…Reflecting on personal grooming and increasing male vanity
I kept an afro for about ten years of my adult life. Whenever anyone asked, my default response was that I did it in memory of my father who always had an afro.
The reality, however, is that one day, I decided to let my hair grow out because I wanted to try something different. After about a month, I was satisfied with the results and it became my official look. Contrary to popular opinion, taking care of it was not stressful as my hair wasn’t tough. I barely had any issues washing and combing it daily, and I only ever used some random hair cream.
It took a while for people to get used to my new look. Some liked it, many others didn’t. I had quite a few hair-nemies who constantly urged me to cut it but I couldn’t care less, the afro was here to stay. I also kept a modest moustache and goatee to fit the afro. Once in a while, I did get bored and thought of doing something else: plaiting it or letting it turn into dreadlocks naturally but I never “gathered the liver”.
I finally ditched the afro about three years ago and replaced it with a fade which has proven quite fitting if I may say so myself. I also keep a slightly fuller beard but all I do is brush it out, nothing fancy. When I want to switch things up, I brush my hair with the dread foam a friend introduced me to and I achieve the dreadlocks effect.
Am I vain? Heck no! The most I do is keep some hair and use hair cream, I haven’t even graduated to buying beard oil or any of the other exotic male grooming products. However, I look around these days and notice that many more guys have become more conscious of personal grooming, and I don’t just mean their hair but also their skin, how they look, and how they smell. Gosh, there are so many vain men out there, thank God I am not one of them! (Lol)
Historically (and I mean as far back as about eight to 10 years ago), the average guy was never so conscious about his hair or the sophisticated level of personal grooming that has become common. For many guys, their hair was something they combed or brushed and forgot about, some even decided not to keep any hair and maintained a skin cut, others had that decision taken for them by genetics and rocked their bald head in peace. What was hair cream or hair spray? When did body wash, facial scrubs, or even body lotion become necessary when soap and water had always done their magic? If any extra help was needed, a dab of vaseline would complete the ritual. The only products men typically used religiously were deodorants, perfumes, and maybe shaving creams or gels, for those who shaved by themselves. Many guys considered anything beyond these as an unnecessary extra.
In the last few years, however, there has been a global renaissance in the male personal grooming industry (haircare, beard care, and skincare).
Many guys have started experimenting with their hair, exploring not just different haircuts but also styling options. The ever-present skin cut AKA gorimapa, short hair, and afro have given way to mohawks, fades, twists, dreadlocks, braids, and many other hairstyles. Even hair transplants are now available for those who can afford the procedure. Facial hair has also not been left out as the “Beard Gang” has held sway with some brands even running campaigns targeted at bearded men.
What made men suddenly experience this reawakening and consciousness of personal grooming? I think pop culture and new media have been involved in some way, and this is probably why the trend is more apparent among younger men as they are less set in their ways and thus, more likely to explore.
I remember watching an interview in which a celebrity Nigerian couple was asked which of them spent more time in front of the mirror. Without a thought, the wife said it was the husband and he confidently admitted to this, noting that he spent a lot of time on his skincare routine. I wonder how many men are in the same shoes but would never admit it because they don’t want to be considered vain. I know a few women who wouldn’t even let their men grow beards if they wanted to, not to talk of adding an elaborate skincare routine!
Men’s grooming is big business these days with valuations of the industry in billions of dollars, who would have thought? I wonder how much the grooming industry in Nigeria is worth as even indigenous organic skincare product makers are not left out of the opportunity seeing as social media is replete with various adverts offering everything from beard growth and care oils to facial scrubs and body lotions that deliver the supplest skin.
And what about barbershops or should we call them grooming parlours? Many have now become premium destinations with some even offering drinks and snacks while you wait to get served. The service offerings include anything from getting your hair cut, tinted, or dyed, beard trimmed or groomed, dreadlocks styled, and even your nails done.
Depending on which side of town you are in, a haircut could set you back anything from less than five hundred naira to as much as five thousand naira, maybe even more! And when you consider that some men have been reputed to visit their barbers twice a week, you can imagine how much people are willing to spend to look good. I’m content with bimonthly barber visits though and if I feel very rustic, I could even make it once in three weeks!
As more men become conscious of how they look, I am certain that many traditionally female beauty services would become tailored to men and I foresee these top three trends:
- After some of my female cousins mentioned microblading (a procedure women undergo to get perfect eyebrows), I jokingly said that men would soon adopt this for their beards. Shortly after, I saw an advert on Instagram offering microblading services for male eyebrows, not even beards! Watch out for microbladed beards though, it will become a thing
- Masculine makeup is becoming popular in the West but I wasn’t ever sure black men would try it especially African men. Well, I have been proven wrong as I have seen pictures of men with makeup. I wouldn’t be surprised when male makeup products become as popular as the female brands (if they aren’t already abroad)
- I am almost certain manscaping is a thing already and guys are not talking about it because they don’t want to be seen a certain way. It will eventually become mainstream; vanity has no levels!
A final word for guys who consider themselves a bit too traditional to experiment with male grooming products (and no, I will probably not take my advice), you could take the risk by buying your first beard care pack or facial scrub, what have you got to lose? And for ladies who are stifling their men’s urge to join the beard gang, let them grow their beards! You will have something to play with or tug whenever he needs some punishment, either way, you win! Looking good is good business for everyone including men and that is the way I see things today.