I used to be a good-looking guy way back when. Actually, I have no real proof of that except a vague memory that someone once slurred in my ear at a party: "Hey, you're a good-looking guy." I've held on to that compliment for years. I was in my early 20s at the time, so fresh-faced and youthful I might have been. I had dark hair, a great fringe and decent sideburns. Now, here I am at 62 and past caring, to a point. I haven't heard anyone say to me recently: "You do the best you can with what you've got." I am what I am, as the song goes, at a time in my life when mirrors and lights can be both friends and enemies. I have less hair but it has morphed into a veteran silver. Kindly folks say it looks distinguished. They're not helping. I have a bald spot but I feel in reasonable condition. I try to dress according to the occasion, casual in a workaday way but smart to formal on social occasions. Appearance is important but it doesn't have to become an obsession. So, what's brought this on.
I browse style magazines from time to time and I noticed a number of things that even a man of my years should at least consider. The beard. Not a beard. The beard now seems to be the most popular male accessory, at least among the younger age group. Once the territory of grizzled old-timers in pubs, merchant seamen and maiden aunts, whiskers are now in and, I read, beard transplants are part of a growing industry. I suppose stitching in facial hair saves all that time actually growing a beard. Sigh. But, it seems a fairly natural step from hair transplants and maybe even travelling further down the torso to transplant......nah, I'm not going there.
Then, there is a notion that male varnish is cool, guys painting their fingernails to jazz up an outfit or underline an identity or personality. On to cleansing, polishing and scrubbing skin with lotions, potions, foams and sprays, and even charcoal. There was a time when the absolute luxury in suds was Camay soap for whatever gender. Now, soap is going the way of salt and sugar, bad things to avoid.
Back on the hair front, I've heard of the merm, a male perm of curls, dyed to whatever the final look might be - anything from cool surfer to Harpo Marx. Curly bops used to be fashionable back in the 1980s, some celebrities even opting for the permed wig once their natural hair flew the coop. It suited some but not others. Some men are just naturally cool-looking and they can do whatever they want to themselves and they will maintain their coolness. Others look, well, freaky because they have not got all the other ingredients necessary to carry off easy style.
Next up, wrinkles and cragginess and all the massages and fillers and injections to smooth out the face. Once, it seemed okay to look rough, tough and dangerous to know. But the trend now seems to be a quest for baby-bum smoothness at all times, beards notwithstanding. Where once men would roll out of bed and be at work within fifteen minutes, alarm clocks are now set a good couple of hours early to allow time for shaving or trimming, moisturising, daubing, dabbing and whatever else is in the routine.
Once everything is sorted, there is the final action before venturing out in public. It is essential, say the "experts", for the man-about-town to practice "the look". Posing in front of a mirror used to be what daft teenagers would get up to as they mimed pop songs into a hairbrush microphone. Now, it's a De Niro thing: "You lookin' at me", rehearsing the moves, the glides, quick-response-turns, the smiles, the smirks, eyebrows raised and lowered, etc, etc. "You're worth it." And I haven't even got around to gleaming white teeth!
Maybe I really was a good-looking guy but if I was, it was all natural darling, beauty with minimum effort.