The field of men's hair care has been, until recent years, a very small portion of
the hair care and beauty industry. There were a few products on the market specifically
designed for use by men in their grooming, and half of these had been around for
decades: Brylcream (styling cream), Grecian Formula (haircolor), Just For Men
(haircolor), The Dry Look (hairspray). This lack of variety in men's hair care products
wasn't considered a problem, because the general attitude was that real men didn't "make a fuss" over their hair.
Men's grooming already had a step that women didn't have to deal
with: dealing with facial hair. For most men, this meant that not only did
they have to get up in the morning, shower, wash their hair, brush their
teeth, and comb their hair, but they also had to shave off their whiskers.
Shaving was time consuming and often times hazardous, resulting in
nicks and cuts that had to be stanched. The general thought for most
men seemed to be 'if I'm going to have to get up every day and scrape
off my facial hair, I'm going to make styling my hair as easy as possible'.
Before 1960, the vast majority of men had cookie cutter hairstyles. The
professional who cut, styled and otherwise groomed men was also a man, known as a
barber. Men's hairstyles all consisted of "short back and sides" with a little variation in
the hair on top, depending on preference or necessity (in the case of balding men).
The trip to the barber shop every other Saturday was quick - buzz, buzz, buzz, snip,
snip, snip, and viola! Fifteen minutes and you're done and on your way out the door.
Most of the time you spent twice as long waiting to get into the barber's chair as you actually spent sitting there.
But the late sixties brought a cultural revolution, and men's hair became a symbol
of one's social attitudes. Young men who disagreed with the 'establishment' or were
protesting the draft and a government that was sending thousands of young men
overseas to die in combat began to let their hair grow longer. The idea was that by
wearing your hair longer, you showed freedom of thought and individuality, and stood
in opposition to the conformity of societal norms and military indoctrinization. This idea
was adopted and spread by the celebrities of the period, which made it more popular among their young fans.
In the seventies, after the end of the military conflict, the ideal of longer hair as an
expression of individualism remained, and became normalized as just a trait of a
younger generation. However, it's this era that also brought with it the first changes in
men's styling habits. Longer hair needed more care to look good, and because a lot of
the styles that were popular in the late seventies and early eighties were "unisex"
styles designed for both men and women, men began to use more products to control
and groom their hair - mousses, creams, gels, sprays. They also found the need for
styling appliances, i.e. blow dryers, which allowed them to achieve the popular looks
of the day. There was some "stigma" attached to using these tools and products -
the idea that all the grooming and time spent on hair styling was somehow "girly".
Yet, most men did it, and simply denied it if it was mentioned.
Fast forward a couple of decades, and we see the cyclical nature of cultural
changes. Longer styles in men's hair reached a peak in the late eighties and began to
grow shorter again. The trend changed direction again after a few years and began to
alternate - every few years longer, and then shorter. The 'big picture' result is that
the length of a man's hair became acceptable at whatever point he chose to wear it.
Even with the growing acceptance of the variety of men's styles and hair lengths,
there was still the attitude that "making a fuss" over grooming your hair, was a less
than manly trait. It was perhaps, not as vilified as in previous decades, but it was
still met with resistance by many men.
Over the last ten years or so, however, society has experienced an increase in
awareness of the nature of human sexuality. And as the definitions of what it means
to be a "man" have been challenged and alternative lifestyles have become more
accepted, many prejudices that existed about men who spent time on 'grooming'
have faded. Men today realize that to look good, you have to care about your
appearance, and that it is not only necessary to spend time taking care of yourself, but it's also "okay".
Tools and Products
As mentioned earlier in this article, for decades the hair care and beauty industry
has been focused on creating hair care products geared toward (and marketing them
almost exclusively to) women. From time to time, a company (usually one already
making men's shaving products) has decided to make and market a man-specific
hair care product. These products were often the same as their female-oriented
counterparts, but were made with more masculine fragrances.