The dangerous minefield that is male grooming

After my experience in the Turkish barbers, it got me thinking about midlife male grooming. How much should I bother about my appearance? Isn’t midlife the time to sink into comfortable apathy rather than struggle to be trimmed, toned and trendy?

A friend of mine grew a beard. Nothing wrong with that particularly. I just thought he’d moved to shaving apathy, especially as it didn’t stop growing. At one point Santa would have been pleased to have had his bushy face hair. People in the street complimented him on it. He could have been out with a cute puppy instead of a beard, the behaviour and comments were the same.

“Oooh, that’s a gorgeous,” said one man . “Does it take much looking after?”

It may look a mess but takes a lot of work

“Can I stroke it?” asked a woman at the bar.

My friend fields all these questions with the good grace of a bloke not used to being spoken to in public. Occasionally he puts bells or lights in it, especially during the festive season, when he could be placed in the corner as some sort of novelty Christmas toy.

What did surprise me when we went away together was that what I had thought was comfortable apathy, was actually a tough regimen of care. Beard wax, beard oil, beard brush. Before emerging to face the public, that beard had had more loving attention than I had over the last twenty years at home. I was wrong. This was a man a beard grooming masterclass.

So what about me? As I’ve mentioned before, my Turkish barber has branched out into sorting my eyebrows, nasal and ear hair. My dentist is insisting on replacing old silver fillings with white ones (in case someone stares in my open mouth at some point). Bit by bit I’m being pulled into male grooming without even noticing.

I still ask for a haircut that is zero maintenance, and decline all hair products as a matter of course. That used to be because I was always about to play sport and have a shower, now it’s just an aversion reflex before I hit Costa for a cake.

Exclusive male grooming research reveals shocking truths…

I decided to do some research. Admittedly this was using my limited selection of friends, but it threw up some interesting results.

Most were supportive of their men taking more care of themselves, but straying too far from the core areas (nails, hair) suggested a wandering eye and lustful mind. Moisturiser was ranked as a key red flag, due to its connections with a desire to look younger (and hence attractive to younger models). Hair dyeing was for divorcees or soon to be divorcees only. Gym work was fine, as long as it still left a suitably tubby outline and you did it when the pensioners were in.

Not the grooming look you're after
Not the look you want

Anything suggested by a man’s other half was fine. Anything suggested by anyone not their other half – big red flag. One friend described how he bought himself a new floral shirt on the recommendation of a female friend. Each time he wore it he was virtually accused of sleeping with the woman. Suffice to say it doesn’t get many outings.

Midlife male grooming is a minefield. Too little and you end up like Campo from Last of the Summer Wine with people offering you their seat on the train. Too much and you terrify young girls with your bizarre teen-dad look, whilst making your wife think you’re playing away with the woman next door.

Seems like the Turkish barbers might have it right after all. Excess hair trimmed all round. Job done.

Shock of middle-aged man in amazing Turkish barber experience

I found myself in the hairdressers the other day. Actually I say hairdressers, but this was very much a barbers. Young Turks with razors cutting hair like sheep shearers in a hurry.

I watched as a student took photos of his completed haircut with his phone, presumably to show off his new style on Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat. I did think that at my age maybe I should do the same, not to share with my limited Facebook followers but more to remember

1) when I actually had had it cut, and

2) what it looked like, so I could ask for the same again if I liked it.

Anyway I duly took my turn, allowing the barber to choose a style very different to what I thought I’d asked for. A blur of razors and low numbers resulted in something like a middle age skinhead. I’m not balding, but looking in the mirror I got a good idea of what I might look like if I did.

It’s part of the problem of wearing glasses. They ask “this much off?” while looking at you in the mirror. However because you took your glasses off, all you can see is a blurred outline of something. I know you’re shouting, put them on again, but then it’s a kerfuffle and you only end up saying “that’s fine” anyway. You might as well just miss the kerfuffle.

Flaming Turkish barber…

However once my Turkish barber friend had finished cutting I entered a whole new set of experiences. First my eyebrows were shaved, cutting those rogue hairs away. Then my ears and nose were flamed. Finally a following a nod and smile, a hot towel smothered my face. Aside from the obvious health and safety risks, it was clearly a sign of how things were moving on in the world of male grooming. I’m not sure at what point I should stop worrying about the hairs emerging from my ears and nose, and the quality of my skin tone, but for a while I was flattered they still thought I should.

At least I was until I was asked if I paid the concession (over 65) rate. It did however give me a clue that I have at least another 15 years of male grooming in me.

God knows what my father would have made of it all.