People like to watch traditionally attractive people. It’s the foundation on which the majority of reality TV shows and Instagram is based upon. Love Island returns to our screens, and while I dip in, I’m usually away for men’s fashion weeks to get the full minutiae of people trying to fulfil their social media destiny, it is, currently, a huge influence. It’s also a barometer of how this demographic of people look and what they buy and do when to comes to fashion and grooming.
Left - Love Island contestant Curtis with no underarm hair looking like a holiday from the 90s
The prevailing trend for men seems to still be bald as a coot bodies. The hirsute trend we’re seeing in porn, in gay culture and even in women, doesn’t seem to having an impact on this group of people. Or on the producers casting these people. There’s even one guy, Curtis, who doesn’t seem to have any underarm hair. He probably won’t be the only one…
When Frida Kahlo is the poster girl for women, is it a wonder how this smooth ideal for men persists. It does feel like this is the last gasp of the completely smooth trend we’ve been seeing since of the 90s when grooming and men messing around with their intimate areas first started.
A report from Mintel last year stated 46% of British men remove hair from their bodies, up from 36% in 2016. They also discovered that 57% of young men aged 16-24 remove hair from their pubic region. UK sales of shaving and hair removal products to reach £558 million in 2018 with Veet the headline sponsor of reality TV, TOWIE. According to Mintel’s Shaving and Hair Removal – UK, October 2016, 14% of men say that they remove hair from their chest, rising to 20% amongst men aged 25-44.
It does feel like we’ve reached peak body grooming and the figures will start to reverse when they realise looking smooth looks dated and as fashionable as a tribal tattoo or skinny white jeans.
The trend for hairy has been growing for a few years now, some have been calling it the ‘Poldark Effect’, named after actor Aidan Turner’s hairy torso seen scything in the BBC drama.
Right - When Frida Kahlo is today's poster girl for women, is it a wonder how this smooth ideal for men persists
Often removing body hair was about appealing or pleasing a partner. According to dating site MissTravel.com – which conducted a poll on male chest hair – 2017's straight women prefer partners with bare chests (61 per cent like a man to shave or wax), while gay men prefer them hirsute (at 58 per cent).
Gay men are often the leaders of trends when it came to fashion and grooming and were the first to start removing hair, they are now doing the reverse. Men now look lean and hairy as opposed to bulked out and smooth like in previous decades.
Hairier is, now, seen as more masculine, more mature and sexier. Being smooth looks immature and feminine and it’s this polarised worlds of hairy versus smooth which makes the Love Island guys look even more confusing. On a positive, at least those Jacuzzi filters won’t be getting clogged up.
Below - The full 2019 Love Island line up of without a single body hair
Young men are officially the biggest consumers of footwear in the UK. Move over Carrie Bradshaw, or is that reference way too old when you consider many of these 16-24 year old men weren’t even born when she started shopping for her Manolos.
According to the latest research from Mintel on footwear retailing, 95% of British males aged 16-24 bought shoes last year, making them Britain’s number one footwear buyers.
There’s been a revolution in men buying shoes and while women (86%) are still more likely to purchase footwear than men (78%), females aged 16-24 (10%) are twice as likely to have not purchased footwear in the last year compared to their male counterparts (5%), as the continuation of the casual and ‘athleisure’ trends drive men’s footwear sales.
Male shoe addicts are fast catching up on women. Men’s footwear accounted for 37% of all footwear sales in 2017, up from 34% in 2015. Valued at £4.38 billion in 2017, sales of men’s shoes increased an impressive 31% between 2015 and 2017. In comparison, sales of women’s shoes grew by only 10% over the same period to reach £5.48 billion in 2017.
“Men’s footwear, particularly among younger age groups, is really fuelling growth in the footwear sector.” says Chana Baram, Retail Analyst at Mintel. “In fact, our research shows that men aged 16-24 are more likely to be swayed by big brand names than women of the same age.” says Baram. “With trainers such a popular category for men as a whole, young men in particular are likely to respond positively to advertising campaigns by the big sports brands that feature their favourite male sports personalities.” she says.
This footwear sales growth is being fuelled by trainers, trainers and more trainers. Casual shoes and trainers are now the most popular shoe styles purchased by men.
“These are not just essential buys, but, got-to-have-it buys,” says Richard Wharton, footwear veteran and founder of Office & Offspring. “It’s all about the latest sneaker, there are millions version of that: the luxe trend, the Balenciaga Triple S, Off-White, Converse or Vans or whatever.” says Wharton. “These young guys have never worn formal shoes or been forced into wearing them at school. They buy what they want,” he says.
