The Grooming Boom: This One’s Gonna Stick

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Mampering. Manscaping. Guy-brows. There are lots of lame new monikers attached to a bonafide beauty movement with big-bucks potential: The rise of guys as committed, trend-savvy – and, dare one say it, glamorous – consumers of product and services.

Have we been here before? Kinda. Since the mid-Aughts, there have been a handful of ship-on-the-horizon upticks in the men’s grooming market, enough to embolden such establishment brand behemoths as L’Oréal Paris and Dove to roll out initiatives like Men’s Expert and Men+Care, respectively.

But while L’Oréal SA and Unilever (the corporate papas of L’Oréal Paris and Dove) can afford to take a flyer on a new product range that may or may not jibe, here’s how you know when the rising guy tide is poised to lift all boats:

A) When tiny niche brands gain traction right out of the launch gate;

B) When the media — print, digital, legacy, social — spills ever more ink on the sector; and

C) When a male model plops down in the makeup chair backstage at the Dior Homme show at Paris Fashion Week and no one bats a false eyelash.

“It’s never been more exciting for guys,” says Vaughn Acord, a superstar on the men’s grooming editorial circuit and purveyor of V76, one of the aforementioned buzzy niche brands. “And it’s not about being macho, or any of that stuff anymore. Men care.”

Courage In a Bottle

Do they ever care. According to global market intelligence agency Mintel, 74 percent of U.S. men currently say they feel more attractive, and 70 percent say they get a confidence boost, when they’re well-groomed.

More concretely, the revenue numbers are pointing in the right direction: Up. Per Euromonitor International, the global men’s grooming market, including fragrances, has seen steady increases of 6 percent per year since 2008. It now accounts for 11 percent of the global beauty market, which was estimated at about $327 billion in 2013.

And in the states alone, Mintel predicts growth of 14 percent between 2014 to 2019, from $4.1 billion to $4.6 billion.

Happily for manufacturers, men are adding more and more items to their grooming checklist every day. Basics like shampoo and shave cream have been joined by an array of specialized boy-beautifiers, including acid peels, mud masks, anti-aging serums, sea salt hair texturizers, under-eye patches, beard oils, brow gels and concealers.

And that’s just liquid product. There are also plenty of pricey guy-gadgets cropping up on store shelves, e.g., Foreo’s Luna for Men sonic facial cleansing brush to render mugs squeaky clean, and the Hairmax LaserComb, an FDA-approved device that deploys light beams to beef-up thinning locks.

\"MVGroomingLineForHairGroupShot\"And of course our dandy dude will need a suitable place to stash all this merch. Like, say, in a $1,270 Tom Ford for Men leather double-zip toiletry case. But hey, who wouldn’t want to take a page out of Ford’s grooming book? The guy’s gorgeous. (Must be his Skin Revitalizing Concentrate. Or maybe it’s his Anti-Fatigue Eye Treatment.)

Like Ford, Acord, with his silver hair and carefully manicured stubble, is another walking billboard for his brand. An Ohio native and son of a barber, Acord gave his first haircut (a bang-trim for his guinea-pig brother) in 1976, and later attended a hair academy in lieu of college. But his intention of opening a salon back home got back-burnered when, on a post-graduation trip to New York, he was discovered by a model scout for Calvin Klein.

While on set during his modeling years, Acord was drawn to the grooming machinations going on behind the scenes. And before long, he was whipping out his comb. What happened next was a fairly extraordinary editorial career. As the go-to groomer for the late über-photographer Herb Ritts, Acord primped a galaxy of notables, among them Bill Clinton and Bruce Springsteen. And when he wasn’t shooting, Acord could be found at New York’s Bumble and bumble salon, tending to a growing male clientele.

“I got my start when there weren’t a lot of people doing men’s grooming,” Acord recalls. “But I just felt very comfortable doing it. And I started to think that I had a viewpoint, something to say in the marketplace.” While he watched category pioneers like Anthony and Zirh break ground in the men’s product market circa 2000, Acord’s desire to build his own brand began gaining steam. “The funny thing was that some of these guys who started these companies, or ran them, were getting their hair cut by me,” he notes. “And they were saying, ‘Why don’t you do something?’ ”


Niche players with mega-pedigrees Roughly a decade and a half later, Acord did. Launched in 2014 by Miami-based beauty incubator Luxury Brand Partners, V76 is stocked in specialty stores, luxury department stores like Neiman Marcus and apothecaries like C.O. Bigelow, as well as 250-plus high-end salons.

“We’re focused on the top 2 to 3 percent of the U.S. salon market, in terms of dollar volume,” says Reuben Carranza, V76 brand president.

Before joining Luxury Brand Partners last year, Carranza logged two decades at Procter & Gamble, most recently as CEO North America of the Wella Salon Professional division, a portfolio that includes the Wella, Clairol, Sebastian and Nioxin brands.

In other words, Carranza knows enough about the salon arena to detect shifts in the market. And without question, he’s bullish on men’s.

“Skincare, and grooming — these are two sub-sectors of the men’s market that are growing very, very rapidly,” Carranza notes. “Nine out of 10 men are now using grooming products every day. And one in three salon visitors are actually male. Most people think men are going strictly to a barber. But one-third are going to salons.”

