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Plucky Male Grooming Products Industry Rises, Manufacturers Swoon

Men's morning routines are getting a bit more complicated and their tastes a bit fussier it seems, and this is good news for manufacturers: men are spending more than ever before on grooming products. In 2015, male grooming products were a $9.3 billion dollar market; by 2020, it will be $11.5 billion.

Some of this is to be expected. As two of the globe's largest cosmetic brands embrace gender fluid models for the first time, the last twenty years have seen unprecedented changes to the ways in which people conceive and perform gender identities. If that seems like a bunch of university speak, think of it this way: in cities across America, men's hem lines have slowly been creeping up above the knee, baggy is out and skinny is in, and hairstyles have gone from the utilitarian and the austere to expressive and dutifully maintained. In short, many men aren't as worried about acting like traditional manly men, are not as vulnerable to feeling emasculated, and are experimenting with their appearance.

And that experimentation is big business for manufacturers of men's shaving, fragrance, shower, and bath items, ranging from the everyday Axe and OldSpice to luxury lines like Channel. In the United States, as well as globally, the male grooming products industry (we don't call them beauty products, I guess--that's still a bridge too far) is expected to grow every year through 2023; by 2020, according to Euromonitor, the global market will be $60 billion/year.

Indeed, according to Euromonitor analyst Nicolas Micallef, "Scope for growth exists in dynamic markets such as the US...It is as key area for all industry players, and their focus is now to understand what motivates men to use beauty items, and what makes them comfortable to shop." Andrew Snavely, who publishes an online style and grooming guide Primer for everyday fellows, agrees, "For the first time men actually have tailored options for their unique grooming needs and it's only going to expand as social perceptions of male grooming evolves."

A Man And His Needs

What, exactly, are those unique "grooming needs?" Glad you asked. Shaving and fragrance are still the most popular, sure--there are no social barriers to shaving one's face, it is in fact encouraged and a sign of maturity many a prepubescent boy aspires to, while cologne has long been normalized by such refined paragons of masculinity as James Bond, Frank Sinatra, and Hugh Hefner.

But, for many a contemporary man, shaving and cologne are now just the tip of the menthol-cool iceberg. Within the luxury channel, for example, established giants like Channel and L'Oreal are adding their men's line to complete against dedicated specialists like Jack Black, offering entire lines of skin care from anti-aging to anti-blemish and everything in between. This means soaps, exfoliants, lotions, serums, masks, toners, sunblocks...and that's just the face. Think about what the market implications would be if every man in America just embraced a two-step shampoo and conditioner routine.

As companies put in the market research to try and expand the amount of grooming products they can sell to men, they will be labeled as part of a necessary routine, a chain of beauty-making events centered around shaving. Manufacturers will push men to embrace the full shaving experience, for example, complete with their branded pre-shave wash, exfoliation, and beard lubricant; their brush, razor, and specialty cream; and their post-shave cooling gel, anti-ingrown hair treatment, and daily moisturizer.

Of course, not every man is lining up for an at-home, 16-step daily facial--in fact, for 86% of US men, simplicity is the most important part of their daily beauty routine--but enough men are dipping their trimmed and filed toenails into the spa water. In 2015, men spent roughly $6 per capita on beauty products. Women spent $58. We are nowhere near closing that gap, but that doesn't mean that manufacturers aren't trying.

Body Hair: A Growth Category

Body hair management is, ironically (or is it appropriately?), a huge growth category. Beyond shaving and fragrance, it is many men's first encounter with the expanded world of male grooming products--as trends in male grooming expand to include heretofore unmanscaped region, companies are developing razors that are optimized for men's back, chest, underarms, and even pubic area.

But sometimes the products don't need to be reformulated or redesigned, just rebranded. Apart from the local gayborhood, it is still difficult to find men willing to use products specifically marketed to women, though with the surging popularity of manbuns and the return of male eyeliner, this can't be too far off. Regardless, chapstick is chapstick--sure, to assuage masculine anxieties, they might sub in something vaguely powerful for something plainly feminine, like "cool blast" instead of "flower patch", but the differences in the sexes are not so great that companies must reinvent chapsticks for the unique pressures facing the modern male lips. They just have to reposition them in the market.

How then to fully tap into this world--how do manufacturers convince US men to go all-in on looking their best? How do you strip beauty products (because that is what they are) of their emasculating power?

One popular tactic combines convenience with luxury--the boutique mail subscription system favored by Harry's and DollarShave. This combination allows men to experiment with higher-end razors and shaving products beyond the multi-pack of disposable blades favored by their parents, but also adds efficiency and even discretion. Future male grooming products will no doubt follow this model, while also establishing experiential locations in cities where men can learn how to use their products, get a perfect shave, and no doubt be upsold a couple of products.

Westbrook Slams Home the Future

But also, maybe manufacturers don't have to work too hard after all because the culture is already doing the heavy lifting for them.

Consider Cam Newton, Russell Westbrook, and an entire generation of fashion-forward, look-your-best-at-all-costs athletes just as comfortable in fashion mags as sports blogs. Everyday that Westbrook rocks his suspenders and matching glasses, or showcases his flawless skin that doesn't come without some serious attention and effort (God doesn't give with both hands, even to post-gravity humans like him) it tells his fans that it's ok to be a man and wanna look your best. With hipsters and millennials thriving for individuality and self-expression investing more in personal appearance, and trips to the barber shop becoming a luxury replete with alcohol and entertainment rather than an annoying monthly chore, this trend will only become more pronounced until it is no longer a trend, just the new normal.

One final parting thought: Interestingly, L'Oreal now sells a male branded deodorant particularly for shaved underarms. Whatever you think of gender's trajectory of the past twenty years, you have to admit, it sure is making for some fun marketing.

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It is a long established fact that a reader will be distracted by the readable content of a page when looking at its layout.