“Sneaker culture has really grown, from being a niche market to having mass appeal,” says Pamela Dunn, Senior Buyer, Schuh. “The rise of exclusive collabs and hard-to-get releases from brands like Nike/Adidas has fuelled the sneaker market.” she says.
In our age of sportswear and dress-down, our footwear choices have mirrored this and what was once unacceptable in certain social situations has now become mainstream and mass. Comfort is key.
“In modern offices nobody wears any other formal attire anymore so it’s acceptable to wear sneakers,” says Wharton. “Hype’s there. Before you didn’t have trainers for different occasions,” says Wharton. “Where you had that in formal wear, you, now, have that in sneakers: all black sneaker for work, weekend, something casual, or a club, maybe Dior or Louboutin,” he says.
The trainer market has grown to such as size that there is now multiple categories within this market and men are buying a full wardrobe of trainers for every social occasion. Designer brands have piled into this market seeing big margins and huge volumes. But what are these guys buying into?
“Big brands at a more mass market level like Nike/Adidas or more top level brands include Off-White / Gucci / LV etc.” says Dunn.
“It’s so broad. They are buying high-end street couture to basic Vans or Converse,” says Wharton. “Nike rules with guys buy into their new technology. There are huge queues waiting for the next thing and Nike limit it, so they drip feed it in.” he says.
Boys are buying brands and this may go someway to explain the latest movements within the men’s footwear market. Ted Baker recently bought back its shoe license for £21 million. The fashion brand bought ‘No Ordinary Shoes’, the worldwide licensee, from the Pentland Group. “This is an exciting opportunity to drive further growth in our footwear business by leveraging our global footprint and infrastructure, in line with our strategy to further develop Ted Baker as a global lifestyle brand,” said Ted Baker founder Ray Kelvin.
As Pentland lost Ted Baker, it appointed Marc Hare as the new ‘Product Director of the Lacoste Footwear Joint Venture’. He will be leading the new ‘Mainline’ and ‘Future Concepts’ product teams and working with Lacoste JV CEO, Gianni Georgiades, to support the company's vision for the brand. Marc Hare is known for his luxury evening styles and his, now, defunct Mr Hare footwear label. It’ll be interesting to see whether Pentland want to grow Lacoste further out from its sporty origins or use Hare’s skill by giving those sports shoes an elevation to compete within the luxury sneaker market.
What these brands see is growth, but is there further room for expansion or is the market becoming saturated?
“I think males will increasingly buy into footwear in the future, but the market will change,” says Dunn. “I think exclusive products may become less desirable, but brands that are big now will become even more dominant e.g. nike/adidas.” she says.
“It depends when it becomes saturation point,” says Wharton. “So many people want comfort that looks cool and there are multiple sub-genres such as Japanese sneakers, and Palace/Supreme collabs,” he says.
While the sports brands continue to offer newness, limit 'exclusive' product and raid their archives for classic styles, the trainer market seems healthy and will sustain the desire of men to keep adding to their collections. But, this rise of young men becoming the largest consumers of footwear is skewed towards one category and it will be interesting to see how the footwear industry gets this entire generation off their sport wears addiction and into a pair of leather lace-ups.
ITV’s hit show ‘Love Island’ didn’t just dominate people’s evening viewing, this summer, it also inspired guys to get grooming. Recent data from Kantar Worldpanel showed a spike in grooming sales during the 12 weeks to 12th August 2018. The reality show is credited with helping to drive a 16% sales surge in men’s skincare products.
“Love Island not only tugged on shoppers’ heartstrings but also their purse strings,” said Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar Worldpanel, which produced the report.
Left - Love Island 2018 cause a spike in male grooming sales
An incredible 3.6 million tuned into to watch Dani and Jack win the show, breaking viewing records at ITV2. The scantily clad couples, supposedly all looking for love, clearly hit the right spot when inspiring guys to make the best of themselves.
Superdrug – which has sponsored the last three series of Love Island – launched a campaign promoting the products “the Love Island boys will be using all summer”. These included avocado and manuka honey conditioner, beard oil, volcanic cleansing wash and charcoal toothpaste to get that all important Love Island smile.
Lee Kynaston, Grooming Expert, Grooming Guru, says, “Those Love Island lotharios are a televisual reminder to all men that they need to raise their grooming game. The programme, with its identikit contestant selection, is saying 'this is what men are meant to look like in 2018' and the fact that the producers seem to pick guys that conform to a stereotype - hairless, muscular, tanned, perfectly-groomed eyebrows, blindingly white teeth - reinforces the image. I mean, where are the guys with hairy chests? It reinforces the idea that men shouldn't have a scrap of body hair. Love Island is manscaping's biggest cheerleader. Everyone of them is (forgive me for saying this) 'Instagram Ready’.”
