The straight man’s idea of grooming is either a basic shower or, if he’s feeling fancy, spritzing on some Axe. The minute he starts applying strawberry-flavored lip balm or slathering on Coconut Body Butter, his masculinity gets called into question.
So how far can straight guys take personal grooming without being considered too feminine?
Early in the decade, the emergence of the term “metrosexual” gave straight men more license to engage in some of the activities women do to keep up physical appearances. Males getting facials and manicures became more acceptable. But if a male student at Northwestern got a manicure, what would his peers think?
“I find it moderately feminine to use beauty products and I do judge guys who use them,” Weinberg sophomore Matthew Dunlap said. “I think things like shampoo and lotion are the only acceptable products.”
Generally, any product that is scented, sparkly, or goes beyond simply maintaining a decent level of hygiene might be considered off-limits to guys. Applying standard ChapStick is manly. Applying gloss is not. Showering with two in one shampoo/conditioner is manly. Showering with White Nectarine and Pink Coral Flower Herbal Essences Shampoo is decidedly not. Though certain products aren’t specifically for women, the way they are advertised has a lot to do with whether or not a guy will use them.
Skincare lines like Lab Series market products specifically to men, letting them spruce up without the embarrassment of having to purchase a package that looks like it should contain a My Little Pony.
“I think it’s important to educate men that its okay to look after their skin,” said Richard Sawyer, spokesperson for Lab Series. “Lab Series products are targeted to men’s specific skincare needs and concerns. We don’t make products for women, only men. We can accurately target what men want and ask for in skincare products.”
But makeup, often taboo for men outside of the theater department, is a tougher sell. The glittery pink packages characteristic of Benefit Cosmetics aren’t exactly welcoming to guys looking to avoid Clay Aiken status.
“Some of our skin treatments have a little bit of a male following,” said Kate Mulcahey, an employee at the Benefit store in Evanston. “As far as a men’s line, we don’t have anything strictly geared towards men.”
Though she says guys don’t come into the store unless they are with girlfriends or fiancées, Mulcahey thinks there’s nothing wrong with guys taking a little more initiative in terms of their personal appearances.
“Grooming-wise, I think they should absolutely use skincare,” she says. “I’ve had boyfriends in the past that have used my concealer. Guys get zits too.”
Some attention to grooming is actually appreciated. While guys who groom about as much as Andrew W.K. would never be considered effeminate, they would also never be considered sanitary, either. And no girl will be attracted to a guy who smells like the seductive mix of vomit and Chinese food (eau de Bobb).
“In general, guys do pretty well in the hygiene department if they smell clean, have non-greasy hair, and don’t have an oil wells on their faces,” Communication sophomore Sarah Rosenak said. “I think guys should stick to basic products geared mostly towards good hygiene, such as deodorant, shampoos, face wash, lotions if necessary, and cologne to top it off.”
The consensus seems to be that guys are allowed to keep clean, but when they start getting creative with the products they use for upkeep, peers start getting creative with the insults. To avoid being likened to Ryan Seacrest, guys have to find the right balance somewhere between manicures and mange.