John Walsh: Real men just don't care how they look

Related Topics

What are we chaps to make of the fact that Hugh Laurie has been signed up as the face, no the smell, no, hang on, the ambassador of L'Oreal cosmetics? One's thoughts fly immediately, I'm afraid, to Mr Laurie's most famous TV incarnation Dr Gregory House, in the American medic show that bears his strangely annoying name.

And few of us would wish to get close enough to Dr House to establish the heady scent that hangs around his pressure points (what would he smell of? Top notes of Marlboro Lights, middle whiffs of Wild Turkey bourbon, low aromas of surgical spirit and misanthropic despair? Nice).

In fact Our Hugh is being wheeled on not as a perfume ambassador, but as a representative of the L'Oreal Paris Men Expert range, which features a whole cupboard-load of metrosexual unguents, from exfoliating scrubs to hairstyling wax. The French cosmeticians seem to be aiming their products at a particular, rather familiar-sounding, niche bloke: someone baggy-eyed (for the "Vita Lift Anti-Wrinkle Moisturiser"), permanently blue-chinned (for the "Tough Stubble Shave Gel"), chronically unkempt (and so in need of "Elvive Anti-Dandruff Normal to Greasy Hair"), who is emotionally hard-to-read (a natural for the "Anti-Expression Wrinkles Moisturising Cream") and seems almost invariably shagged-out ("Hydra Energetic Daily Anti-Fatigue Lotion").

They seem, in other words, to be targeting the fictional Dr G House – while signing up the actor who plays him, in order to show what a fit, sparkling-eyed, smooth-skinned and completely different modern geezer you'd be if you embraced the right ointment regimen.

It's a curious double-perspective, like signing up Kenneth Branagh to promote an early-morning gym routine following his sleepwalking-detective schtick in Wallender; or asking Gerard Depardieu to front a plastic surgery clinic after his triumph in Cyrano. But just you try using logic when selling the idea of cosmetics to men. Twenty years of being told that exfoliation removes horrible dead cells from their skin, and men will still yell from the shower, "Darling, this bloody soap's got bits in it."

A quarter-century of lectures on the need to moisturise or die, and men still find that covering your face with putty-hued slime and wiping the residue onto a bathtowel just isn't an attractive addition to one's morning ritual. After 10 years of seeing the words "anti-wrinkle" on jars kindly bought by their spouses, men see only the word "wrinkle" and regard the jar's presence as a damned insult by the memsahib.

As for below-the-waist depilation... L'Oreal, to their credit, know all this. Their response is to ignore all sense and logic, and to offer a kind of foggy idealism about masculinity. The global brand president of L'Oreal Paris called Hugh Laurie, "the perfect example of a modern man: genuine, uninhibited, strong and willing to pursue his passions to the end".

But male genuineness, strength and lack of inhibition are, I would argue, all best expressed in not caring a flying toss about what people think of your appearance. While the stuff about "pursuing your passions to the end" sounds a bit like "doing practically anything for money". Like Mr Laurie I'd be delighted to find out how much it's worth to gaze into the camera (bravely, genuinely, uninhibitedly) and say you're worth it.

Can I check the width of your face, please?

A professor at the university of Wisconsin-Milwaukee had made a study of 192 business students to determine whether the shape of your face is an indicator of your willingness to tell lies and break rules. Men with wide faces, he says, feel more powerful, and more disposed to lie and cheat, than their skinny-faced peers. One thinks of egregiously broad-faced man – Eric Pickles, Henry VIII, Conrad Black, John Prescott, Jabba the Hutt – and wonders if there's something in this. But is it news? Shakespeare's Julius Caesar distrusted Cassius's "lean and hungry look" and wanted to surround himself only with fat-faced buddies. And look what happened to him.

Cheryl Cole turns into a modern-day Moll Flanders

This newspaper is rigorously devoted to elevated subjects and has no truck with celebrities but, blimey, did you see the list of requirements Cheryl Cole has given her love-rodent ex-husband as the price of moving back in with him? A new family home, well away from the Surrey hate-nest they shared when he was up to his rodentish behaviour; a recording studio (with a special miming suite?); a bolthole in Los Angeles so she can continue to apply for jobs as a who-the-hell-is-she TV personality, a holiday home in Dubai, a ring that cost more than the last two (£160,000 or thereabouts) and a sumptuous wedding and honeymoon costing in the region of £10m. Oh, and her mother will be living with the happy couple.

That's the modern way of patching a failed marriage. But wouldn't it be nice if there were just one tiny spark of actual relationship about it – if she insisted, for instance, that the two of them stayed in every Tuesday evening and cooked lamb curry together? Or that he actually talked to her, in an interested and conversational way, for two hours every day?

At present, the lovely Cheryl's list reminds me of nobody so much as Moll Flanders, Defoe's grasping heroine, who employs her wit, beauty, charm and femininity to extract money, homes and status from gullible men, is married five times and ends up being transported to the Colonies to avoid being hanged. I dunno why she popped into my head when I was reading about Cheryl. Maybe it was Moll's line, "I was now the most unhappy of all the women in the world..."

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Administrator

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company are a world leadin...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nick Clegg (R) Liberal Democrat Leader and former leader Charles Kennedy MP, joined the general election campaign trail on April 8, 2010  

Charles Kennedy: The only mainstream political leader who spoke sense

Tim Farron

The strangely parallel lives of Oliver Letwin and Ed Miliband

Matthew Norman
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral