About three years ago I met a newspaper editor and wound up writing a column for his paper, Metro Silicon Valley. Over the weekend, I was flipping through my stories and decided it would be fun to revisit the very first one I ever published. My experiences in working with men and presenting to corporate workgroups since then have influenced and evolved my thinking and I decided to add to the fun by updating the original text. See what you think.
Since the 1950’s men have been redefining their societal and cultural roles, let alone since the beginning of time. Today there continues to be great buzz about men needing to be men. More manly, I guess – whatever that really means! It’s almost as if men were accused of not being men. More than ever there is great diversity amongst men, and the ways men are labeled represent this cultural shift. The labels of corporate worker and father, once popular in the 1950’s don’t even come close to fully defining who men are today, especially in America.
Part of the confusion during this time of cultural redefinition about who men are and how men are supposed to be involves how men are supposed to look. The supposition that it’s manly to “let one’s self go,” or to take less care of himself because he is a man is the ultimate insult to men-kind, in my opinion. The media [I call them the manipulative media] promotes bite-sized, cookie-cutter ideas they think are applicable for all men. But the days and decades when men were all alike are long over, and the era of individuality is well upon us. So, I don’t buy a lot of what I read, watch, and hear in the media as it pertains to how men should be because it has to work for you as an individual. Being a man means making decisions that work for you — and sticking to them — regardless of what fad the marketing world concocts.
Dizzying Grooming Choices – What’s good for you?
Having more choices than ever to help men live the way they want to live is great. For instance, consider how many hundreds of channels can be quickly clicked through with the use of the ‘universal remote control’ before settling on something to watch on TV. Even ESPN has multiple channels to accommodate all of the sporting event options now available. Hey, Did you know gambling is considered a sport? I sure didn’t! If television is of disinterest, the ‘universal remote control’ can lead a couch potato into a cluster of other entertainment options.
It’s easier and cheaper than ever to groom, style, and dress ourselves [well, not if you have expensive taste]. Options never before available to men are here, and even greater choices are constantly developing. Despite the call by some who suggest men not take such good care of themselves, the growth rate of men’s grooming products has superseded the growth of women’s cosmetics in recent years. Walk into any upscale department store or browse through a specialty retailer like Sephora and note the abundance of scents, styling, and shaving stuff for sale. 20-something men are leading the way in this area, influencing their fathers that it’s important, acceptable, and necessary to feel good as well as to look good.
We Live in a “Cougar” World
The idea that men should turn their backs on the smorgasbord of grooming, styling, and clothing choices in favor of being plain and ho-hum is reactionary to how the roles of men and women are shifting. The paradigm of women competing to find a mate has shifted into that being true of men. Today more women are professional, successful, attractive, and independent. The days when women competed to find a mate have also shifted. In decades past, women would complete to look good for a small pool of desirable men. Now, particularly in Silicon Valley where men outnumber women, there is strong evidence of a paradigm shift where women have elevated expectations of men – even of engineers. Women are attracted to a diversity of men, but one thing is for sure: women aren’t going to settle for less than what they want and they want men to be able to take care of themselves. Guys, women don’t want to turn you into their personal pet project.
As your image consultant, I suggest taking a holistic approach to your appearance. Before changing how you look in order to appear more attractive and to feel more confident, the crucial step is to ensure what changes you make are authentic to you. Don’t opt for a radically different haircut, like your favorite American Idol star, that requires a lot of maintenance and styling until you’ve evaluated whether you can keep up with it, for instance. Don’t try to look too ‘alternative’ just because you were looking for an alternative to the way you were. Seek out options before shifting. One of the ironies I’ve noticed about men’s consumption of grooming and styling products is that many men don’t know what to use so they keep buying more products. Also men notoriously overuse products. There’s too much product in the hair, and too much cologne on the body. Consider working with an expert who will teach you how to put yourself out there so you are always making a good impression.
Designing your image is the secret science to your success.
Joseph Rosenfeld helps professional men and corporate workgroups create effective visual brands. Visit JosephRosenfeld.com for details.