In 2018, you can find designated ‘male’ and ‘female’ beauty and grooming products lining the shelves of your local drugstore, usually denoted by packaging colour. You’ll find silver glinting razors for men, and ones with pink handles for women. Male moisturisers are held in navy tubes while women’s are white. Men’s shampoo comes in black bottles, and the same products for women are squeezed into translucent pastel-coloured plastic.
The same sort of process goes in salons – there’s separate price listings for women’s haircuts to men’s, gendered manicures, and a designated section for male waxing. But at least these treatments are now offered to men. Could we be approaching a time when our products and beauty practices are no longer divided?
Male Grooming & the Media
‘Manscaping’, or male body hair grooming, used to be a practice stereotyped towards gay men, athletes and those partaking in the ‘metrosexual’ revolution of circa 2005 when men went public with their grooming habits. The movement was attributed to beautifully-manicured male celebrities like David Beckham, whose stubble has always been neatly trimmed, cuticles pushed back, skin perfectly moisturised and hair expertly coiffed.
This led the way for more of the same: groomed and fresh-faced boy bands; tanned and plucked male reality TV celebs world-over; actors clearly wearing makeup on the red carpet. It was no longer possible to presume a man was gay because he had fake-tanned and was wearing Chapstick.
Makeup, grooming and body hair removal have been used by women to express themselves (besides issues of expectation and societal pressure) since forever. Finally, men feel able to do the same, exemplified by their peers in the media. Men could see other men visibly extending their grooming habits and felt empowered to do the same. After all, why should men be expected to grow straggly beards and have dirty fingernails to appear ‘masculine’?
Definitions of masculinity experienced turbulence in the 2010s and have since come to include higher levels of grooming in modern day. Our grandfathers would never have dreamed of going for a back wax, let alone a male ‘bikini’ wax, as is offered in salons now. Men are even attending permanent hair removal sessions to prevent regrowth of body hair in less desirable areas like backs, shoulders and feet.
In a New York Times article by Rachel Felder, a man named Evan Scott is quoted as saying that he gets regular bikini waxes because, “If I have that expectation of someone else, I probably would want to return the favour”. Perhaps the strong feminist movement of the past decade has something to do with men reassessing their relationship with ‘women’s’ issues?
It’s the new consensus that the differences between men and women are less important than ever. That goes for what is ‘allowed’ between the sexes and the expectations of our genders. 30 years ago, a man who had trimmed his chest hair would be treated with ridicule and even aggression in the locker room – incidents like this happen much less now that freedom of expression and increased autonomy over our bodies is the norm.
Men & Salons
Men have been a welcome fixture in salons for decades now, but in recent years male salon attendance for body hair removal purposes has shot up. Centres like Hairfreedom, located across Australia, have their own website section regarding male hair removal with the understanding that they still might feel uneasy in a female-dominated arena. With only one visit to a male-friendly salon, men soon lose their trepidation, and parlours become a space where they can feel comfortable.
Therapists and technicians in beauty salons are well-versed with handling male clientele now – they’ve seen it all! What’s better is that more men feel comfortable pursuing beauty-based careers now, too. Years ago, a man would have been presumed gay if he wanted to be a hairdresser, let alone a hair removal specialist or makeup artist. Thankfully those days are long gone, and people are free to follow whatever career path they want without fear of judgement.
The stigma surrounding manscaping – and practically all other areas of male habits deemed ‘feminine’ – has relaxed due to increased harmony between masculinity and femininity. Men are proudly showing off their sculpted body hair at the gym, and their new facial trimmer to their girlfriends, and so they should.