Expert's Opinion

The Evolution of Male Grooming

By Elle Morris, CEO, HMSDesign | May 4, 2017

Anything goes, but grooming is a must.

When my brothers were growing up in the 80’s, grooming was pretty simple. Unless you were making a statement by being a punk rocker or hip by being androgynous (usually that was left to the more urban folks in big cities and Europe), you all had the same routine.

You shaved like your dad showed you, you made sure your hands were clean, you had about the same hair cut as everyone else (think James Spader from Pretty in Pink) and if you were cool – you probably used some mousse or gel. Black men were always ahead of the curve when it came to grooming; think high top fades, jheri curls, manicures and tight moustaches. Scent was also a requirement. Life was simpler then.

But, we’ve seen the male grooming landscape shift in broad swings over the past 30 years or so.

After the simplicity and clean cut groove of the 80’s, we experienced the grunge look of the 90’s, long hair, disheveled – the antithesis of grooming. Concurrently, the black male community was looking to hip-hop for style and grooming. While it was laid back and colorful, men had their haircuts close cropped and moustaches tightly groomed. Wild style was communicated through color choices and cuts in clothing.

As a counter reaction to the grunge look, the metrosexual look took foothold in the new millennia; men had chic haircuts, used styling products, started “manscaping” and male skincare products were on the rise. “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” became one of the most popular shows on television (squad of gay men would lead complete makeovers of the average unkempt male). The transformation was exciting and compelling.

Which brings us to the past five years and the counter reaction to the metrosexual trend. Gone were the short haircuts with styling products and clean-shaven men that we once knew. Suddenly, top-knots appeared coast to coast and accompanying them were beards. There were times when I walked into business meetings and was taken aback by the number of long, rather unkempt beards and wondered if there had ever been a female corollary trend to this? But I digress…

Long Beards Are 'In'

Today men are in style with whatever look they chose to go with as long as they appear well groomed. Long beards are in and now there many male grooming companies that are offering men a variety of products to keep their beards healthy, soft and handsome looking.  

From Kiel’s to Beardpack, to Mr. Natty Face Forest Soap Beard Shampoo (shown above), men have an entire host of offerings to keep their skin supple and their beards in shape. Men have realized that if they are going to keep this extension of their faces, they must take care of it so it appeals to all. Billy Jealousy Beard Control is the perfect mix of conditioner and styling cream; it keeps even the wildest of hairs in line while allowing a guy to have a soft, touchable beard. Conditioning Beard Absolute No4 by Port Products delivers great conditioning to your beard in a non-greasy way, but also has a terrific scent that you (and those who love you) are likely to enjoy, with just a hint of bergamot and sandalwood.

While once considered a disheveled look, stubble has taken over board rooms and run ways. It is perfectly acceptable when well-maintained and even gives a fashionable edge to man’s look. But like a well-groomed beard or a clean shave, there is work that goes into having stubble. And now there are products that have been created to make achieving and keeping the look easier.

Stubble (and shaving) 101 – exfoliation is critical to the male grooming game. A good wash or scrub lifts the beard and prepares it for a trim or blade. Bull Dog and Clinique both have great facial scrubs for men. It’s critical that after an exfoliation, to apply and leave on a good shaving gel or shaving oil , such as Elemis Skin Soothe Shave Gel or Moulton Brown Recharge Black Pepper Shave Oil.

For shaping, you’ll need a good tool – a razor or trimmer/shaper. Gillette Fusion Pro Glide Styler and the Wahl Performer Battery operated hair trimmer are two reputable ones. It’s important to trim or shape carefully in the direction that your hair naturally grows in. From that point on, it’s a matter of maintenance – so choose a tool that suits you; the BaByliss for Men I-stubble or the Remington Beard Trimmer Stubble Kit, both in high demand for gents with stubble.

Men Are Using More Products

Now is the time for men to embrace any look they want, as nothing is out, as long as they keep themselves well groomed. Male grooming companies can offer new products to groom and cultivate beard growth and healthy skin for men.

It’s taken the Western world a bit of time to get there, but male grooming is in. Eyebrow waxing, facials for men, manicures and anti-aging products will all take a more dominant role in men’s grooming routines. Gone are the days of Vitalis and Barbasol as your grooming routine, gents.

With a reputation as a design leadership powerhouse, the fair-skinned, red-headed Elenita (Elle) Morris leads HMSDesign as CEO. She draws from her Cuban-American heritage and extensive global travels to help clients understand how beauty and the mindsets of women vary greatly across cultures. 

Follow Elle on Twitter.

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