Stephen McGinty: Eye-liner’s not in my make-up

Gerard Butler is the face of L'Oreal. Picture: Getty
Gerard Butler is the face of L'Oreal. Picture: Getty
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Metrosexual man is multiplying in Scotland and male grooming products are a growth industry. But Stephen McGinty doubts the value of having concealer in his bathroom cabinet

THE Scots male is changing. The Big Man is bowing low so as to see himself more clearly in the bathroom mirror. Not, apparently, to stare deep into blood-shot eyes and ponder with a mixture of pride and self-loathing the drunken violence of the night before, but so as to more carefully lavish on moisturiser in order to refresh the parts other liquids can’t reach.

A new report has revealed that beauty salons are reporting a rise in the number of Scots men using their services with 1,300 jobs expected to be created over the next year to cater for this growing demand of metrosexuals. Personally, I’m sceptical about such a jobs boom triggered by the average male’s desire to have his eyebrows threaded, but there is no denying the financial growth in male grooming products. Since 2006 the market has increased by 104 per cent from £450 million to £960m and is expected to be worth over £1 billion in Britain by 2015.

Then there is the rising amount of time men spend in the bathroom, and I don’t mean hunched over a paper, with one in three spending between 21 and 40 minutes getting ready each morning. Yet another report claimed that 10 per cent of men in Britain now discreetly wear make-up, with 71 per cent favouring concealer, 64 per cent partial to lip gloss and 49 per cent using eye-liner

So where do I sit on the great debate about male grooming? Well, I am currently fretting about whether or not my favoured barber will be on duty on Saturday morning. The very fact that I have a favoured barber indicates that I do indeed pay attention to my appearance despite what friends insist is the mounting evidence to the contrary, yet this is balanced out by the fact that my favoured barber costs just £10 for a wet cut, 40 per cent less than what I learned yesterday was the Scottish average of £14.90.

However he did not secure “favoured barber” status by dint of under-charging me but for his glorious “Edward Scissorhands-style” ability to tame, shape, contour, lift and sculpt my greying thatch. He used to be resident in the barbers at the bottom of my street, thus ensuring the holy trinity of proximity, price and pristine ability, but then he disappeared and left me in the incapable hands of his successor.

On two occasions I returned home to have my wife stare at me as if I had walked through the door with a pigeon on my head. This forced me to return to the barbers later in the week and ask the successor where his predecessor had actually departed too. I tried to make it sound rather casual, but as I had no other reason to be in the shop this was rather difficult, I’m sure he realised that, like an errant husband in search of a more inspiring mistress, I was moving on. “It’s not you, it’s me. It’s just that I don’t like what you do to my hair. Sorry.”

Now, instead of a five-minute walk to the bottom of the road, I embark on a 15 minute drive all to satisfy my increasing male vanity. I would never have done this a decade ago, but age is chipping away at my natural beauty forcing me to paper over the cracks.

Two years ago, while resident in one of those grim little photo booths to which we all must venture when in need of a new passport picture, I leaned forward and saw reflected in the strange digital mirror in front of me that a bald patch had suddenly appeared on the crown of my head. I felt quite sick. Surely not? I started touching my head feeling for the disturbing sensation of skin but could find none.

It turned out that the thick streak of white hair was registering on the computer screen as the same colour as my skin lending the false appearance of baldness. Phew. The scare led me to ponder what steps I’d take should I ever begin to recede? Could I withstand the pain of a hair transplant or opt instead to re-introduce the once fashionable combover? I hope not to find out the answer.

If the sudden epidemic of male grooming is broken down, then marketeers will be aware that the “gateway” product to a lifetime’s expensive addiction to lip gloss, foundation and eye-liner, a future to which, according to the men’s glossies, we will all soon be subject, is the moisturiser.

A decade ago I could not conceive of a situation where I would find myself standing in an aisle of Morrisons pondering which of the multiple brands of moisturiser would best suit my current needs and satisfy the diva-like demands of my once calm and butter-soft skin. But then my neck, previously porcelain smooth and the colour of cool marble, had decidedly to go raging red as if the hair follicles were holding their breath in a bitter demand to be embalmed in a soothing mixture of cocoa beans, honey-suckle and lavender oil. As vocal critic of the new vogue of metrosexuals and advocate that men required no more than soap and water I felt that if I had to purchase a moisturiser then it had to be the one with the most medical-seeming appearance.

Yet what is interesting is how the cosmetics companies are marketing men’s grooming products. The default message is that it is macho to moisturise and re-hydrate your skin. Gerry Butler, when not on duty saving the president of the United States in the guilty-pleasure that is Olympus Has Fallen, is to be seen pounding the pavements on a long-distance run or his boxing opponents in the face in the city gym before turning to us, the middle-aged male viewer, to explain that, even he, hard man Gerry Butler thinks its appropriate to take better care of his skin. The fact that he is being paid £1 million to say so, and, as he is an actor and it really is a wise career move to look after what millions of people pay to see, is quietly set to one side.

So what, for me, as the limits of male grooming? Well, since you asked, so much of it is about good manners as personal vanity. The use of a deodorant is a courtesy extended to my colleagues, while the decision not to use any aftershave is a courtesy extended to my wife who has a nose like a bloodhound and finds even the most pleasant artificial scent intensely annoying after only a few minutes. Not that I’ve ever actively considered using aftershave, though as a child I had a fascination with the Denim advert and its appeal to red-taloned women.

Do I think I would look any better by following the example of the modern South Korean gentleman (even Korean Air has started offering make-up lessons for male flight attendants) and insisting each morning on the application of lip gloss, eye-liner and foundation? I’m not quite sure.

I’ve had a few dabs of foundation applied prior to a television appearance but never noticed any radical difference, and as for eye-liner, my heavy drooping celtic eye-lids mean I’d have to slaver it on like Robert Smith from The Cure to see any noticeable result. Still this may lead to being more noticeable at press conferences.

Yet, even if I was to see a noticeable difference, let’s imagine that a revised morning routine would leave me looking 25 per cent better, could I be bothered actually learning the complex art of application? At the moment I can wash my hair, shower, shave and brush my teeth in eight minutes when tardiness requires such haste, am I willing to extend that morning routine by another ten to 15 minutes? I don’t think so. Then there is the additional fret and worry that would come with more complex cosmetic applications.

I received a text from a friend who saw me briefly on Sky’s coverage of Lady Thatcher’s funeral (did you see how smoothly I dropped that little bon mot into the conversation, subtle as a badly laid brick) and he said my black tie wasn’t straight. If I sometimes struggle to get my tie centrally positioned imagine the logistical headaches involved with the smooth, even application of foundation, eye-liner and lip gloss. I would surely resemble a drowned clown.

Best to leave it alone, so I send my apologies to the Scottish economy.