The Generation Game

by Lesley Hayes, on a yacht in St Vincent, Caribbean Sea | July 17, 2016
A mature bearded man with tattoos standing against a white background

Writing about Morrissey the other day got me reminiscing and my train of thought veered towards how men’s attitudes towards fashion and grooming has changed in my lifetime.  I think of my dad’s generation, well I think of my dad! Dad, or Malc as he prefers to be called by anyone who is not one of his children, is fairly typical of English, Northern working class men of his generation.  In his opinion, real men didn’t groom and any man who paid any attention to how he looked must be homosexual or European. Or from London. He isn’t an enlightened man and his prejudices were the only things he wore with pride.

His only concession to grooming was the occasional liberal sprinkling of Brut on a night out. I can still smell it. Just typing out the word brought back some painful olfactory memories. To be honest, there wasn’t a lot of choice at the time, especially if, like Malc, you weren’t willing to spend more than a couple of quid on an aftershave. He was suspicious of mine and my sisters’ boyfriends because they did care what they looked, and smelled like.  The generations were changing. Men were no longer working dahn t’pit (translated as “down the pit” for non-Northern English people) and even if they were builders or mechanics, they didn’t feel the need to dress like one once they had clocked off.

Even so, despite the fact that Kuoros had replaced Brut and the right hair style was important, I don’t think, at that time, they would have considered incorporating exfoliation into their grooming routine. And if you’d have told them that in the future, some men would willingly pay to have their bodily hair waxed, they would have thought you were experiencing a psychotic episode.

Is it a good thing that men are now more interested in looking and feeling good? Well I think the answer is yes. For starters, women have always felt the pressure to look good so it redresses the balance! Seriously, there appears to be a lot more individuality these days in the way that men dress which is good to see.  Good to see them expressing a bit of their personality through their appearance. The fact that they care how they look suggests that they care about other things. But men should not feel under pressure and I’m as happy to see a man in jeans and t-shirt, with shaggy hair and stubble and smelling “au natural” as I am seeing a perfumed, nicely coiffed man in a tailored jacket. Maybe it’s my age.  Maybe because I can no longer consider myself a spring chicken, I just like looking at young men! Any of them.

So now the choice of after shaves is overwhelming and you can pick one to suit your mood, the occasion or your budget.  But back to Brut. A couple of years ago I was in the Greek islands with my partner and he had run out of deodorant. The only shop nearby was a tiny mini-market, and the only deodorant they had was Brut flavoured.  He had to buy it, it was quite hot and he was quite sweaty. And do you know what?  It still smells as bad as ever!

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