In the opening scene of the classic 2000 movie American Psycho, a 27-year-old, handsome, arriviste Wall Street bigwig, takes you through his meticulous morning routine. Rising from his crisp white sheets like a phantasmagorical phoenix, a ripped and glowing, 6’1″ frame reaches for the freezer, where a blue eye-mask awaits his chiseled face.
He then undergoes a rigorous exercise regime of over one thousand sit-ups, before hopping into the shower and applying a deep pore cleanser lotion, followed by a water-active gender cleanser, a honey-almond body spray, and an exfoliating gel scrub.
To top things off, one of film and literature’s most narcissistical protagonists then applies a herb-mint face mask, which in less than 10 minutes, can be unpeeled, and thus reveal the beautiful specimen that is Patrick Bateman. But a question the author Bret Easton Ellis has likely never been asked is whether Patrick Bateman would own make-up or concealer? I suspect he would have, but for the majority of men, and even those as appearance-conscious as Bateman, there is almost a taboo about men wearing it, but isn’t it about time that changed?
Take concealer. The simplest of cosmetics for masking the impurities that Bateman tried so rigorously to avoid, it has been used by women for decades as a go-to deception device to kid their friends, family and passing strangers that their skin is naturally flawless. Concealer is a perfect cosmetic to hide away dark circles under eyes, uneven tones of redness, and adult acne.
So why, in an age of metrosexual spending habits (according to the British bank Barclays, British men now pay more on clothes each month than women) and gender-fluid advertising campaigns, are men still afraid to buy a $5 stick of concealer? Well, male cosmetics has always been a hard sell, but in an era where men now choose leg-hugging skinny jeans over regular ones and hog gym space and tanning salons as though their life depended on it, that shouldn’t be the case.
Bafflingly, it seems strange that a man who prides himself on his appearance would feel uncomfortable covering up a few spots or a puffy pair of eyes. But due to its connotation with more traditional makeups, men probably fear ridicule from their fellow peers if their concealer was noticed.
However, GQ magazine assures its fellow dandies that there is nothing wrong with applying it- if you do it right.
In an article entitled, “Real Men Wear Concealer And You Should Too”, the journalist details a plethora of concealers designed specifically for men, such as Tom Ford’s Vitamin E range, which not only cover imperfections but can also heal them.
Backtracking on my earlier statement, maybe concealer is, instead, the last taboo in male cosmetics. With the selfie generation now in full swing, men are embracing many other facets of the cosmetic industry, such as moisturizing on a more regular basis, buying face masks that promise to give you a glowing and radiant complexion, and a host of anti-aging creams, face scrubs, and hair gels.
According to the UK boss of L’Oreal, rising consumer demand among males for these products could even see stores implement male cosmetic stands within the next four years.
But is this all too much? Is traditional masculinity being lost to spray tans, uggs, and herb-mint face masks? Perhaps. But for every man who buys into the metrosexual lifestyle, others’ morning routines are far removed from that of Bateman’s and merely consist of a good old-fashioned cup of joe and a cold splash of water on the face.
Just like gender identity, judging someone on their lifestyle, and how they dress and which cosmetics they buy shouldn’t be evaluated and ridiculed. As with everything else, it is society at large which tells us what is acceptable and what isn’t.
Just go back in time, and society’s acceptance of cosmetics among males was completely different. Ancient male Egyptians sported eyeliner, Romans applied rogue, and Elizabethans and Georgians weren’t afraid of slapping on a bit of face powder.
Times are changing, and if men- straight or gay- want to enhance their appearance for a special occasion or merely want to cover up a spot to make themselves feel better, then why should that be poked fun of? Hollywood stars are pampered continuously with bronzers and concealers on set, and no one bats an eyelid.
Inevitably, some will still laugh if they spot a guy wearing even the subtlest of concealers, but as Charlotte Libby, a senior beauty analyst explains, using make-up “will never be for all men” but there’s “definitely a growing audience”.
Indeed, for every man and woman unable to look past societal norms, others are likely to be open to the idea. “To put it into context globally it accounts for less than 1% of the market. But the stigma about men being well groomed and enhancing their appearance is falling away, and cosmetics are benefiting from that,” Libby added.
With a beauty obsessed generation now vying for eternal youth and model looks, maybe the stigma around male make-up might erode even sooner than experts predict. But for now, male makeup is very much in its infancy and the preserve of Tinseltown hunks wishing to enhance and maintain their good looks.
As for your average 22-year-old male? Don’t expect them to conceal their forehead acne like their female counterparts anytime soon.
Society, it appears, still has a lot of catching up to do.