Male grooming: what is it?

As a term, ‘male grooming’ is pretty new to our vocabularies. It was coined a few years ago by clever marketing people who wanted to open up the lucrative (but very feminine) beauty industry to the other half of the population. Of course, the word ‘grooming’ was carefully selected for its own connotations: dogs are ‘groomed’, chimps ‘groom’ each other – it sounds primitive enough to attract even the most bull-headed pub-goers. If they’d called it the ‘male pampering’ industry, the financial forecasts probably wouldn’t be quite as impressive as they currently are (an expected value of £54.2 billion worldwide by 20143. That’s an incredible increase of £41.5 billion from 2007).
This section will explore the rise (or return) of the male grooming industry by tracing it back to its roots in ancient culture right up to its place in modern society today.


Today, people speak of the ‘metrosexual man’: the suave, sleek-looking guy who’s just as happy downing lager in a football stadium as he is choosing upholstery for his girlfriend’s new sofa suite. In tabloid articles, the ‘metrosexual’ is often described as the ‘new breed of man’, a brand new phenomenon storming the modern Western world, like some kind of nice-smelling alien. This happens to be a complete myth. The ‘metrosexual’, with his man-bag and mysteriously long bathroom rituals, may be radically different from the ‘manly man’ of the 20th century (wouldn’t be seen dead in the women’s aisle of a supermarket, let alone in a beauty salon), but he’s certainly not a ‘phenomenon’ – in fact, experts think the metrosexual man is really nothing more than a return to form.
The truth is that men have traditionally been plucking, waxing, moisturising and styling themselves pretty much since the dawn of time. For example, historians reckon ancient Egyptian men spent hours every day removing every single hair from their bodies, applying blossom perfume to their skin and even drawing dark kohl eye-liner around their eyes in a bid to enhance their appearances. It’s not just the Egyptians, either – not long ago, two 2,000 year old ‘Bog Men’ were uncovered in an Irish peat bog. One of the bodies, the shorter of the two, had a perfectly preserved coiffed hairstyle that appeared to be moulded into place with an ancient form of hair-gel. Archaeologists believe the man may have been using his hairstyle to compensate for his distinct lack of height.
Quite clearly, the metrosexual man is not a modern phenomenon

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