Fiona McCade: Modern male vanity needs to go

You need time, money and dedication to achieve top-level loveliness. Picture: Getty

You need time, money and dedication to achieve top-level loveliness. Picture: Getty

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ROMAN blokes shaved their legs and Spartans moisturised, but modern men who primp and preen have no excuse, suggests Fiona McCade.

When I saw that David Cameron had refused no less than five times to be photographed wearing a “This is what a feminist looks like” T-shirt, even though Nick Clegg and David Miliband had done so perfectly happily, I didn’t think: “Male chauvinist pig!” No, I thought: “I bet he’s worried that he’ll look terrible in it.”

I might be right and if I am, who could blame him? The colour would make Dave look horribly washed-out and, as a new survey has suggested, men these days are getting more and more particular about their appearance.

Dove – yes, the skincare company that champions “real” women – has now turned its attention to blokes and asked 2,000 of them about their everyday grooming routines. I’ll admit, I was shocked at the responses. If these men are in any way typical, and – even more frightening – if they are a portent of the future of masculinity, then from now on, all homes are going to have to be built with at least two bathrooms.

These Dove men spend two years and three months of their lives just bathing or showering. Compare that with the average female, who spends one year and eight months washing, and contrast that with my husband, who normally has to ask directions to the bathroom and can only be guaranteed clean during the summer – if I gently persuade him into his swimming trunks and then surprise him with a good hose-down.

The Dove men freely admit to dedicating 15 months of their lives to fitness training (women manage just two months), and even admit to lavishing an astounding 27 days on nail care, when even women can only manage to trim, file and buff for a measly month.

In all, according to this survey, during his lifetime, the average man will spend around four and a half years primping, preening and generally making himself fit and fabulous, whereas the average woman will only bother for just over three years.

Of course, these averages are skewed by the cast of The Only Way is Essex. I think most males of my acquaintance would be mystified by the thought of spending such a lot of time on boring things like hygiene. In fact, when I explained to my husband what the average Dove-product-using male was doing with his nails on a regular basis, he gawped in disbelief and said to me suspiciously: “Buffing? Are you making that up?”

I suppose that men behaving fastidiously isn’t such a surprise if you look back in history. The warriors of old often took pride in rituals to cleanse and beautify themselves. The Romans shaved their legs, the Vikings plaited their hair, and even the rock-hard Spartans weren’t averse to getting oiled-up before battle. If you were going to die, it made sense to do so looking your best.

It’s only natural that nowadays, modern men want to dazzle just as much as their warlike predecessors. Unfortunately, if you take away the fight with an invading army that used to happen straight after the manicure, you’re left with nothing but a preoccupation with appearance that looks uncomfortably vain and empty.

Not only did my husband refuse to accept that anybody with a Y chromosome would ever find themselves in possession of a nail-file, he also had an explanation for the Dove survey’s findings. “It’s because the company’s called ‘Dove’” he explained, sagely.

“They probably only surveyed the sort of blokes who buy stuff called ‘Dove’. So no wonder they got these sort of results. They’re not representative of most men.”

Perhaps he has a point, but if he’s right, and if we’re to find out once and for all the true state of 21st century male grooming, we need to get opinions from the sort of men who buy products with really butch names. You know, find out how often users of Eaglesblood shower gel wash themselves, or the number of times someone with a Viking Raider cuticle-pusher does his nails. To be honest, I’m not so sure the results would be so very different. When I was growing up, I remember that my father always used Cossack hair spray, and a more vain man never walked this earth.

It’s also worth remembering that humans are unusual in that the female is the more flamboyant of the species. This has never felt quite right to me, so perhaps what’s happening here is a return to the natural order of things. The boys are reclaiming their right to be the more beautiful of the sexes.

However, if this is the case, then gentlemen, I must tell you, you’re onto a loser. The Dove boys obviously have some inkling of the sort of dedication – not to mention time, energy and cost – that it takes to achieve top-level loveliness. However, we women have been struggling to do this very same thing for millennia and take it from us, it’s exhausting. All this time we’ve been plucking and smoothing and volumising and reducing and generally forcing ourselves through all sorts of painful processes, simply to attract you.

Meanwhile – perhaps with the brief exception of 18th century France – you chaps have been rolling out of bed, scraping your chins if you feel like it, and apart from that, you’re good to go. I ask you, who has the better deal here?

And do you really want to mess up such an advantageous situation, just because David Beckham has so little to occupy him all day he’s found a few interesting things to do with mousse?

Boys, don’t slide down the slippery slope that we women have created. Learn from our mistakes. Put away your mirrors and your tweezers. I’m telling you this for your own good.

However, if you really want to join us in this hell of self-absorption and expensive beauty regimes, welcome to girls’ world. But I warn you, it’s not pretty.

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