Text by Karena Gupton Akhavein
When it comes to men’s grooming, where does one turn in order to determine the current gestalt? The rigorously art-directed heads topping the looks on the fashion runway or the hipster working behind the bar at the coffeehouse du jour? Last summer, all catwalks pointed to a resurgence of the beard, which civilians had already surmised from observing the aforementioned hipsters. Alarmist market reports predicted a drop in razor sales, prompting Gillette and Remington to launch campaigns aimed at convincing hirsute men to start at least shaving their body hair. But, almost as soon as it was acknowledged as a thing, the beard’s moment in the spotlight was over. Affleck shaved his off. So did Clooney. The guys behind trendy eyeglass line Warby Parker bought a shaver factory and a genius blades-by-mail concept called Dollar Shave Club raised $9.8 million in Silicon Valley funding. Though beards may now be on the endangered list, they left behind a more widespread awareness that good grooming is a necessity. We’re not going so far as to suggest the adoption of full-on Tom Ford men’s makeup or Ken Men’s guy-liner and man-scara, but in 2014, a decent haircut, smooth skin and well maintained hands and feet should be a matter of course for any stylish man. Let’s divulges the trends, products, and establishments aimed and keeping gentlemen groomed from top to bottom (pun intended…but more on that later).
Starting from the top: for guys lucky enough to boast a full head of hair, the A/W 2014 runways presented a relatively united front regarding the haircut of the season—neat and short on the sides and back, with extra length on top and a longer fringe for more flexibility. The styling, however, made all the difference. At the Vuitton show, strands were raked back, the better to show off chunky, colorful sunglasses. Slick side parts reigned at Calvin Klein Collection, Versace, Vivienne Westwood, Dries Van Noten and Jil Sander. Textured locks, ranging from casual bed-head to wind-blown, were the thing at 3.1 Philip Lim, Dior Homme, DSquared, Bottega Veneta, Fendi and Prada. How to achieve these styles at home? It all hinges on the correct tools and products. First, the hairbrush: Mason Pearson remains the gold standard, with authentic boar bristles that firmly grip each hair and ensure the all-important distribution of natural oils. The most flexible styling product award goes to old-school pomade which, depending on the amount used, can give subtle shine, lift a neo-pompadour, tame fly-aways, or go full-on wet look. Suavecito Pomade’s retro packaging has a Rockabilly aesthetic that will make any man feel more bad-ass. For those looking for texture with a more matte finish, American Crew, a brand that has long been a leader in the world of men’s grooming, has a product called Fiber that gives shape and texture without the shine.
Both on the runway and in hipster-dense environments, men’s faces are once again tending towards the clean-shaven. This look requires both good general skincare, as well as the proper shaving products. Billy Jealousy Exfoliating Facial Cleanser will get rid of excess surface oils and the dead skin cells that can cause ingrown hairs, and is good preparation for a closer shave. When it comes to razors, the King Of Shaves Hyperglide Razor is a game-changer. No more messy moisture strips that disintegrate in the shower. This shaver’s unique cartridge is based on advanced medical technology and self-lubricates when it comes into contact with water, making other shaving products unnecessary. Brooklyn Grooming Company offers a superb line of old-school products ranging from beard balm to shaving oil, mustache wax and hair pomade. As hipster as it gets, the company’s vegan offerings are also petrolatum free. Scents are unique and named after Brooklyn neighborhoods. Post-shave, Baxter of California After Shave Balm soothes and moisturizes. In terms of a good general-use face cream for gents, Kiehls Facial Fuel is overwhelmingly popular, probably because it sounds appropriately manly and does everything it’s supposed to. This, however, is not enough. The delicate eye area should also be addressed. MenScience Eye Rescue is basically a hangover cure for eyes. Vitamin K combats dark circles, powerful retinols blast wrinkles, and anti-inflammatory chamomile counters puffiness. For soft lips, there’s Burt’s Bees Lip Balm in a macho, outdoorsy metal tin that staves off any resemblance to a lipstick.
Despite all the great at-home tools and products, no man is an island and there comes a time when a guy just wants to go to a professional, preferably to get groomed in a social, masculine atmosphere. This need is being addressed with the modern incarnations of the old-school barbershop that have recently been cropping up all over the country. Beyond classic services like hot towel shaves and precise haircuts executed by master barbers, clients of these establishments can enjoy amenities such as top-shelf booze, flat screen TVs, and leather chairs. The Barbershop Club at the Los Angeles Farmer’s Market offers an extensive beer menu to patrons, who are invited to linger and enjoy the social club atmosphere. Virile in New Jersey offers cigars and drinks to complement their tonsorial services. At The Blind Barber in NYC’s East Village, a complimentary cocktail is offered with every cut and shave. At HairM in Portland, Oregon, most of the master barbers also happen to be very attractive women. And barbershops are not the only establishments catering to masculine grooming needs: places like Hammer and Nails in L.A. are putting the “man” in “manicure.” Here, clients can kick back in the man-cave-esque décor and watch the game while they get a paraffin treatment.
This brings us to another sort of masculine grooming establishment: salons specializing in men’s hair removal. According to reports, increasing numbers of men are choosing to sport hairless bodies, whether they be athletes seeking to reduce friction, neatniks who feel it’s a cleaner option, or even regular guys whose wives or girlfriends have decided it’s payback time for all those Brazilians they’ve endured. Lasers, threading, shaving, and electrolysis are all options, but waxing seems to be the easiest and most popular. Bare Skin Studio in L.A. specializes in waxing chests, eyebrows, backs, under arms and yes, bottoms. Waxing 4 Men in San Francisco offers a Man Brazilian, and Stript Wax Bar offers the Brojacial. No free booze here, though: unfortunately, waxing and drinking don’t mix. For those who would rather risk this sort of procedure in the privacy of their own home – though it seems logistically impossible to wax certain sensitive areas without another set of hands – there is the appropriately named Nad’s For Men Body Waxing Kit. Prep the area with Stript Wax Bar’s Brojacial Tea Tree & Apricot Scrub Soap. Afterwards, maintain that clean feeling with Mangroomer BizWipes or One Wipe Charlie Wipes by Dollar Shave Club and Jack Black Pit Boss Antiperspirant.