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A Cut Above

This month, Ian Harrold considers the meaning of masculinity and the rise of the ‘found man’

On the surface, the metrosexual, the spornosexual and the hipster don’t appear to have that much in common. The metrosexual has become synonymous with man-bags, man-buns and guyliner, the spornosexual boils down to a bunch of #lads entirely too happy with their own abs, while the hipster not-so-quietly pretends to be above it all (presumably whilst listening to something you’ve never heard of and drinking something you can’t pronounce).

But in truth, they’re really not that dissimilar. And if we’re being totally honest, they all get a far worse rep than they deserve. Sure, the size of their egos is often matched only by their headband, supplement or vinyl collection, but to dismiss their sense of self-awareness as vanity is to miss the point a little. And the point is this: There’s nothing wrong with taking pride in your appearance and keeping the smaller details in check.

Staying unkempt and ungroomed out of some misplaced sense of masculinity isn’t inherently more manly, it’s just scruffy. Growing your beard out without some kind of care in place isn’t a stance against the baby-faced and the beardless, it’s just sloppy housekeeping.

Like it or not, even ruggedness requires a little sophistication nowadays. Shorter, well-shaped beards, acceptable levels of body hair and oddly immaculate bedhead have become the norm nowadays. Teeth whitening is rife, manicures are par for the course. And why not? Starting the day with your best foot forward means more than a morning shave and a splash of cold water nowadays. When you’re out and about shaking hands and faking smiles all day, these things aren’t vanity, they’re just good manners.

The bottom line is, men are spending more time and money on the way they look and feel, and in doing so, they’re reconfiguring what it means to be a man. Sure, that can get a little cartoonish at times. But there’s nothing wrong with things being a little more considered, more measured. And the quicker we just start talking about modern grooming rather than poking fun at it, the quicker we can remove some of the stigma around it.

I’m not saying that a ‘real man’ should go out and get his nails done, I’m saying that the question of what makes a ‘real man’ has become trickier to answer. And by all accounts, that’s good thing. Because the further we move away from toxic masculinity the better. And if all it takes to do that is a headband, a protein shake and/or an overpriced vinyl then so be it.

Words by Ian Harrold
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