Mark Simpson talks about Male Beauty

Posted: September 24, 2011 in 2010

Quiet Riot Girl has convinced me, I too am an Ardent Simpsonista. I think that anyone interested in Male Femininity in the 2000’s should familiarize themselves with his excellant writing about male gender and sexuality.
via Insider Interview: author, journalist and ‘motherfather’ of the metrosexual Mark Simpson

GG: Make up for men has pretty much been a flop in commercial terms with many companies who launched products having since discontinued them. Why do you think this is when things like manscaping and even eyebrow shaping have taken off?

MS: Oh, I suspect male make-up will make a comeback in the near future. I hear it’s already been a success in the Asian market. After all, make-up is just another, more ‘in-yer-face’ form of cosmetics – and even good old Gillette shaving gel is choc full of cosmetics these days.

The problem though for men’s make-up and the reason why most men in the West are still holding out against it is that it isn’t something you can deny. Most other male cosmetics come with the alibi that no, you haven’t fake-baked you’ve just been working in the garden a lot….

The problem for men is that while they are increasingly expected to and indeed want to look good, unlike women they often feel they have to go about it semi-secretly. They need to be beautiful but they should also feel slightly ashamed about it. There’s a double standard about male beauty now. Men are expected to look fabulous, but pretend that they haven’t tried ‘too hard’. Make-up is currently defined as ‘trying too hard’.

On the other hand, Russell Brand gets away with it all the time.

GG: Many commentators complain that men are ‘becoming more like women’ with their grooming/beauty regimes. What would you say to this?

MS: I think it’s more a case of men no longer tying one hand behind their backs when it comes to the increasingly important business – both in private and public life – of looking good. Happily married Lord Sugar, for example, sometimes seems to display a weakness for an attractive, nicely turned-out male candidate. And of course, more and more bosses are female.

Instead of men becoming ‘more like women’ what we’re seeing is men being less inhibited in their behaviour by worries about what’s ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’, ‘gay’ and ‘straight’. In much the same way that women have been since the feminist revolution of the 1970s. Likewise, ‘male beauty’ is no longer a completely verboten conjugation that has to always be euphemised with ‘male grooming’.

Basically it’s the end of the Victorian division of bedroom and bathroom labour that persisted for most of the 20th Century. Men want to be beautiful and sensual too now. And no one, even bitchy commentators, is going to stop them.


  1. The tern ‘ardent Simpsonista’ was not meant entirely positively here. It was used to highlight how ‘ardent’ I am about using phrases like ‘male beauty’ and pointing out how macho/camp phrases like ‘male grooming’ are. This is only in keeping with Mark Simpson’s theories. But when I say it people get in a strop for some reason. So ‘Grooming Guru’s’ note at the end of the post is in the context of that conflict between ‘male beauty’ and ‘male grooming’ and the meanings of both.

    * Note: I don’t have a problem with the term ‘male beauty’ at all but do believe that had ‘male grooming’ been called ‘male beauty’ all these years the uptake would have been much, much slower. I’ve spent a decade at the coal face of the industry, encouraging men – in a very practical way – to take an interest in their appearance and whilst I know male ‘grooming’ is an artificial construct to give beauty a butch face I also know it has allowed metrosexuality to flourish in a way male ‘beauty’ never would have. It may be beauty by the back door but that’s fine by me. As long as men’s interest in their appearance continues I don’t care! GG

    I asked GG why men’s interest in their appearance was something he believes to be so important and he still has not answered.

  2. Jasper Gregory says:

    Hi Sweetie, I know the jibe ‘Simpsonista’ was snarky, but I have identified as a Deleuzean on many occasions. Without the Foucauldians who would of heard of Foucault? I am coming out Simpsonist, because his thinking is the freshest and deepest on the Internet, and you are playing an important role in spreading the ‘good news’.
    I am in the middle of Anti-Gay right now, and I just wish I had encountered it years ago. Everything Mark says about the 1996 communitarian Gay Identity is spot on. Just switch the word Gay and Queer and it is an up-to-date critique of Queer’s ‘narcissistic celebration of self.’

    I totally agree on the importance of the taboo around the term ‘Male Beauty’. Males like me want to be beautiful too. This is the core drive of Autogynephiles and Male Crossdressers, but they avoid the ‘Male Beauty’ taboo by saying ‘I am not Male,’ or even ‘I have never been male because I have the trans gene.’

  3. Yes my point was it is the grooming industry that is denying ‘male beauty’ the most, whilst profiting from it.

    I don’t know if Simpson’s thinking is *currently* the freshest and deepest on the internet. One or two of us are definitely keeping him on his toes anyway!

  4. Jasper Gregory says:

    Glad you liked. Just tell me please, what aspect caught your attention: ideas, photos, or video editing?
    For instance, would a slideshow and a soundtrack of me speaking have the same impact? Or would the ideass expressed in writing and photos have the impact?

  5. Jasper Gregory says:

    Re: grooming industry, I feel like the beauty industry preys on women’s self doubt. I see that happening for boys too. It is the products that hide or disguise ‘problems’ and blemishes that screw with the consumer’s self image.

  6. I liked the mix of the photos and text and speaking to camera.

    I liked how you put yourself in the frame and were the subject but it wasn’t one of those painful ‘confessional’ type videos.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s