Love Island adds that competitive element to how men look. Are you good looking enough? It clearly hit the marketing sweet spot.
“Well, the premise of the show is about getting the girl (or the boy if you're a female contestant) so it automatically associates a certain physical look with romantic - and sexual - success. Quiet sad really because we all know that outside of the Love Island/Instagram bubble that that's not reality.” says Kynaston.
Since the start of the new Love Island series, the number of men having eyebrow threading treatments at Superdrug have increased by 43% compared to last year.
Less than two years ago, only one in 50 appointments at Superdrug’s ‘Brow Bars’ were for male customers - today, men make up almost ten per cent of all appointments at the retailer who has 293 Brow & Lash Bars in its stores across the UK.
According to the brow specialists in Superdrug it appears younger men are opting for perfectly shaped dyed brows whereas the 40 plus generation are opting for a ‘tidy up’.
Simon Comins, Superdrug Commercial Director, says, “Programmes such as Love Island always influence customers to try out a new look and this year we’ve already seen males customers rush in to stores to get their guy-brows shaped and tidied.
“There has been a huge shift in male grooming over the past few years with a significant increase in customers looking for male grooming products with an 11 per cent increase in sales. But, male grooming has changed now it’s as likely to mean a concealer and lipgloss as shaving products.”
The UK’s men’s grooming market is said to be worth £2 billion a year and this is continuing to grow as men start to use more products and the grooming categories increase. Even Chanel is launching a men’s line called ‘Boy de Chanel’. It will first launch in South Korea, the biggest men’s grooming market in the world, with three "essential” products: a tinted foundation, coming in four colours, a matte moisturising lip balm, and four shades of eyebrow pencil.
So, what are men buying into?
According to Mintel, “Popular reality TV shows including Love Island and TOWIE have helped to popularise a preference for hair-free bodies amongst younger men, underscoring a growing demand for men’s hair removal products.”
All six men who originally entered the Love Island villa did so with hairless chests and all but one sported some form of facial hair or designer stubble.
Josephine O’Brien, analyst at Kantar Worldpanel, said: “Male contestants were even shown lathering hair removal cream on their bodies in an open-air shower and the hairless chests of the islanders set the standard for men hitting the beach this season.
Right - Will Love Island be looked back upon as 'peak grooming'?
“This is reflected in the sales – the number of men buying hair removal cream is up a staggering 17.7% in the past year and under-45s shopping for hair removal products have shot up 35.6% in the past 12 months.
“There’s less stigma among men about these grooming practices. In fact, peer pressure is one of the factors contributing to the increase in sales, with British men more likely than their European counterparts to remove their body hair because of societal pressures. This means that brands hoping to attract shoppers should be looking at the male market and how they can target this growing group – something the likes of Nads and Veet are already capitalising on.”
Over a quarter of men (28%) have shaved their body in the past 6 months with 72% of these removing hair from their intimate parts according to the Kantar Worldpanel data.
Brands such as Nads and Veet are capitalising on the trend and bringing out products targeted at men as brands like Nair. 54% of men who remove body hair describe themselves as image conscious compared to 41% of those that don’t, while the biggest driver to remove hair is personal hygiene with 42% saying a fear of odour makes them reach for the razor.
Men are also buying “Manscaping tools like the Philips OneBlade Face & Body and you dare not be pale these days, so a spray tan or bronzer is going to be important and I think there's a real interest in perfecting products - skincare products that act like real life filters.” says Kynaston.
“Increasingly men buy for themselves. Women are no longer the gatekeepers of male grooming. Yes, they're still popping things in the shopping trolley for their bf/husbands/sons, but increasingly men are seeking out their own grooming gear and treatments. They want to take charge of how they look and they have plenty of role models for inspiration. Plus, those role models are totally comfortable with manscaping, fake-tanning and eyebrow threading. I know a lot of men who are incredibly fussy about what skin and haircare products they use and they spend ages selecting the right gear. That wouldn't have been the case 20 years ago.” he says.
Love Island is a reflection of where the image conscious male is right now. This show intensifies and proliferates a single image of tanned, hairless and ripped males with glossy hair and white teeth. This type of look requires money, time and products and has clearly resonated with its male viewers and the subsequent uptick in grooming sales.
What’s interesting is, it feels like this type of look is becoming increasingly dated and men are and will be turning to more hairy, masculine(?) and natural looking ideals. It’ll be interesting to see, when we look back in a few year’s time, whether Love Island will be seen as the era of the peak groomed man?