And the men who aren’t going to salons have wives and girlfriends who are. “Fifty percent of products being purchased for men are being bought by the women in their lives,” says Carranza. “And those women typically aren’t finding [male-specific] options in the salons they frequent.”

Enter V76, a tightly edited range for hair and skin that boasts a few dual-use SKUs — a boon for a salon owner with limited retail space. “There hasn’t been a men’s brand positioned from a luxury standpoint that’s been both hair and grooming,” says Carranza, “There have been styling-led brands and grooming-led brands, but there hasn’t been one that’s both. That’s the first ‘aha’ that’s caught salon owners. They understand this is different.”

In the small but chic — and hair products only — camp is the eponymous product range from New York men’s guru Martial Vivot. Debuting at his Martial Vivot Pour Hommes salon in 2013, the five-SKU range, which is steeped in natural ingredients, was picked up by Barneys New York in late 2014. Since then, Vivot, along with key members of his team — R&D chief Melissa Jochim and hairstylist and editorial rock star Losi — have made in-store appearances at all five Barneys locations in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Las Vegas.

“The partnership with Barneys is amazing,” Vivot says, “in large part because the salespeople are extremely knowledgeable and passionate.”

Pampering The Power-Brokers

Vivot, a darling of the fashion press, tends to a galaxy of male celebs and power-brokers. And when he opened his salon in 2008, in basically the backyard of the Museum of Modern Art, it was with a singular vision: To elevate the old-world barber shop experience, and put it on a par with the best women’s hair salons in the city. He staffed-up with superstar stylists who specialize in men’s cuts. He charged big bucks. And he offered his clients a roster of hair and skin services they couldn’t get anywhere else, from bronzing and brow-shaping to facial exfoliation. He and his team also travel, if necessary, popping up on location for on-camera makeup contouring, or painting on highlights in the privacy of a Park Avenue home.

As evidenced by his crackling blog and Instagram feed, Vivot has his finger on the social media pulse, and often weighs in on the backstage trends coming out of the men’s fashion weeks in Europe. And now that, come July, there will finally be a proper men’s fashion week in New York, Vivot is hoping to get in on the action. “That would be a natural for us,” he says. “In recent years my team and I have styled the hair at the Michael Bastian, John Varvatos and Michael Kors shows. It’s an important aspect of what we do at the salon because it’s where we do a lot of our thinking about the next step in trends for men’s hair. What we do for the shows translates to what we do for our clients. It’s also a lot of fun coming up with concepts for the hair that fit with the concepts of the shows.”

Documenting this new wave of dandyism is grooming journalist Kristen Dold. Hired by Details magazine in 2012 to oversee its health and fitness section — and dabble in grooming here and there — Dold quickly saw her mandate shift. “Both readers and advertisers wanted more coverage, so I ended up spending about 50 percent of my time on grooming, seeking out new products, shuffling between deskside appointments, meeting with brands, and writing content.”

With a background in writing for women’s mags, Dold was pleasantly surprised at how product- and ingredient-savvy her new male readers were. “Grooming at Details was definitely next level,” she says. “Their guy already knew the basics of taking care of his skin and hair, or picking out a fragrance. So we were really able to push the envelope — dedicating a whole page to taking care of your eyebrows or using a face oil, explaining how to layer fragrances, or talking about cutting edge lasers and treatments at the dermatologist.”

Since relocating to Chicago from New York, Dold continues to write for Details, and has also added GQ, Bloomberg and Complex to her client roster. But since every reader isn’t equally grooming-literate, she doles out the science jargon sparingly.

“It’s funny, men are very into the science, but they’re also super picky about what their product looks like, how it’s going to appear sitting on their bathroom shelf,” Dold notes. “So while women have more experience looking for ingredients and reading reviews, guys are still often just picking up the best-looking bottle off the shelf. That’s why we have this whole wave of super rustic or vintage apothecary-looking grooming goods.”

“That all said, I think men are a harder sell when it comes to science claims,” adds Dold. “If you say a product will reduce wrinkles, they want to know exactly how that’s going to work in plain terms. So yes, I definitely have started incorporating more science into product reviews, and as men get their feet wet with terms like ‘retinol’ or ‘alpha hydroxy acid,’ I’ll include more.”

So which brands does Dold think are a slam-dunk on the marketing front? “I think Dollar Shave Club is killing it,” she says. “They obviously had the brilliant viral video that put them on the map, but they’ve continued to use humor, irreverence and social media to engage with customers. They haven’t had to pay some big-time celeb to endorse the product, they’re just sort of speaking the truth to guys in simple — and hilarious — terms. Hanz de Fuko is another brand that has a more organic marketing strategy that I think has worked well. They bypassed raditional outlets and instead found followers and customers by creating hair styling tutorials on YouTube.”

Country clubby and stately, or hip and edgy. Martial Vivot-niche or Dove Men+Care-massive. There have never been more innovative and high-performance products and services to help men define and refine their look. “Grooming is a very, very hot category,” says V76’s Carranza. “It’s growing.”



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