How Far Should a Man Go?

December 21, 2021

How Far Should a Man Go?

I have 43 years of practice in my craft. An American PR once said to me, “just say 25 years, more than that and you’ll sound over the hill.”

Experienced is good it seems, ‘passed it’ not so attractive. So what should we do? I want to look my best, but without people thinking that I care or tried too hard. I don’t want to be perceived as vain, I just want to look good; for me, my family and the people I come into contact with. I can say that without shame because I work in the grooming industry and I need to walk my talk.

But for many men the mere thought carries a burden of guilt. That they should flirt with narcissism rather than be stoic and ‘manly’. Something as seemingly self-conscious and shallow as one’s personal beauty conflicts with an upbringing steeped in heroic narratives of stiff upper lips and selfless commitments to duty and Empire. Were this a personal concern would be seen by some as borderline immoral, somehow making you less trustworthy or reliable. As if when the going gets tough you may reach for your eyeliner.

There’s so much choice for men today in care, wellness and grooming enhancements. But where’s the line from self-improvement to self-obsession? A lot further away than most older men think, I’d say.

In an era of record employment, competition for jobs is fierce. Companies fight for the brightest and most dynamic applicants. It may have taken you 25 years of professional dedication to acquire your status, but the next generation are snapping at your heels. Will it take them as long? Will offshoring or AI beat them to it? For many executives, keeping up a regime that maintains a ‘can do’ youthful and energetic persona is ever more important.

On-line or in person, experience is highly valued. But in commercial reality, attitude, energy, and vibrant ambition, eventually trump talent and experience. Are you on your way up or on your way out? No one thinks that out loud, but we subconsciously make these judgements. We like to align ourselves with people whose outlooks are improving and expanding.

Good personal grooming is even more essential in a media driven world. Zoom may excuse pyjama bottoms and slippers but signals are still picked up from even fewer attributes. Facial care and hair being even more vital.

How you feel about your look can also translate to better psychological and physiological processes that raise self-esteem and slow the ageing process. Remember, you are as young as you feel, and you can feel as young as you look. A ball-park figure of life expectancy can even be taken from facial ageing.

Through the last four decades of booms and recessions the beauty industry has continued to grow. Men’s beauty and grooming has grown even faster as it plays catch up from its tiny niche. Here are a few basic tips.

Hair  In terms of power dressing, a great haircut beats the cut of a fine suit. No amount of expensive clothing, make-up or even plastic surgery makes up for badly presented hair.

How much grey hair is okay? – There’s no escaping the fact that grey hair makes you look older. For some people whose white hair came unusually early in life it can look striking against young skin. For most it is draining and ageing.

Do I recommend all men dye their hair? Emphatically no. But for some there are quick and easy to maintain methods that pull the look back ten years in a very natural way. Others may want more of a fashion statement. If it makes you happy and raises confidence and self-esteem what’s not to like? It’s just one more thing that can make a difference and give an edge.

Skin – A healthy lifestyle and home rituals gives the best foundation; a monthly deep clean and restorative facial maintains a glow.

Teeth  Overly Californian dentistry makes me think of the Grand National. But the bar has been raised, and reasonably straight, whitened teeth is an expectation. Take a look at British stars of a bygone era like 1970s Bowie etc. and you’ll be shocked at how far we’ve come. Invisalign make transparent braces so you won't feel thirteen again. Snow make an easy to use home whitening kit.

Clothes – Volumes can be written on how clothes make the man. I’ll just make one point. A well-cut navy suit is more flattering to mature skin than black.

Cost  Spending more is good value and sensible if it also saves time and hassle. That goes for a great haircut that looks better, lasts longer and is fuss free. Upgrading your wardrobe and skincare regime can give the self-assurance to focus your valuable time on empire building. Investing in your appearance is sound economics.

Society is also now more accepting of individuality and less judgemental of those that don’t conform to stereotypes. Self-care is no longer seen as selfish. Finessing your attributes to be the best-self that you feel comfortable with is a foundation of health, wellness and self-esteem. Looking and feeling good about yourself is also better for those in your orbit. So far from being a vanity trip, healthy personal beauty and grooming is really a social service.

 Michael Van Clarke

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