Sunday, 31 July 2011

Man for all Seasons


Lotions, potions, pills, procedures... the high street bursts with cosmetics aimed at an eager male audience. As GQ's yearly 'grooming awards' prove, looking good counts. Are gentleman taking the 'fix up, look sharp' mantra to unsightly extremes?

Obsessive masculine preening is hardly a modern occurrence. In the fifteenth century, males indulged in fashion: shapely calves were displayed in revealing stockings, towering wigs were de rigueur, and manhood-enhancing codpieces were tucked subtlety inside breeches to deceive the ladies of the court.

The twenty first century has brought with it an emergence of experimentation and humour on the men's fashion scene; Comme des Garcons, Vivienne Westwood and Etro have recently sent lads in flowing skirts down the catwalk. It took half a century for society to accept women in trousers; surely we should respect men who crave the same liberty of dress?

But I may take this open minded statement back if highly experimental fashion choices become the decisions of most males (lads swishing to Sainsbury's in flowing Westwood numbers, legs clad in Mark's and Spencer's nylons to keep out the January hills are visions that spring to mind)- but, on the whole, I believe a man who takes an interest in fashion is to be admired. In my opinion, the only truly unattractive element of the innovations in men's cosmetics and fashion is the level of vanity involved, vanity which screams of self obsession and low self esteem. Anyone, male or female, who blatantly spends an unhealthy amount of time and money on their appearance loses some of their visual appeal, as, to the close observer, they are obviously intent on presenting a fa├žade.

Intent on showing off more than just the up-do, Brand strikes a pose...
Kurt Cobain, for example, broke a few men's fashion conventions when he dressed in Courtney's dresses- but it was cool, because it was spontaneous, not over-considered, and in this satirical, spontaneous attitude, it was perhaps even attractive. Likewise, take the bed-head hair thing, a slight tousled effect on the back and sides- fab! What makes Russell Brand's explosive barnet so unappealing is the knowledge that he's spent hours being laboriously conditioned, back combed, tonged, crimped and gloss-sprayed. It's a problematic contradiction; whereas we love to see men looking good, smelling reasonable and dressing somewhat uniquely, we don't want to see any signs of effort on their part.

So, fellas, if you've got a tube of gradual tanning moisturiser tucked away in your undies draw, along with a well-thumbed forecast of the trends for Spring/Summer, just don't tell us about it.

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