The bloke is back

Time to bloke it up

Stand aside metrosexuals and SNAGS; the bloke is back and he’s ready to man up. In the second decade of the millennium blokes are embracing manliness with pride – and an eye on good grooming. Real men it seems, can drive a backhoe with one hand and apply hair product with the other.

In his recent book The New Manhood (Finch $29.95) author Steve Biddulph contrasts previous models of manhood – the stiff-upper lip, emotionally remote breadwinner and the sensitive new age guy in pastel shirts – and says both were inadequate. One was too soft, the other too rigid.

Biddulph says a man should have two essential qualities. “He should have backbone and heart,” writes Biddulph.
“Backbone is the ability to stand firm, endure, be true to his word and sometimes put himself last, especially under circumstances of great need or stress.”

The new bloke wants to pimp his baby’s pram, but is not embarrassed to be seen pushing it. He may use grooming products, but wants them marketed and packaged in a manly way. He takes man-trips with his mates, watches 7Mate and still loves a beer – particularly from a small brewery with good street cred. He cares about his appearance but doesn’t want to feel feminised.

It’s a trend that former electrician, Patrick Kidd identified when he decided to open his men’s-only hair salon, Patrick’s in Sydney a year ago. Mr Kidd, who has plans to expand his business to Melbourne, wanted to bridge the gap between basic barber shops and women’s salons. At Patrick’s clients can watch sport on the flat-screen televisions, put their feet up on the table and drink a beer while getting their follicular needs met.

The salon holds regular whisky and cigar tastings, features a shiny red Ducati motorbike in the foyer and promises: “You’ll come out feeling relaxed with a great haircut that hasn’t cost you your masculinity”.

Cut-throat razor shaves are a popular part of the business and attract several groom’s parties a week.
Other businesses have responded to the resurgence of the bloke with manly offerings, such as the Butch Bakery in New York which creates cupcakes for men.

The bakery which has the slogan, ‘Butch it up Buttercup’ was the brainchild of former lawyer David Arrick. The blokey offerings include beer, bacon and whiskey-flavoured cupcakes. The company’s business has exploded by 500 per cent in the past year and even receives orders from Australia.

For the bloke who likes some grunt in his personal products, the website Archie McPhee &a Co ( bacon-flavoured toothpicks, lip balm, air-freshener and even bacon-scented soap.

Tim Martin runs the Blokey Stuff website, and a shop of the same name in Parramatta, NSW. He sells gadgets, torches, cufflinks and other bloke-appropriate stuff. Mr Martin finds men are keen to have a browse in his shop and stay for a chat.

“Maybe it’s the name that makes them feel comfortable, but it’s an interesting phenomenon that men come in here and tell me their stories,” Mr Martin said.

He believes the age of the metrosexual has come to an end. “It’s not really an image that all men could be comfortable with,” he said. “I reckon it’s ok for a bloke to be a bloke.”

And for those blokes who really want to get in touch with their masculine side maybe a trip to the Männerspielplatz (men’s playground) a 17-acre German fun park for blokes, is the way to go.

The park features real construction vehicles such as bulldozers, excavators and 50-tonne Caterpillar trucks. Other testosterone-charged opportunities including driving Monster trucks, quad bikes and Panzer tanks.

Channel Seven joined in the trend towards marketing to blokes when it launched the digital channel 7mate in September. The male-skewed programming kicked off with the AFL Grand Final and includes other guy-friendly shows such as Monster Garage, Magnum PI and The A-Team. The channel is marketed as a ‘man’s best friend’.

Other Aussies keen to get in on the era of the bloke include Beauty Mate, a skin and hair care company which offers no fuss products. Singer Shannon Noll is the face of the company whose range includes a Head and Hair Job pack, and Nude Nut pack for bald guys.

And for the man who likes his contraception with a conscience and flair, Australian company Legends has launched vegan condoms made from vegetable extract packaged in funky, collector tins small enough to be slipped in a man’s pocket.

Across the globe mancessories are big business, with everything from make up to hand bags being tailored to a male market.

And if you thought men in tights went out with bows and arrows, think again – Givenchy’s spring 2010 collection featured ‘mantyhose’ and the trend has been embrace in the US and UK for their warmth and the circulation boost they provide.

The online men’s fashion magazine even has detailed photographic instructions to help men get into their mantyhose and avoid ladders.

How about guy girdles to hold in the beer belly? The designers at Australian company Equmen prefer to call it ‘male compression wear’; briefs and undershirts designed to lift, flatten and shape a bloke’s body. The range has been embraced internationally and is sold at outlets such as Saks Fifth Avenue in the US and Selfridges in the UK.
Guyliner (eyeliner for boys) may not make a bloke feel masculine, but it’s out there if they want it, along with the mandals (sandals) and murses (the contemporary version of the man-bag).

And now it seems men are getting in on the engagement ring scene – not just buying them for their fiancées but opting to wear some pre-nuptial bling themselves.

Singer Michael Buble has sported an engagement ring since announcing his impending marriage to Argentinian girlfriend Luisana Loreley Lopilato de la Torre in November.

UK jeweler H. Samuel recently launched its range of male engagement rings and the trend is gaining popularity here and in the US.

And when it comes to parenthood, blokes can still assert their manhood while still exposing their nurturing, caring side.
In a nod to masculinity, the UK-based baby company Mamas & Papas gave their designers the task of creating a ‘man’s pram’ – a sophisticated, technologically advanced, sleek vehicle for contemporary dads.

Although just a concept, the design received worldwide publicity and had many dads clamouring for the model to be built.

The man pram incorporates gyroscopic sensor control turning, biometric fingertip recognition, proximity parking sensors, an inbuilt media screen with satnav, GPS tracking, a music system, web browser and DVD player.

And it seems it would be a consumer hit, with 2006 research from the Yellow Pages in the US finding that most dads were keen to ‘bloke up’ their prams with extras such as a speedometer, power steering and live football score feeds.

Melbourne dad of two, Josh Connors, admits he would like to pimp his son’s pram. “I’d like to get some better tyres on there, and maybe some shock absorbers and mudflaps – and while I’m at it, I’d be pretty keen to find a baby bag that’s more suited to a bloke.”

Mr Connors admits he likes to give the pram a bit of a polish on the weekends and has been known to boast about its maneuverability among other dads.

“There can be a bit of pram envy among the guys,” he says, “We tend to stand around and kick the tyres a bit and compare features.”

Aussie dads Stephen Mitchell and Jon Farry decided that what blokes really needed was a pregnancy guide aimed at them. The result was the new book Man with a Pram (Hachette $24.99) a bloke-friendly insight into being prepared for their partner’s pregnancy and becoming a dad.

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