No, not another ludic hybrid naming exercise from the London studio. Well, not entirely. This particular mash-up came out of our target exploration insight work with Sign Salad – Cultural Insight on the recent mammoth grooming pitch!
If we think about male identity, most of us will be old enough to remember the birth of metrosexual culture in the early noughties, embodied on the global scene by our very own football captain, David Beckham. Sarongs and Alice bands quickly became wardrobe staples for young male urbanites, and with that came a far more considered and nuanced grooming regime. I mean, if manly old Becks and Ronaldo are doing it, then why the hell shouldn’t I?!
It didn’t take long before the trend spotters and journalists (early adopters themselves) started to make the connection between young, straight men living in big cities and their lady-like attention to grooming – hence the coining of the term metrosexual. Naturally, this rather catchy neologism reached media-frenzied levels, soon entering common parlance in a “I’m not heterosexual, I’m metrosexual!” kind of way.
Inevitably, radical changes in gender identity or behaviour often give rise to mass backlash – “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction” as Isaac (Newton, not Hayes) once said. Before the Brylcreemed-one could say ‘fine n dandy’, female fashion gurus and lifestyle editors were already ordering chaps to ‘man-up’. The uber-sexual counter culture was born; a man-land where chests are beaten, not waxed, and where minds are groomed more than bodies.
The initial expressions of this were, unsurprisingly, through facial hair; be it side-burns, the handlebar moustache, mutton chops, goatees or the full-on Abe Lincoln look. However, the beautiful irony of this deliberately ‘ungroomed’ look was an even wider repertoire of grooming products.The trouble with the notion of an uber-sexual identity – and possibly why the term never really caught on – was that the metrosexual bedrock of guys taking more time over their appearance, and investing extensively in grooming products, was still thriving. While the form in which this culture was expressed had changed, the content was still very much intact.
The challenge, as men (consciously or sub-consciously) saw it, was how to continue grooming like before without being labeled as an increasingly unpopular ‘metro’. The ubiquitous ‘cro magnon-chic’ facial hair provided the perfect decoy, effectively pulling the beard over the prying eyes of the public.
As with most trends, brands were quick to seize the big opportunity, and the very same form and content dichotomy began making its way onto our supermarket shelves; highly cosmetic and carefully designed products stored in simple, unadorned packaging harking back to the barber-chic, Mad Men era when unfussy men were groomed as per tradition.
So the next time you lay eyes on an large, urban walking beard, side-burns that seamlessly flow into slicked back hair, or a moustache worthy of a BMX badge and a pair of trick nuts, spare a thought for the meticulous detail and brimming beauty cabinet of products that have gone into the perfectly ‘ungroomed’ look of the Metro-Anderthal!
Written by Matt Michaud