Since the dawn of the metrosexual in the late 90’s, cosmetics brands, the media and retailers have been dying to get their hands on the burgeoning men’s beauty trend.  Metrosexuals certainly aren’t the first group of guys to primp and pamper.  Men have done it for centuries.  But, as we all see (and smell), most American men have eschewed anything more than the basic hygiene rituals, e.g., shaving, showering, a spritz or two of musky deodorant.

But times are changing.  Why?  Certainly brands are accommodating them more with specialized products (e.g., The Art of Shaving, Fructis Anti-dandruff Shampoo, Phillips shaver for those “intimate areas”).  But I think it has to do with the fact that  men are increasingly finding their typical source of appeal to others, namely money or at least a solid job, not appealing enough on its own or even impossible to achieve in today’s economic environment.

Interestingly, when it comes to this new pursuit of beauty, I see a similar paradigm cropping up with men as I do with women.  It is both fun and fulfilling —  and potentially harmful.

Some guys revel in this new-found pastime.  Famous designer Marc Jacobs went through a transformation a few years ago when he decided to start caring for his appearance (Marc Jacob’s Grooming Regimen Details Magazine 9/10).  Now he says “taking care of myself makes me feel good.”

But others are driving themselves to the emotional and physical brink in an effort to achieve hotness.  Details Magazine exposed a new phenomenon of gymorexia.  Men are addicted to the gym but not just for the endorphin kick.  They’re simply afraid of getting fat and lumpy and spend countless hours daily working out.

Whether or not you believe that we’re enslaved by society’s beauty norms, you can’t argue that these norms are only directed against women.  Nevertheless, I choose to believe that the pursuit of beauty is fundamentally a wonderful thing, but, like all behaviors, it can go to the extreme.  Of course we should fight against those extreme behaviors, but we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

After all, who doesn’t want a few more buff men to check out in the office or the playground?

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