Dude, What’s Beauty?

5 years ago by

Sometimes you need a man’s perspective. Especially when you are posing the question, “What is a man’s beauty routine? Is it different than grooming? Or merely the same of a different name?” We asked the oh-so-comedic and oh-so-charming, Brandon Borror-Chappell, to fill us in on, what do men really think of when they think of beauty?


What does b e a u t y mean to me, a man? Well, I’m glad you asked me of all men, for I speak for all men. We had a meeting last month and it was decided.

I have my own definition of “beauty” that I’ve come up with in my musings. I think beauty is something that, when you witness it, makes you pause for a moment and forget about your own self. And it leaves you feeling grateful to be alive on this planet and able to witness things at all.

After a night out with friends during which I over-invest in alcohol’s ability to make me feel good, I tend to wake up early before the hangover sets in. In this soft golden haze, EVERYTHING is beautiful. Behold! A pigeon eating a soggy french fry on the sidewalk! I weep as I contemplate: somebody stopped during their journey home for some late night sustenance. Perhaps this fry, once part of a clumsy handful, bounced from the cheek of the Drunk and the Hungry at three in the morning. Mere hours later, the castaway potato is nourishing this wonderfully evolved bird, New York City’s ever persistent street cleaner who issues a gentler kind of parking ticket. Truly all things are connected, and nothing ever goes to waste. This transcendent state will not last long, and foretells of an approaching storm of anxious regret, so I try my best to bask in it.

But that’s not really what you’re asking, is it?

I feel a bit bad about this, but I don’t think that men in general think about beauty in the way that women do. If I may pander: it seems women are constantly bombarded with doctored images of constantly-out-of-reach physical perfection, and here are a bevy of products that can help you get as close as possible, and if you don’t use them all constantly (oops not that one anymore, there’s a new shade of eyeliner that’s in now, didn’t you hear?) maybe you ought to deadbolt your door and hide under the covers, darling.

“Beauty” is a giant industry (est. 532 Billion USD in 2017) so maybe it’s less

in the Eye of the Beholder

and more

in the Account of the Stock Holder

Wow, you’re still reading? Anyway, it’s a huge industry and certainly not all bad. I am engaged to be wed to a great lady who runs a fashion magazine (Laura Brown at InStyle) and I’ve been with her when professional makeup artists get her “all tarted up” (her words) before some event where there will be a red carpet and/or photographers. I get it – it’s terrifying, and it helps to know that you’re looking your best before you get thrown to the wolves. And sometimes I accompany her to the event, and sometimes I have an angry zit on my forehead, and sometimes I ask if the makeup artist might have something to hide it and yeah, maybe they do. I’m just saying, I get that it can be buoyant to strap on some armor, whether you’re emceeing an award show or going to work at the DMV.

I don’t want to get kicked out of the club, but my sense is that men, specifically straight men, are mostly oblivious to the amount of energy women spend on readying themselves to venture into the world. Am I wrong? Maybe I’m wrong. The imagery is absolutely everywhere, but we more or less tune it out. I wish I could credit the person, but I’ve definitely seen a few tweets that said something along the lines of, “I was feeling confident and my skin was clear so I went to work with no makeup and ten out of twelve coworkers asked me if I was sick.” To some degree, we men are permitted to live in a fantasy world where the women naturally look the way they do with just the right amount of makeup on. I’m thinking specifically of the scene from Bridesmaids where Kristen Wiig wakes up early, refreshes her face, climbs back into bed with Jon Hamm, and then pretends to have just woken up. It seems burdensome, and I’m sorry. I hope all ladies one day feel free to put on makeup when they want to and not when they don’t. It’s not your responsibility to prop up the male fantasy.

Speaking of male fantasy, what the hell is going on with grooming products marketed to men? We don’t want breakouts, we don’t want body odor, we don’t want our hair to look stupid. Every commercial for body wash is like, “You’ve just returned home from ripping up oak trees and fending off lions with your bare hands, now wash off the mud and stench so swarms of women will rub and kiss you.” Ridiculous.

Based on the fact that women are sold a closet full of individualized products for eyelash volume, bouncy hair, shiny hair, a different eyeshadow for every outfit — while men are sold everything-in-one body wash/shampoo/conditioner/shaving cream – I think it’s safe to say the beauty bar is lower for men, certainly on a daily basis. But sometimes you want to look your best. I don’t think we’d consider it “beauty”, but every guy has a routine nonetheless (see: “GTL” from Jersey Shore). Going on a first date? A third date? A friend’s wedding? Your own wedding? Did you get a haircut? Trim a certain area? Time a chest workout just right? Well bro, what you’ve got there is your beauty routine. You look ravishing.

Maybe I should stop talking on behalf of John Q. Maxim Subscriber and just speak for myself.

