Table of Contents:

This chapter has explored the representations and understanding of the beauty/grooming market for men through a discussion of male lifestyle magazines and (group) interviews with several male participants. As has been discussed in the literature, beauty brands are struggling to find the right tone to address men because they must navigate the feminine connotations of the market. One way to do this is to emphasise masculine values and interests; in the Gay Times and FHM data, for example, brands have drawn on discourses of sports and - for a heterosexual male audience - concepts of violence and fighting. Moreover, a ‘no-nonsense’ approach, which comprises a focus on price and practicality of a product or service, was widely adopted in the adverts aimed at men. This functional approach to grooming and buying products was also highlighted in the (group) interviews.

The features related to grooming published in the men’s magazines showed an evident understanding of and a (somewhat) sceptical attitude towards the beauty market, which was echoed across the (group) interviews. However, despite this scepticism, the magazines - particularly those aimed at gay men - appeared aware of the insecurities men may experience in relation to their bodies and masculine identities. Enabling a discussion of these insecurities, both the magazines and the interview participants employed humour. Moreover, as interviewees did not want to appear too invested in the grooming market, they used various distancing strategies, such as the ‘littling’ of products and product use.

Lastly, although previous literature has suggested a difference between the marketing and use of grooming products and services amongst hetero- and gay men, only some evidence for this claim was found here. Importantly, the male participants of the (group) interviews remarked that FHM and the Gay Times actually looked very similar and included comparable advertising.


  • 1 This is one of the straplines of supplement brand Wellman.
  • 2 As Barber (2016: 7) has noted, ‘beauty’ is so strongly associated with women that “we might even think that ‘grooming’ and ‘handsome’ are more appropriate terms to describe men”, particularly as grooming is associated with appearing “clean and socially acceptable” (ibid: 37). The men’s magazines appear to be aware of the problematic connotations of the word ‘beauty’ and prefer to use the word ‘grooming’. In an article in FHM, for example, the author (jokingly) corrects himself when he speaks of ‘beauty’ rather than ‘grooming’ routines, stating “okay, you must all have some beauty, sorry, grooming routines” (March 2006: 142). As the word ‘grooming’ is more widely used to discuss appearance-enhancing products and services for men, I will adopt this term in this chapter.
  • 3 The fact that the model is a cartoon decreases the advert’s modality, making it appear less ‘real’ (cf. Kress & van Leeuwen 2006; Machin 2007).
  • 4 19% (N=14) of all adverts found in FHM include references to violence and fighting. In all the other magazines, this percentage is much lower (i.e. 1% (N=1) in the Gay Times-, 6% (N=23) in Marie Claire-, and 7% (N=26) in Cosmo).
  • 5 Variations of ‘protect’ and/or ‘defence’ are found in 7% (N=26) of the adverts in Cosmo and in 12% (N=45) of the adverts in Marie Claire. This percentage is lower for the men’s magazines; 4% (N=3) of the adverts in FHM and 3% (N=2) of those in the Gay Times refer to ‘protect’ and/or ‘defence’.
  • 6 15% (N=11) of the references in the women’s magazines to ‘protect’ and/ or ‘defend’ were found in advertising for sunscreen products, which are claimed to ‘protect’ against (effects of) the sun. The men’s magazines did not include any adverts for sunscreen products, which may relate to the common assumption that men do not use sun protection products (cf. Scott, in Marie Claire 2015: 300).
  • 7 The difference between women’s and men’s magazines in the emphasis on the quick and easy nature of procedures and/or products was only found in adverts for cosmetic procedures. The relative number of beauty adverts referring to ‘easy’ was similar across the magazines (i.e. 14% in Cosmo (N=29) and the Gay Times (N=3); 11% (N=26) in Marie Claire; and 9% (N=3) in FHM). The distribution of ‘quick’ and/or ‘instant’ was also similar across the magazines in (other) beauty advertising (i.e. 21% (N=49) in Marie Claire; 20% (N=42) in Cosmo; 17% (N=6) in FHM; and 18% (N=4) in the Gay Times).
  • 8 50% (N=11) of all adverts for grooming products/services in the Gay Times and 26% (N=9) of those in FHM referred to financial aspects, compared to just 12% (N=28) of the beauty adverts in Marie Claire and 10% (N=21) of those in Cosmo. The overall theme of finance was coded more frequently in the men’s magazines; of all the adverts in the Gay Times, 69% (N=48) referred to the theme, compared to 44% (N=32) of the adverts in FHM. This figure is (much) lower for the women’s magazines, namely 34% (N=125) for Cosmo and 27% (N=102) for Marie Claire.
  • 9 Whereas 27% (N=6) of the (other) grooming adverts in the Gay Times and 14% (N=5) of those in FHM mention the price of the advertised product, only 2% (N=4) of the (other) beauty adverts in Cosmo and 1% (N=2) of those in Marie Claire refer to prices.
  • 10 Whereas only 6% (N=13) of the adverts for (other) beauty products/services in Cosmo and 9% (N=21) of those in Marie Claire refer to information or advice, 20% (N=7) of the grooming adverts in FHM and 50% (N=11) of those in the Gay Times refer to this theme.
  • 11 Jelqing is described as “repeatedly [pulling] your flaccid dick using your thumb and index finger to [increase] the size of your hard-on” (FHM, broad corpus, May 2015: 56).
  • 12 The word ‘belittle’ is not used in a negative sense here; rather, it refers to the ‘littling’ of how much or how frequently the men use particular products or services.
  • 13 This was stated by Matt when asked what beauty/grooming products he uses.
  • 14 The laser eye surgery that Matt was contemplating can be argued to be either reconstructive or cosmetic. See also can-you-get-laser-eye-surgery-for-free-on-the-nhs/
  • 15 When seeing an advert by SCI-MX, discussed in Chapter 5, which shows a man leaving behind a dumbbell with a crushed handle, Shaun cynically remarked, “oh the handle is crushed oh funny ha ha”.
  • 16 When listing the grooming products that he uses, Shaun commented he should use “just a normal hydrating sort of moisturiser stuff”.
  • 17 Interestingly, Daniel felt the need to provide a rationale for wearing concealer, noting, “in the job I had previously I would work quite long hours and I’d get back and I’d get these really dark rings and it looked a bit embarrassing”.
  • 18 When Matt was talking about the moisturiser he uses, he commented that “it’s bloody expensive, really expensive” as it is “eight quid for a little squeezy bottle”.
  • 19 2.1% (N=52) of all pages in the Gay Times were devoted to advertising for grooming products and/or cosmetic procedures, compared to 2.0% (N=48) of the pages in FHM.
  • 20 Whereas 29% (N=20) of the adverts in the Gay Times include a holistic or wellness approach, only 6% (N=4) of the adverts in the FHM refer to this.
  • 21 Only 4% (N=3) of the adverts in FHM refer to salons, spas or pampering treatments (compared to 19% (N=13) of the adverts in the Gay Times).


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