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Metrosexual in the city

By RICARDO PAMINTUAN Published Feb 25, 2024 5:00 am

In every man’s heart there is a secret nerve that answers to the vibrations of beauty.” The American author Christopher Morley wrote this in his 1990 essay collection about life in Philadelphia.

Truly, gone are the days when beauty was the sole domain of women. In recent years, perhaps decades, more and more men have been taking better care not just of their body and health, but also their appearance—from the clothes they wear to their skin and face.

Ah, the elusive metrosexual: a creature of urban legend, known for his impeccable grooming habits and his ability to navigate the world of fashion with the finesse of a seasoned catwalk model, a unicorn in a bespoke suit, with a skincare routine so elaborate and precise it would put a NASA launch sequence to shame. He’s the guy who can tell you the difference between a toner and a moisturizer faster than you can say “butt mask” or “snail cream.” In essence, a metrosexual is a modern-day peacock, a connoisseur of style, and a walking ad for the wonders of exfoliation and manscaping.

Modern male grooming essentials: Simple, sophisticated, and ready for the day.

“Real men” of yore could only swear and roll their eyes. Surely, no self-respecting, hot-blooded Pinoy would or should spend an inordinate amount of time and money to preen and embellish his façade. There’s really no need; sweat, natural body odor, ill-fitting clothes and out-of-control nails and body hair maketh the man, so they say. I can already see the ladies grimacing at the pain brought about by such an unflattering image.

It can’t be helped if some men believe they can get away with any gaffe in fashion or hygiene. We live in a chauvinist society shaped by three and a half centuries of Spanish machismo, where every man believes he is a godsend to Eve’s daughters. FYI, guys, those days sailed away with the Treaty of Paris.

Elevate your look with grooming and self-care routines. See the difference.

For some time now, we have been living in the age of the modern man. While our elders might have scoffed at the idea of using anything beyond a bar of soap and some water—perhaps once a week or a fortnight—the man of today is more attuned to his more tender side, for himself and for others. He wants to look good and smell good for his own self-esteem as well as for social acceptance. To behave otherwise would make him no better than a Neanderthal.

A typical metrosexual man is armed with an arsenal of “masculine” products. My personal kikay kit includes skin cleansers, toners, a variety of lotions for the face, hands, and body, roller neck cream (for that pesky neck wattle), and even fingernail cream (because who doesn’t want soft and manageable cuticles?) It’s like an armory for maintaining ruggedly handsome skin. Exotic-sounding products like Banobagi Skin Recovery Cream, infused with the mystical powers of milk thistle, could be distilled straight from the mythical Fountain of Youth. That’s just for the evening regimen.

Elegance meets confidence. Embrace the modern gentleman's style.

There may be fewer weapons for a day battle, but they are no less important. Sun protection cream is a must, and anyone who regularly uses it ought to know that SPF stands for skin protection factor, while the number beside it indicates the degree of protection from harmful UV rays. Theoretically, higher means better. Even skin lotions now boast of solar buffers that should allay any fears of melanoma.

While men’s skin may be tougher than women’s, our lips are certainly similarly delicate. I first tried lip balm with much diffidence during a cold, dry day in New York. It felt eerily (grossly?) like applying lipstick or lip gloss, complete with the lip smacking, so I never dared do it in public. But I’m afraid no more, and I even recommend it to friends with dry and cracked lips. What girl would enjoy kissing a boy with lips that feel like a five o’clock shadow anyway?

So far, all these make up the DIY part of male vanity. Let’s talk about those that require expert hands.

Facial treatments and warts removal, for example, can only be done by individuals who have been serving satisfied clients forever and whose favorite celebrity is probably the demigoddess of gross, Sandra Lee, Dr. Pimple Popper herself. For most men, these procedures so common now were unheard of then. Now, I do it once or twice a year. Who knew looking good could mean so much pain, and money?

Barbershop vibes: Where men's grooming meets relaxation.

Hair is another matter that could be, well, hairy if cut by amateurs or by yourself. During the pandemic, I was forced to cut my and my son’s hair. Neither of us lost an ear, but a peek at the mirror immediately revealed why barbering wasn’t a potential second career option for me. Thankfully, I don’t have to do this anymore, even as beauty salons openly vie for men’s patronage with traditional barbershops.

During a family trip to Seoul, we all tried some Korean salon service. The hairstyle chosen for me was perfect, except that I can’t rock bangs that would make me look half my age, as I often see in Korean shows. My hair just won’t hang that way and instead juts out like window awnings, which my wife and daughter find eternally amusing. At least I don’t need sun visors.

Hair care isn’t just about what’s on top of the head; it’s also about the scalp. You don’t want to hear anyone humming Let it Snow as you try to relieve a bothersome itch. Fortunately, aside from your homegrown aloe vera sap, there are oils like argan or coconut that can save your day, if not your reputation. And dyeing your hair? DIY kits like Revlon and Clairol are over-the-counter favorites, but if you want it done right and to last longer, better have the pros handle it.

Inked and proud: A canvas of self-expression.

Just as dyed hair was once associated with the oldest profession, tattoos were once reserved for sailors and convicts. Both are now badges of fashion sense and progressiveness. Tattoos represent not only individuality but also a free and sometimes rebellious spirit. Like expert salon service, tattooing can be quite pricey, but only if you want to ensure its quality.

Of course, foot and hand care is equally important. Foot spas and mani-pedis are no longer just for the ladies. Say goodbye to calluses, crooked toenails, suffocating body bends, and throbbing ingrown toenails. And remember this, guys: women will judge you by your nails. And body massages? They’re not just for relaxation (or for perverted acts). They’re actually ideal for optimum blood circulation and necessary to achieve peak physical form.

Smile brighter, live better: Nurturing oral health one brush at a time.

Dental care is crucial, too. Regular brushing and flossing are a given, but why stop there? Mechanical toothbrushes pair well with water picks, and both are becoming more and more affordable. Smokers can opt for teeth whitening. Mouth guards prevent or at least delay the erosion of enamel by nocturnal teeth grinders. And let’s not forget about those obligatory dental visits—because oral prophylaxis is definitely not to be confused with prophylactics.

Body care extends beyond the shower. A loofah and scalp massager are essential tools in the battle against everyday grime and grease. And as for perfume, less is definitely more. You have to strive for that Goldilocks balance between malodorous masculine scent and being mistaken for a mobile Lush store.

Sweat, strength, and determination. Men redefining fitness goals.

At the end of the day, after you’ve taken care of your body through regular exercise and a healthy diet, it all boils down to what that paragon of Renaissance metrosexuality, the Bard himself, said. In Henry V, Shakespeare wrote, “Self-love, my liege, is not so vile a sin, as self-neglecting.” So, my good man, go ahead, dare to indulge in some self-care. After all, loving yourself is the first step to conquering the world. Or at least looking damn good while trying.