Oh, the trend story. Sometimes it is cause for great pleasure. Other times it is cause for pain. And somewhere between those two feelings is the "What, men are doing this, too????" brand of trend story. Ah, that brand of trend story: Someday, when overall equality is finally achieved and we're all sitting somewhere toasting ourselves, because, come on, that was impressive, we'll respond to with a quizzical "Huh?"
So what are men learning to do, and not only learning but doing? Well, there's Doree Lewak's New York Post story on how men are being taught by professionals how to hold blow dryers and use them, too. At "Blow Ed. at the Upper East Side’s posh Louis Licari Salon," ... "a man can permanently earn his way out of the doghouse — or, in the case of Langberg, cut down on his wife’s pricey salon visits — with a skilled flip of the wrist." This by signing up for a six-week class that casts $2,400 at which head stylist Arsen Gurgov teaches anti-frizz fundamentals, a class that arose per the demands of his clients. Well, that's lovely, if couples want to do one another's hair, and save money at the same time, I suppose, even if learning the technique comes at a hefty price.
Then there's Alessandra Codinha's Daily Beast piece on progress for makeup-wearing men. She writes, "If the whole mating game and song and dance (and so, to a large degree, human existence) is about power and seduction, why wouldn’t men employ tools that would stealthily make them appear to be more attractive, healthier, and generally successful?" One of those tools, then, is makeup, makeup specifically for men, as sold by online vendors and department-store brands alike, including Jean Paul Gaultier, Yves Saint Laurent, and Clinique. As makeup artist Charlotte Tilbury said, "Men wearing makeup is no longer taboo."
Two points: It's perfectly lovely that men can wear makeup if they feel like it (and conversely, that women don't have to if they don't). It's perfectly lovely that men can blow dry hair. And a third: It's great that we can talk about makeup and hair-drying and even leggings (meggings)-wearing and any of that stuff with regard to either gender, i.e., people can do whatever they do, and they're doing it! Hooray! On the plus side, these stories may help us move away from expectations about manliness and womanliness and codified perceptions of each. On the down side, they're fodder for jokes and criticism, like, for instance, that "getting out of the doghouse" riff, or the mockery that one of the hair-styling men hoped to avoid from his friends by not telling them what he was really up to: "This is the sort of thing that takes awhile to live down," he told Lewak of his hair studies. And then, on the reverse side of these men breaking ground by doing hair and wearing makeup, there's that really big problem we have because make-up-wearing, hair-dryer-holding women are still fighting for equal pay and equal treatment in their professions, among other things. But those latter topics do not generally a light and entertaining trend story make.
In any case, men have been doing hair, and doing it very, very well, for quite a long time! Take, for instance, Kenneth Battelle, "hairdresser to the stars," who recently died at the age of 86 and in his lengthy career (the last haircut he performed was two years ago) styled the hair of women including Jacqueline Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, and Lucille Ball. Even though his mother disapproved of him becoming a hairdresser, as a young man, after serving in the Navy and attending Syracuse on the G.I. Bill, "he attended beauty school after seeing an ad promising $100-a-week jobs to anyone who finished a six-month course." Trend stories are just trend stories, but Kenneth was real.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.