For 21of21, GOOGLE SHOPPING and PAPER came together to break down some of the most memorable shopping moments of 2021 based on Google's trending search data. In the US, men took to DIY-ing their barbershop experience, with Google search interest for “best manscaping groomer” shooting up 250% this year and the search for “skull shaver” hitting an all-time high in February.
I sought the sparkle of galas within books during the gloomy, mundane days of quarantine to feel a sense of normalcy. As a sometimes-party reporter, the evaporated social calendar threw me in a mental state that felt a bit like an identity crisis. Then a book found its way to my desk and injected the right amount of glitz I desperately needed: an old copy of Chic Savages by John Fairchild (which luckily will be republished in November, 2021).
As I traveled through the glamorous dirty laundry and social politics of America’s upper echelon of the ’70s and ’80s, I came across a quote by Fairchild that would unknowingly change my life: “When [someone] walks into a room, I rarely look first at the clothes. I regard the face, sense the mood, the change in atmosphere... if someone feels comfortable in [their] own skin, and then [their] clothes, they’ll be fine.”
Now, I’m sure Fairchild’s quote is speaking about inner confidence, rather than merely just beauty routines, but in that very moment I read it, Fairchild seemed to reveal a blind spot in my self-care: a beauty routine (or lack thereof). As a 20-something cis-man who always strived to look fashionably sharp, it was obvious what needed to be done.
Thus, the medicine cabinet army was born. It started with a mask, then a moisturizer and sunscreen. Toner and cleanser of all sorts eventually found their way. Suddenly, what used to only consist of a $10 moisturizer picked up from the local drug store evolved into a collection as deep and vast as my wardrobe which included a gold mask by Chantecaille, moisturizer and sunscreen by Shiseido and collagen-boosting (and gender neutral!) products by QMS Medicosmetics. After my skin was taken care of, it was time to figure out what to do about my hair. Because I was unable to go to my hairdresser for a trim as needed, I began experimenting with hair clippers. I learned which lengths blended my sides properly, and which made a horrible distinction. It was hilarious and liberating at the same time. My boyfriend and I found a hairdresser in each other. “Can you help with the back?” and “hold your head this way” were often instructed. Dinner was always slightly awkward when we’d occasionally mess up.
And this practice of self-maintenance was, of course, experienced by other men. Perhaps that’s why Skull Shavers, a cordless head and face shaver with a unique ergonomic design that mirrors the shape of a hand and is suited for wet or dry shaving, became a must-have for the lads who needed a frequent trim. Many men abandoned the practice of using a single razor for all their body hair-needs, and leaned into specialized products. Chief among them, Bevel, whose products are specifically designed for Black men, with a range that includes everything from beard trimmers, to skincare products, shaving accoutrements, and even deodorant; and Manscaped’s specialty trimmers for, well, trimming the groin and other body hair. This was a time for investing in ourselves and going the extra mile.
I’m not the only man who suddenly started taking an interest in his appearance either. It seems the time in lockdown, forced all of us to look inward in more ways than one. Could it be the fact that we’ve spent too long staring at ourselves through endless video chat meetings? Probably. Is it the pressure to look as beautiful as the millions of influencers that flood our phone screens? Maybe. Surely, however, is the fact that the conversation surrounding men caring about their physical appearance is not only changing, but also evolving.
Growing up as a gay kid, I often remember how fixing my hair or wanting it to look a certain way was considered effeminate, and gave away a sexuality that I tried so hard to conceal. But now, thanks in part to social media, caring isn’t limited to being “feminine.” And even if it was, who cares? As the times continue to beat on, men have been granted “permission” to care. Looking good and feeling good about our hair or skin, or beard, is simply a way to feel better. After the tumultuous year and some change that we’ve just had, who could find fault in that?
Perhaps Fairchild would take notice.