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Dudes Become Men > at Finishing School December 19, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in MetroSexual.
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In the Age of the Metrosexual, Charm School Is No Longer Just for Ladies

In the era of the metrosexual male, primping and preening are no longer just for the ladies. More and more men are trading in their beer and chips for something more refined. Tea and crumpets, guys?

Mr. Manners > The so-called “finishing” school has been around for generations to train young women in etiquette and the social arts. But recently, many schools are trading their debutantes for dudes.

On its Web site, The Finishing Academy in Scotland announces: “The Finishing Academy is not only for today’s young ladies. Due to popular demand we are now running courses for ladies, gentlemen, young gentlemen and business people.”

Not surprisingly, not all the men studying at the academy enrolled voluntarily. Some got a ladylike shove from the women in their lives.

“One of the things that women expect now is to have a nicely groomed man,” says Diane Mather, an instructor at the academy. “Even if he’s not so well-mannered, she wants him to look good.”

Looking Good and Feeling Gorgeous > Anees is a war crimes lawyer who enrolled on his own accord, in part to learn what to do with his hair.

“Nobody has ever told me that it looks good,” he said. As a bonus, he learned he was too short to wear the wide stripes he favored.

These insecurities are not lost on the cosmetics industry. Products for men are the fastest growing sector of the beauty business. L’Oreal, the world’s largest cosmetics firm, increased its male beauty sales by 18 percent last year and even featured a man on the cover of its annual report.

The metrosexual revolution has spurred the booming male beauty industry. Men are getting in touch with their feminine sides, and retailers are taking notice.

Bye Bye Brawny Man > Even the rough, rustic, regular guy featured on Brawny paper towels is trading in his plaid flannel shirt for a classy button-down. The company has launched a campaign called the Brawny Academy, where the average Joe can learn how to remove a red wine stain, clean the toilet or even clean windows, using Brawny paper towels, of course.

If the Brawny man, a symbol of all that is masculine, is foregoing rugged for refined, could this be the start of a new phenomenon?

While male finishing schools are most popular in Europe, institutions like the Finishing Academy are popping up all over the globe, even in the United States.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, known more for its minds than its manners, has a charm school. The eight-year-old program now has more than 1,000 students, including many men. Those who complete six courses receive a bachelor’s certificate in charm, but those who attend all 12 courses earn an etiquette PhD, proving geekiness is no obstacle to gracefulness.


The boys’ room December 19, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in MetroSexual.
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LOOKING GOOD > Men-only salons and health spas are on the increase as more and more men are feeling good about how they look.

Once a month, Peter Huntsman dons a headband, lies down in a darkened room and has different kinds of goop thwacked on his face. But it’s not a facial. It’s a Face Workout. And it’s a manly thing to do.

The lingo here is important. Men are no longer on the periphery of the beauty world, blushing as they stumble over the words “alpha-hydroxy gel” and pinching their girlfriends’ moisturiser. Instead, they’re using products called Ammo and SH!T, visiting men-only salons and health spas, and feeling good about how they look. Just don’t say the M word.

“Metrosexual? No, I don’t think I’m metrosexual,” says Peter, a 55-year-old father of two and fan of the Face Workout. “I wouldn’t claim to have any tags, it’s the confidence to be myself. If guys can’t cope with that, well good luck to them.”

Peter goes to the Man What a Fuss salon in Sydney city, a manly oasis of steel, wood and concrete, of gorgeous female beauty therapists and lads’ mags. Owner Kate Allen explains that the salon’s attractive staff is all part of making men feel comfortable. The main challenge is getting the blokes in the first place.

“I used to get out in the lunch hour and sing and dance and carry on. One brave guy would come into the salon, have a treatment and then say to his workmates, ‘Oh, you’ve got to get down there.’ ”

Is flirting part of the advertising? “Oh you know, I had the puppies out,” she winks. “If you’ve got it, you know, flaunt it.”

Kate and her puppies attracted clients ranging from lawyers and doctors to builders and sportsmen, including St Kilda mid-fielder Nick Dal Santo and former jockey and TV personality Simon Marshall.

After a consultation with beauty therapist Em, Dal Santo explains that for him it’s all about relaxation.

“It’s a joy coming here and being able to talk to the girls, and they enjoy chatting obviously,” he says. “And yeah, they’re pretty attractive!”

Dal Santo comes regularly for haircuts, facials and massages. He’s also had one leg wax. “It hurt so much I don’t think I’ll ever get it done again.” Did he cry? “He whimpered,” says his therapist, Em.

But like Peter, he’s sceptical about the metrosexual tag. “I guess you could consider me a metrosexual … I’m a bit more open to try things like this than other people. If that makes me metrosexual then so be it.”

Indeed, the term “metrosexual”, like most labels, is restrictive. Wordspy.com defines metrosexual as “a dandyish narcissist in love not only with himself, but also with his urban lifestyle”.

