competitive, manly, and powerful – what some now call toxic masculinity.
Of course, there have always been men who enjoyed discussing clothes, watches, and even diet regimens, but for many, this open appreciation of what they wore was often just a game of one-upmanship. disguised as an appreciation of the finer things in life. Think of the 1980s and its bullish Wall Street status stamps, such as pinstripe suits and red suspenders (Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko); the scene in American psychopath where rival brokers fight over business cards, like a game of Top Trumps. Or in the 1990s, when showing off got even easier and even symbols of rest like underwear, jeans, and luggage were covered in a plethora of logos.
But luckily there is a new generation now taking a very different approach. Their appearance is not dictated by the desire to appeal to or appease others, but to feel comfortable with who they are. And, as a society, we become less critical and more accepting of those who look at us and feel differently from us.
When I was in school in the 1970s, carrying a comb in your blazer pocket was considered immense vanity. You might be teased about it for weeks. Yet last week my 17-year-old goddaughter and two male friends showed up to my apartment, having been accidentally locked out of her house, to hang out until they got spare keys. Both boys were wearing foundation, eye shadow and tinted lip balm. They emulated their favorite K-pop bands and hid any blemishes they might have on their teenage skin. The fact that they looked good and seemed so confident was joyful to see.
It was also a joy to see singer and actor Olly Alexander’s mesmerizing performance at the Brits with Elton John, where he walked around the stage in makeup, earrings and a lace crop top with flared pants. matched by queer American-British designer Harris Reed, singing It’s A Sin. âI wanted something that would make me feel strong and sexy, but also beautiful and flowing,â Alexander said. The openly âqueerâ performance received rave reviews, even from the Daily mail.
Obviously, for most of us, an avid interest in appearance is no longer seen as a detriment to what we think or do. Look at the genius of Eddie Izzard, who has now adopted the pronouns she and she, or Grayson Perry and his female alter ego Claire. Or think of the 17th century and of Louis XIV’s brother, the Duke of Orleans, who enjoyed the company of men, as well as that of his two wives, and often went to balls in full female attire. And yet, on the battlefield, he led the French army to many victories. The only criticism of his soldiering skills was that he was often a little late in combat as it took him long enough to get dressed.
Yet, unfortunately, some men today still find it utterly confusing, if not exasperating, that others care or play with their appearance, which is why I wrote a book aimed at removing the stigma from men. and their grooming choices, helping them look their best – only if that’s what they want. It’s for men who might not know who to ask, where to go, or what to do.
Middle-aged men in particular still tend not to confide in each other or anyone else about their appearance. Because I write about men’s styling and grooming and edited a few men’s magazines, I’m often seen as someone men can trust about their looks. Sometimes I get stuck in an office or at a party under the guise of helping solve a business conundrum only to find myself answering questions about pubic hair clippers or beard oils. I was once sidelined in a meeting by the CEO of a global company to ask if men could tint their eyebrows. He was worried that the color of his eyebrows would match the rest of his hair.
As if it wasn’t exhausting enough to be unhappy, or not-happy-enough-enough, with your appearance (which by the way is not something you choose), there is also the whole question of whether, as a man, you are supposed to care. Or for how long and to what extent this worry can manifest itself before it is seen as a fault or weakness. You could argue that all the dread of being seen as vain or effeminate is ultimate vanity.
A few weeks ago, I wrote an honest post for a journal about my chaotic relationship with my own look, and I listed some of the treatments I’ve tried over the past decade. Nothing serious: no surgery, just small adjustments such as laser treatments to erase the pigmentation due to the sun, porcelain veneers on my front teeth, fat freezing, a bit of Profhilo. I was warned not to read the comments that would be posted online under the article but, of course, I was intrigued to see how other men still react to another’s “vanity”.
Some of the comments were, as you might expect, harsh. “I would ask for a refund,” wrote one. âI’m afraid to think what he must have looked like before,â said another. There were also dozens of other negative comments. Critics pointed out that for some there is still such mistrust, even hatred, for those who care about their appearance.
It has always been that way. Before trolls could leave anonymous and derogatory remarks online, there were many other ways to express their dismay. In the 15th century, according to Professor Aileen Ribeirothe book of, Dress and morality, the fashion for men to wear tight-fitting leg stockings and waist-cut jackets led to lavish legislation requiring that those in the rank of lord should wear “no robe, jacket or coat unless he is not of such length that the same can cover its private member and its buttocks â.
A few centuries later, the male peacock was still being criticized, with entire volumes published warning of the dangers of dandyism. John Bulwer, in 1650, spoke out against “the insane and cruel gallantry, the senseless bravery, the ridiculous beauty, the filthy finesse and the loathsome beauty of most nations, shaping and modifying their bodies from the mold intended by nature “. Thank the Lord, he was not there to see reality TV, where it can take weeks to determine which pieces of the contestants’ faces and bodies are still from the mold nature intended.
But, no doubt, isn’t it what’s inside that really matters, some of you will reasonably wonder? And, of course, the answer is yes. But does that mean we can’t play with the outside either? If who we are is the person on the inside, does it really matter if we indulge in a little bit of external beautification to help us be our best? When we move into a new home – especially a period home – we look around and recognize that we should not interfere with the moldings and architraves of the original ceiling, but we do not hesitate to discuss the updating the walls with a new lick of paint or a change of wallpaper.
What’s the harm in getting your earlobes waxed at a Turkish barber appointment, or buying over-the-counter Rogaine from Boots? There’s nothing wrong with a Tom Ford Brow Definer Gel for keeping your brows looking tidy, and you shouldn’t be sniffing the benefits of a tinted moisturizer, either. Men’s war paint it will keep you from looking like you’ve lived the last decade in Winterfell.
It shouldn’t be frowned upon if we choose to make our journey to Decay a little more comfortable. If you feel like it, why not take the train, rather than a plane, until old age? Look older rather than bungee jumping. Keep an eye out for unruly pubic hair (69% of men trim theirs; 17% shave them completely); invest in a teeth whitening course at the dentist (this will take you years); Find out which serums can help reduce puffiness under your eyes or uneven skin tones on your face. Take note that a well-cut blazer will give your body more structure than a year at the gym, and navy blue, not black, is more flattering on older skin.
Don’t let anyone force you to change your appearance, but don’t let them stop you from tweaking parts of yourself that you aren’t happy with. If clothes, cosmetics, beauty regimes, or treatments make you feel better, take advantage. Who cares if it infuriates other men? They will only end up with unattractive expression lines. And these are much more difficult to correct.
Vain Glorious: a Shameless Guide for Men Who Want To Look Their Best by Jeremy Langmead and Dr David Jack is out now (Â£ 9.99, short books). Buy it for Â£ 9.29 at guardbookshop.com