Welcome to PLAYBOY’s take on grooming. We’re gonna take a trawl through the murky waters of men’s grooming and do some dynamite fishing.

You know, I’m taking a flyer at this one but I think I may be entirely correct in saying that prehistoric man categorically Did Not Give A Fuck about grooming. Mud was a handy way of keeping your hair out of the way, you bathed when you happened to run through a river on your way somewhere, and you didn’t really care what the fairer sex thought about it because if they made a fuss, there was always the option of bashing them on the head and then just dragging them off by the hair.

Since that point, however, we have slowly been evolving (very slowly, judging by some of you lot) and in our continued efforts to impress the fairer sex we have become ever more creative in our ways of making ourselves stand out from the crowd, while still showing a little style in the doing thereof.

However, when cutting our hair in mullets no longer turned ladies’ knees to jelly, and handlebar moustaches got a bit of a reputation, we started to run thin on ideas… Ironically, around that time we also started becoming more aware of how hostile our environment was becoming, and how much that environment can take its toll on one’s rugged good looks. Because our girlfriends told us so, basically.

Speaking of her… all this while we have been insisting that our women look impeccable, so they have been concocting myriads of noxious cocktails emulating the Elixir of Life so that they may appear forever young. They’ve gotten pretty handy with that sort of thing, to the point that they presently have more concoctions and poultices than you could shake a spotty teenage girl at. It also makes the lurking Cougars out there increasingly more difficult to spot; but that’s a story for another day.

Naturally, living with these beauties as we do, one becomes aware of the ritual surrounding these products, usually when we need the can and our Betty is “busy,” or when we keep knocking over her bottles/tins/tubs/tubes when we shave, enriching our morning experience to no end. Look in most bachelor blokes’ bathrooms, and it’ll be shampoo, soap, shaving cream, toothpaste and maybe hair gel or wax… that’s it. This is in contrast to a woman’s bathroom, which exactly resembles Aisle 6 at the local pharmacy. Now, before the world decided that knowing everything about everything was essential, we didn’t really care about the health of our skin or how we looked. So long as soap was involved somewhere in the water cleaning process, that was ample. But ever since they decided the ozone was going to disappear like Greece’s money, and that we were all going to roast like oepsies in a veldfire it’s getting a little more difficult to ignore. Seeing as most blokes don’t wear a hat these days (peak caps and suits don’t really mix) we end up exposed to a lot more of the elements than our forefathers did. And if you look at them, that’s not really a big plus, unless you like your face looking like your ball-sack.

Look, I get the whole vibe of “this is who I’m going to end up as, so who cares” but the simple fact is you probably want to get laid at some point too, so if attracting ladies is at all important to you and all previous efforts have failed, it may just be because you look like a scarecrow dragged through a donkey backwards. I know, it came as a shock to me too… We live in a time dictated by imagery and illusion, where people in magazines look as good as they do largely because of the talent of the graphic artist; and we are constantly fed images not only of perfectly finished women, but dudes too. Yes, the metrosexual man is now no longer a rarity, and with the increasing weight of expectation coming from women to employ ever more involved cleansing rituals, and other such things previously exclusively the preserve of the double bum, the pressure is on to… umm, man up.

What is the ideal man these days? Most women will probably say we’re the closest to that than we have ever been in our history. They’re also usually quite stingy with praise in that regard, so let’s not get too worked up about comments like that. What we do know is that people are getting ever more adventurous in the bedroom, and that’s where a new avenue of men’s grooming has come into evidence. Ladies are becoming increasingly vocal about grooming when it comes to blokes, and they are using words like “wax” and “your balls” in the same sentence. Now the thought of that may make you shit a turbocharger, but if the potential up-side to this act is increased nookie then hell, it can’t be much worse than being kicked in them…

So welcome to PLAYBOY’S 2012 Fresh Start on Grooming. We’ll find out what women are looking for and have a go (probably using alcohol) at some of the things out there then tell you just how good/bad they are, and we’ll do our level best to help you haul your sorry ass into this century. No more soap-on-a-rope for you, no sir; we’ll bring you the most cutting-edge shit out there to make you look, well, like you made an effort. After our help, you might have to buy your missus some kneepads… You’ve been warned.

GROOMING MUSEUM

Brylcreem: Back in the day, this was THE shit for a discerning gentleman to use in his hair, to the point that its name became the common word for hair gel, or “pomade” as they used to call it. Pomade sounds like a horny Englishman, ironically Brylcreem’s biggest clientele… Old Spice vs Blue Stratos: In times past, you were one of two men: you either wore Old Spice or you wore Blue Stratos. Such was the domination of these two products that one has just to open a bottle of either in a room of people to hear the grampa stories start flowing… everyone knows someone who used to smell like that back when you were a tyke.

Zambuk: As South African as taxi violence. Zambuk is, on first inspection, a tin of what looks very much like rhino snot, but reveals itself upon use to be the wonder cure to everything other drugs and creams just scratch their collective heads at. Black mamba bite? Suck that venom out, boy! Then slap on a little Zambuk. Marriage problems? Rub some Zambuk on, that’ll sort it…

Mycota: Pongy feet were a thing of the past with Mycota’s wonder formula, which instead turned all foot sweat into a form of cement that made your socks stick to your feet. It’s worth taking a trip to their website just to take a look at their “10 interesting facts about feet”, which isn’t that interesting, but has a few pearlers that’ll have you rolling on the floor in laughter…

Lifebuoy: Back when I was still knee-high, you only got bars of soap for washing yourself (liquid soap was for hands,
and smelled like roses) and there were always two bars bath-side: her bar, usually also rose or something equally noxious, and the blokes’ bar. Bet you a fiver that the distinctive orange that characterised Lifebuoy was just the soap you used, before splashing on your Old Spice and gooiing some Brylcreem in the ducktail…

Kiwi polish: Made by an Australian, and named after a stupid bird in New Zealand, Kiwi polish has nevertheless snuck in under the radar to become a South African household name, especially among school kids having to polish their shoes for Monday’s uniform inspection. Sure makes shoes shine, though. And women are like magpies… they like shiny stuff. Win.

By Tim Houghton
Published by Playboy SA January / February 2012