They're gorgeous

Men are learning that it pays to look successful. That's why they're spending more than ever on beauty treatments and products, as Hilde Syversen discovers
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The Independent Online
When Miles, a barrister in the BBC2 twenty-something drama series This Life, sneaked off to have a facial, and was caught by his clerk wearing a mud mask, he didn't do his macho image any favours. It is the Miles-type - the self-centred style-conscious man in his late twenties or early thirties - you expect to find in Selfridges' Men's Hair and Grooming Salon. It looks like a masculine hairdresser's with a treatment room attached. In the middle is a table with a few newspapers, 10 to 15 different eaux de toilette, and a pile of men's magazines with inspiring, smooth-looking male models and articles on subjects like how to tame a girlfriend. Reassuring, then, for chaps nervous about being branded sissy or effeminate for setting foot in what is, in effect, a beauty salon.

Paul Clayman has no such qualms. A conservatively dressed, elegant man in his late forties, he is managing director of Watches of Switzerland. "You need to have nice hands if you are showing people products. That doesn't make me effeminate," he says.

He thinks he probably has more manicures than his wife, and also spends money on Clinique's moisturisers for men, hand creams and eau de toilettes.

"A lot of money," he smiles.

And he is not alone. According to market researchers Mintel, spending on male-specific toiletries increased from pounds 317m in 1986 to pounds 696m in 1996. Spending on men's skincare alone doubled from 1992 to 1995.

The increase in spending and the masculine forays into the traditional female world of beauty treatments has followed the emphasis on health, looks and body, a growing market for men's magazines and the introduction of men's skincare ranges.

"The M-range makes up 6 per cent of our total business, and has doubled in the last three years," says Emma Dawson, PR manager at Clinique, of its men's skincare products, which have been for sale since 1983. The contents are generally the same as in the pastel-coloured women's bottles, but the packaging is grey and plastic. "Men want to throw it in the gym- bag without it smashing," explains Dawson.

Aramis has a similar tale to tell. "It is the fastest growing sector of our company," says Chris Court, PR manager of its skincare range, Lab Series, a product series in black and white packaging.

"We know from women that men were using their moisturisers. It is getting less so now, but it is still fairly prevalent that men are introduced to our products by their women," says Emma Dawson. Recognising this, rather than introducing a male range, Guinot is now targeting the male market with some of its women's products.

The next customer in the grooming salon is also a manicure - and a challenge to the stereotype. Another elegant suit-clad man, Robert, 57, is in investment properties and has had manicures on and off for the past 30 years. "You can tell a lot about people by the way they keep their hands. Unkempt fingernails are very unappealing. Especially if they're dirty," he says. He thinks it's important to look successful, and that the hands are part of that. On a yearly basis, he estimates that he spends about pounds 750 on haircuts, toiletries, manicures and the odd facial.

Next comes a facial for a 52-year-old businessman, David Sharpe, who divides his time between London and Hong Kong. He had his first facial three months ago at his local beauty salon, where his wife also has hers. Today they are trying out Selfridges. David is not worried about facials seeming effeminate, and doesn't think twice about telling his friends. "These days, these sorts of things are quite acceptable. You're foolish if you don't look after yourself. It goes with working out in the gym and watching what you eat," he says. "Having sailed for England and done thousands of ocean miles, I suppose I have proved that I am a man." He smiles and shows off a few weather-beaten wrinkles. "My wife assures me that there is a noticeable benefit."

David buys the Guinot products that are on sale in the salon, originally a women's range, and estimates that he could easily spend pounds 1,000 a year on facials and products. "That is not cheap, but if you want good products you've got to pay for it. To spend pounds 1,000 on my face I don't think is any big deal."

While some men spend money on their faces and hands - about pounds 30 to pounds 40 for a facial and pounds 10 to pounds 15 for a manicure - others spend it on their backs. Back waxing, at pounds 20, involves pulling hair out with the root. Painful? It certainly is on my legs. And for back waxers it can also involve emotional pain: the first back wax customer that day, a man of about 30, flatly refuses to talk about it. The next customer is less traumatised.

A fire and safety officer, he is a perfectly normal looking guy in jeans and jumper. "I'm past the embarrassment stage now," says Alan. He would have dared to come in for a back wax had he been younger, but he doesn't want his colleagues to know. This being his first encounter with beauty treatments, what made him start now?

"I'm quite a hairy person," he says, extending a pair of hairy arms. "Some people seem to find it repulsive. If you are on holiday and sit around a pool you hear people commenting when they think you can't hear." So, when he heard somebody else talk about back waxing, he decided to try it before he went on holiday.

A lot of the waxing clientele are prompted, or even sponsored, by their wives or girlfriends, but Alan is here on his own initiative. "I don't think it worries my wife one way or the other," he reflects, "I've lived with her for 27 years now so I suppose she thinks I'm all right."

Afterwards, Alan admits that the waxing was painful, but no worse than having a sticking-plaster taken off. A whole back full of them. He doesn't think he'll move on to facials or other treatments, but has already decided to come back for more waxing to keep the hair (and the comments) off his backn