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Man, there's no shame in looking good.

By Dan Thanh Dang Please do not call Chris Oliver a metrosexual. Yes, the 33-year-old account manager wears boot-cut jeans, paid a silly amount of money at a high-end salon to find the perfect haircut and uses a dab of gooey product on it every morning. So, what of it? Then maybe NFL quarterback Chad Pennington and NASCAR driver Brian Vickers are, too. They are the latest models companies are using to put an increasingly manly face on hair gels, skin lotions and other personal grooming products. These days, for example, the fastest-growing part of the spa industry is the male customer, who made up 29 percent of last year's business, the International SPA Association says. More and more male-oriented spas are popping up around the country to offer haircuts, massages, facials, pedicures and waxing. As for skin care, real men may not cry, but they most certainly moisturize. Globally, market researcher Euromonitor International said overall sales of male grooming products will surge 67 percent by 2008 to $19.5 billion. "It's important for men to look good," said Oliver, who works in the high-tech field. "Labels can be a little silly. Can't I just be a guy who has his own sense of style?" Image-conscious guys have moved far beyond basic soap and water. Their skin-care regimens can rival the beauty secrets of any well-maintained woman. Take Mark Burke, for example. The 21-year-old associate manager for Coach in Annapolis, Md., developed his keen fashion sense in high school. On a recent Tuesday, Burke was all casual elegance in his dark gray wool pants, light gray double knit cashmere sweater and black shoes. Around his neck he wore a simple but fashionable silver dog tag. "You have to look good for the ladies," Burke said. "And you have to smell good, too. It's a must. They don't want no scruffy-looking guy with dry skin touching them." Some guys would be reluctant to admit to such attention to detail. Burke, however, has no qualms about it. "You have to spoil yourself," said Burke, evoking a battle cry raised often by the opposite sex to justify extravagant expenditures. That's not the only cue men have picked up from women. Marketing experts believe that for years men pilfered their significant others' grooming products to deal with their own skin issues. That wet loofah in the tub didn't get soaked all on its own. Companies have been quick to pick up on those market realities. Massaging the male ego is never easy, though, experts say, and neither is selling to it. Many companies offer their products online--making it a stealthy cinch for men to buy from home. Other companies place their products in hotel rooms or in spas to snag potential peacocks. Some offer their female customers samples of male products, hoping they'll take them home for the big lugs in their lives. At one extreme are advertisements on store counters showing young men wearing a shockingly bright palette of eye shadows, blushes and lipstick. At the other are companies that employ words such as "maintain" and "combat" and "foot detailing" to sell their wares to men instead of flowery words such as "replenish" and "soften" and "pedicure." Companies that want to lure men into their stores have to shift away from displaying cosmetics, floral designs and bubble-gum-pink colors, experts say. Monique Johnson, assistant manager at a shop in The Mall at Columbia, Md., said the "anti-dainty" look makes it easier for men to wander inside. Bill Valdez, a 61-year-old laundry cleaner operator, walked in recently with his palms held up in despair. "My dry hands," he said. "My hands are in water all day. They're dry and cracked and it hurts." Johnson quickly fixed Valdez up with some shea butter hand cream. With "television and bling and metrosexual" trends pummeling consumers these days, Valdez says he feels at ease buying a hand cream for himself, but adds with a laugh, "If anyone asks me, I'm buying it for someone else." Not all men get that uncomfortably squishy feeling that they've crossed over into femininity just because they care about their looks. Myke Boss, for example, was the epitome of nerdy cool chic during a recent trip to the Annapolis Mall. The 23-year-old, who does Air Force intelligence work at Fort Meade, was wearing brown corduroy pants, a T-shirt emblazoned with the name of alt-rockers The Postal Service, a brown tweed jacket, sporty shoes and chunky black glasses. He topped it off with a funky, dirty blond 'do--styled at Bubbles Hair Salon--that was spiked with just a smidge of hair goop. "Society's kind of getting away from the homophobic reflex, I think," Boss said. "I think it's really becoming a unisex thing to be fashionable and have it be OK." OK, but still not immune to light-hearted ridicule. "My girlfriend makes fun of me sometimes," conceded Boss, who averages a half-hour in the morning to get ready. "She says I'm worse than she is." LATWP News Service

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Publication:The Star (Amman, Jordan)
Date:Mar 14, 2005
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