In middle school and high school, of course I cared about my appearance. I just thought I looked cool in gym shorts and goofy t-shirts. I washed my face to keep the pimples at bay. When I worked out a lot and got kinda fit, I felt better about life and people seemed to be more interested in me. But when I fell out of the exercise/conscious of diet grind and blossomed a bit, it didn’t bother me. Sometimes when I see pictures from certain periods I think, “maybe it could have bothered me a little.” For the vast majority of my formative years, I believed that any energy spent on curating my appearance was wasted. I also logged a couple thousand hours playing XBOX sooo…

I am now 28. At around 24, I haltingly began to realize that my “yeah I really just don’t care,” which, deep down, I had always known was its own form of presentation, was mutating into a fear of taking myself seriously as a member of the human race. A big factor in this was that I worked at a restaurant in Los Angeles that was frequented by people who looked their best. I admitted to myself that I did have hopes and dreams beyond waiting tables, and that those hopes and dreams would probably be within closer reach if I looked the part. I asked a guy I worked with whose hair always looked good where he got his hair cut, and accepted his recommendation even though it cost five times what I usually spent (five times twelve is sixty). I knew I could get back in shape if I made a few changes that I definitely had the ability to make. I was a little bit vain, but my confidence shot up.

And it wasn’t that long with my newfound layer of suave that I wound up with Laura. And it wasn’t long after winding up with Laura that I learned from her, tactfully but forcefully, that no, I was not dressing well. But she could help!

I can now say, almost unabashedly, that I have a beauty routine:

I work out regularly. I also eat better when I work out regularly, and poorly when I don’t, so I can quickly bounce from one BMI to another (for better or worse).

I wash my face in the morning and night, and moisturize. Occasionally I even do a resurfacing mask.

I have less than great facial hair (it grows most thickly on my throat and neck) so I keep it cropped with a trimmer to achieve an “oops, I guess I forgot to shave yesterday, yeah it grew in pretty quickly” look. It’s possible that nobody is fooled.

I blow dry and style my hair every day. I kind of hate this, and I hate how much I hate it when I can’t get it to lie the right way. I feel like the bad guy in that Shania Twain song.

I wear what Laura tells me to wear. I’m learning, but slowly, and my fashion instincts remain terrible.

I use deodorant and floss and brush my teeth so I don’t smell bad and rot. I do not use cologne.

I pluck between my eyebrows so they don’t unite, and I go for the occasional pedicure.

That’s pretty much it. I hope that’s not offensive. I’m glad that I was able to develop these habits over time, and of my own volition. It seems like that may not be an option that is as easily afforded to you ladies. Sometimes, when I can’t get my hair to do what I want, I yearn for the days when I DGAF. But I can never return to them. I used to wear pajamas to the airport to maximize comfort. Doing so now would make my skin crawl. Is this a good or a bad thing? I cannot say for sure.

Not too long ago I attended my grandfather’s funeral, which was hard. Getting ready for it, which included most of the steps I listed above plus putting on a well-tailored suit, was helpful, and edifying. That’s what a beauty routine should be – fortification when you need it. Not shame when you don’t.


Add yours
  • Love love love love love love love love.

  • Well I quite liked that he avoided the usual cliches about “inner beauty and personality blah blah” that men usually come out with when asked this sort of question. Also didn’t say “big tits and long hair” which is what they really mean.

  • I loved this! Honest, funny, sweet, and devoid of man-splaining.

    I can’t really imagine being a man and having the luxury of a laissez-faire approach to beauty: no spending four times the money and three times the time to get ready every day, no feeling that you’ll die alone if you go on dates with messy hair and no makeup, a billion movies where the man is fat and far less attractive but still lands the hot girl (please, show me a movie where the plain, chubby girl lands the hot guy – and even if you can, that’s on in a field of hundreds that men have on their side), no judgement for using cheap instead of high-end beauty products, no ankle-twisting heels that are a requirement at many jobs, all of which ties into the biggest luxury of all – no tying your appearance with your self-worth. (Okay, everyone does this a little bit – but there are stats and evidence and studies to prove this affects women far more than men.)

    However, on the flip-side of that coin, I think men are judged and teased when they care for their looks (“He’s gay,” as an insult; “He’s so metrosexual!”), and as such are often denied the pleasures that self-grooming can bring (pedicures! face masks! spa days!). They also have a harder time concealing zits and flaws when they’re admonished for wearing makeup, or teased for dying grey hairs black.

    It’s an interesting topic and makes me hopeful for a world where makeup and styled hair is expected of no one – and everyone can play around with it at their discretion. People, and workplaces, should demand neat, well-kept employees, but that means that a woman who is well-kept in khakis, flat shoes, no makeup, and a button-down is judged the same as a man in the same attire.

  • Naydeline April, 21 2019, 2:29

    Yes to this comment!

  • interesting to read a men’s perspective.

  • Great article. I think his definition of beauty in the beginning is really beautiful and true.

  • The last two lines are gold. Everything Brandon writes is splendid. His review of Beauty and the Beast on Man Repeller still appears in my thoughts, years later, and makes me laugh. Please have him write more!

  • Lol. Favourite beauty op ed ever.

  • queenofstoneage April, 11 2019, 9:03 / Reply

    Excellent! I read every single word and enjoyed the post thoroughly. Smile on face. Thank you!

  • looooooved this!!!

  • Loved “fortification when you need it. Not shame when you don’t”. Sums up 100% my feelings about clothing as armour (when you need it to be). Great story.

  • I haven’t laughed out loud reading an article in a really long time. What a fantastic writer.

  • Naydeline April, 21 2019, 2:31 / Reply

    Very funny and true, especially this line: “‘Beauty’ is a giant industry (est. 532 Billion USD in 2017) so maybe it’s less…in the Eye of the Beholder and more…in the Account of the Stock Holder.” Can Brandon be a regular on Atelier Doré? Love his writing style!

  • Good motivating blog. I also liked the direction and your writing style.

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