When Richard Nixon famously refused to don makeup in the televised 1960 presidential debate, few people at the time were surprised. The idea of a presidential candidate (or any man for that matter) wearing blusher and foundation was enough to make Middle America squirm awkwardly in their plaid armchairs.
Nixon lost both the debate and the presidency, with many historians attributing the defeats to his sweaty, sickly on-screen appearance during that first debate.
So if “Tricky Dick” were still with us, he may well have been horrified by a recent JWT study that found 54 per cent of men approved of wearing skincare products like moisturizer and eye cream.
The survey of 1,000 U.S. and U.K. men also indicated that 24 per cent thought using fake tan was acceptable, and 9 per cent even advocated the use of foundation.
So how have marketers managed to convince men that wearing bronzer is as manly as using a bandsaw?
What’s in a name?
If the skill in marketing is to communicate effectively with your audience, then makeup manufacturer Menaji have turned that skill into a fine art. While you’d be forgiven for thinking their “CAMO Urban Camouflage” is something that facilitates the stealthy maiming of workmates on a paintball course, it’s actually “the world’s first concealing agent designed for men.”
And with the Tennessee-based retailer’s sales apparently booming, it seems part of the secret to removing the male makeup stigma is to call it something else. Other products on the market carry masculine names like “Defensive Line”, “Fire Island” and “Face Buff”. Adjectives like “luscious”, “stunning” and “flawless” are understandably absent from marketing copy, supplanted by commanding words like “power”, “optimal” and “boost”.
Those same adjectives have successfully sold razors, deodorants and hair gels to men for decades – vanity products the masculinity police long ago deemed acceptable. As JWT’s study seems to indicate, the blurring of that rhetoric may reflect the now fuzzy boundaries that once separated the more traditionally feminine cosmetics.
Celebrities paving the way
While the pressure on male entertainers and politicians to look their best is nothing new, a fresh spirit of openness regarding the tricks they use may be emerging. And the men’s cosmetic industry appears to be capitalising on it, with celebrity endorsement now extending beyond the realms of body spray and shaving products.
Menaji’s website names the distinctly non-girly figures of Evander Holyfield, Kid Rock and even Barrack Obama as users of their products.
And while hair loss may still be a sore point among figures like Donald Trump, Mel Gibson and John Travolta, others are far more open to discussing it. Tron star Bruce Boxleitner and John Cryer of Two and a Half Men fame have admitted to using concealing fibres to cover thinning hair – and in fact, Boxleitner even openly endorses well-known hair loss treatment Toppik.
Younger men like football star Wayne Rooney and Backstreet Boy A.J. McLean have also openly admitted to having cosmetic hair surgery. Rooney spoke frankly about his procedure in a British tabloid and McLean happily posted before-and-after shots to his Twitter account.
So the discussion around men’s cosmetic products and procedures appears to be far more open than when the term ‘metrosexual’ was coined in the mid-nineties. Back then, American consumers were spending around $2.4bn a year on men’s cosmetics. Today, the figure is over $5bn. That discussion is clearly music to the ears of those pedalling “guyliner”, “brotox” and other “mancessories.”