But while there is little doubt the Australian male consumer is moving into markets traditionally meant for women, the trend is more than skin deep.

Simon Marshall says it’s all about empowerment. He’s had “the whole kit ‘n’ caboodle”, from waxes to wardrobe consultancy, and says he “walked in a Commodore and walked out a Mercedes Benz”.  “For those that aren’t doing it, they’re the ones calling you metrosexual,” Marshall insists.

“They’ve got to step outside the square, pick themselves up off the ground and have a bloody good look in the mirror. In the last two months I’ve done 17 speaking gigs, and everyone says ‘Geez you’re looking good mate.’ It makes you feel a lot better in what you’re doing and where you’re going.”

Someone who might want to have a hard look in the mirror is Steve, 23, a student from St Kilda. He and his mates at the Esplanade Hotel reckon they “scrub up all right”, but say beauty treatments are for “girly men”.

“I only usually wash my hair if I get bad dandruff. I brush my teeth twice a day. That’s my beauty regime,” says Steve, dressed in thongs and a pink T-shirt that reads “Chicks Dig It”.

His mate Drew, 23, from Albert Park is wearing a college football jumper and using his wraparound sunnies as a headband. He pipes up at the suggestion a facial could be relaxing.

“That’s not how guys relax,” he insists. “I think girly men are unable to get rid of normal male frustration by playing football and things, so they need to find another way to relax, and feminine pursuits may be the only way.”

But what about looking good for the “chicks”? “I don’t smell or anything, I mean, I use soap.” But Allen says guys like Drew don’t know what they’re missing out on.

“Most guys, once they’ve actually had a facial, realise it’s one of the most relaxing things you can do. And it makes them feel better about themselves too, it’s instant recognition in the mirror.”

Men’s beauty is no longer grafted onto women’s, it is developing its own vocabulary and style. Everything from the reading material to the language used at Man What a Fuss is designed to appeal to men. The menu of treatments is punchy and sexy: “Give Him a Hand” is a manicure, “Soleman” is a pedicure, and “Fuzz Off” is what you say when you want some waxing done.

Frank, a 44-year-old project manager is no stranger to the terrors of de-fuzzing. When it comes to waxing, he says, “You name it, I’ve done it!” He’s a client at Men’s Body Works in Richmond, where day spa meets Playboy mansion. Here, the waiting room is a cozy den replete with leather lounges, Foxtel, alcoholic drinks, food, sporting memorabilia and men’s magazines.

Frank goes to Men’s Body Works regularly for facials, massages and the odd Vichy shower, a massive stone altar underneath a row of high-pressure shower jets.

“The Vichy is very relaxing,” he says. “Problem is you’ve got to drive home afterwards. You feel cleansed – it’s like going to church!”

Frank says the metrosexual tag doesn’t bother him, “Most of the guys saying it are people who . . . just don’t look after themselves. You’ve only got one face and you’ve got to keep it. Plus everything’s for women . . . it’s time to get ours back.”

Hairdresser Craig Kershaw agrees that men are starting to step out of the dark ages and assert themselves as agents of fashion. “Girls have got makeup, we’ve got facial hair,” he says. “So I encourage guys to have a play around with it.”

Kershaw owns two men-only hair salons called Dr Follicles. These are Playboy pads circa 1970, think orange vinyl, gilded sideboards, fake wood panelling, soft-porn tapestries and posters of Farrah Fawcett. You get a beer with every haircut and listen to vinyl records of bands such as Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin.

“The ’70s were just such a fantastic time,” explains Kershaw of the interior decorating. “Males were still happy being male. They had exposed chest hair, gold chains, tight pants. It was all advertising.”

Is it still all advertising now? “It’s all just theatre, that’s what life is,” Kershaw says. “And if you want to play the role, play the role. We’ve been going back to the ’80s theme with guys lately, doing the Smiths cut, doing the Pseudo Echo cuts, all the things that they didn’t think were cool.”

Kershaw thinks the lingo is important, and says he talks like he would with his mates, using simple words like “neat” or “not neat”. He also has a range of hair products in the pipeline called SH!T, or Superior Hold Instant Texture. “Guys, every time you do their hair, they say ‘Oh yeah, just whack some of that shit in it mate.’ So, to a guy everything is ‘shit’. So I thought I may as well do the shit products.”

But is the blokey vibe all a ruse to get men to take an interest in their hair, a more tacit kind of metrosexuality? “No, guys aren’t really worried about being metrosexual any more. They’re developing their own little theme for a little while, and then they change that theme, because they’ve had enough of it.”

Indeed, whereas metrosexuals are all about appearances, the real trend for male consumers today is one of assertion, empowerment and creativity. Confidence is key, whether your aim is “advertising”, relaxation, or playing with fashion. And for those still tentative about the men’s beauty realm, swearing, drinking beer and looking at women are habits that never go out of fashion. For some, at least.