The term “grooming,” hairstylists told me, is important in recoding beauty for men. During my research at high-service men’s salons, which focus on creating a pampered, “elevated experience” for their clients, I explored what it takes to make beauty masculinizing for some men. Veronica, the owner of one men’s salon, refers to her business as a “grooming lounge” so that clients invest in the space, services, and products as distinctly masculine. Beauty has been linked to women and femininity; to sell men on the commercial beauty industry, so the thinking goes, it has to be repackaged. This repackaging of beauty as “grooming” has been effective for Veronica, as well as for large cosmetic companies.
Men’s grooming is a growing subsector of the beauty industry, with already established and emerging product lines like Nivea Men, The Lab Series, Dove Men+Care, Jack Black, and Lauder for Men. And salons dedicated solely to shoring-up men’s hair, eyebrows, and nails are popping up across the country. Market research companies announce varying revenue numbers, but they all agree men’s grooming sales are in the billions and growing exponentially. This is cause for intrigue among social scientists like myself as well as journalists like Sabri Ben-Achor, who recently reported for NPR’s Marketplace on “How it became OK for guys to take care of themselves.”
We are thrilled here at Feminist Reflections that two of our contributing editors were interviewed as academic experts for Ben-Achor’s piece, including Tristan Bridges and myself. Lisa Wade, of our sister blog Sociological Images, is also featured. The article focuses on “why now?” What is it about the current cultural climate in the United States that makes the production, marketing, and sale of men’s grooming so successful, and why didn’t this happen sooner?
Listen to the NPR Marketplace report, here:
*I use pseudonyms to refer to my field sites and research participants, and this data come from my forthcoming book, Styling Masculinity: Gender, Class, and Inequality in the Men’s Grooming Industry.