The made up man in the mirror

BEAUTY BLOKE: Colin Mathura-Jeffree is a long-time fan of a little slap for the lads.
BEAUTY BLOKE: Colin Mathura-Jeffree is a long-time fan of a little slap for the lads.

Tutankhamun did it. Alexander the Great, too.

In ancient China they used it to indicate social class, and it was the same deal in 18th-century England. David Bowie reinvented himself with it in the '70s, before it was reinterpreted by The Cure's Robert Smith and again by Marilyn Manson.

Recently baby-faced Zac Efron and Harry Styles have added it to their arsenal, while Johnny Depp has been a fan for a while.

MA'A NONU: Another man not scared of eyeliner.
MA'A NONU: Another man not scared of eyeliner.

Men wearing makeup is nothing new.

In the early 2000s, designer Jean Paul Gaultier launched a range of 'aesthetic enhancements' for men. 

It seems old JPG was a little ahead of his time - the range didn't last long, soon disappearing from shelves, but not before New Zealand's own made-up man, Colin Mathura-Jeffree, found himself posing in the windows of Auckland department store Smith & Caughey's as the New Zealand face of the products.

"When I would walk off the window, the young professional men [who had been watching] would come up to me and question what I was wearing; I would always make a sale. I remember asking why they wanted to know and they would say, 'I'm a lawyer. I don't sleep a lot but I have to look good. I have to look well and healthy and if this makes [the tiredness] not show, then I want it,'" he says.

Today, the industry is very different to the one Gaultier failed to conquer. In 2011, the total spend on skincare for men topped US$2billion.

In New Zealand, the pressure to look good has become part of the mating ritual. Three out of four Kiwi men think they have more luck with the ladies when they look their best, according to a Nivea Men Grooming Report survey released last month.

But what the boys do in the privacy of their own bathrooms stays there, apparently.

MICHAEL LAWS: Moving to Timaru.
MICHAEL LAWS: Moving to Timaru.

While 89 percent of Kiwi guys have made an effort to improve their appearance, with teeth whitening (53 percent) and removal of body hair (45 percent) at the top of the would-possibly-do list, almost half wouldn't tell their mates if they used moisturiser - and one in three of them do. Grooming, it seems, is still considered girly.

Men are running out of excuses for pinching their wives' and girlfriends' BB creams, tinted moisturisers and powders, rather than buying their own.

Fashion designer extraordinaire Marc Jacobs recently launched his Boy Tested, Girl Approved collection of concealer, brow gel and lip balm. Tom Ford's upcoming men's range will feature a bronzer.

The cosmetic counter is all about gender equality these days.

Mathura-Jeffree, first discovered makeup in the early '90s. He was modelling in India at the time and was amazed when makeup artists made his skin look perfect just by using a couple of products that actually matched his skin tone.

"They would come at me with kohl pencil − everyone would do it; they said it brings out the tiger in you. Your power emanates from your eyes and if you frame them, people notice you," he says.

These days, the 41-year-old television personality and man about town wears makeup every day. It's not a lot - a bit of powder, some eyeliner to make his hazel-green eyes 'pop' and his one, must-have tool: a MAC concealer, colour NW35.

"[That product] is all I need. It's as big as an old 50 cent coin and I just dab a bit on my finger, pop it on my face and I'm done. Honestly, [it takes] one minute. Then I walk out of my house and there are thousands of photographers
waiting for me, and I'm ready. And if I don't want to be recognised I take the makeup off," he says, laughing.

While most women use makeup to emphasise and enhance certain features, the general assumption is men use it to hide things. Mathura-Jeffree agrees.

While enhancing his already healthy skin (he also gets regular facials) is a motivation for using cosmetics, there is a bit of disguise behind his reasoning. "I use it almost like a tiger uses its stripes. It's like a form of armour; weaponry."

In the past, we've had our fair share of makeup-wearing men who have copped a bit of flack for their rugby fans when he took to the field wearing eyeliner.

In 2004, All Black Ma'a Nonu surprised rugby fans when he took to the field wearing eyeliner. At the time he told reporters it was a personal thing; a fashion statement.

He said he was getting a bit of grief about it, but he wasn't too bothered.

One of those who wasn't sold on the new look was All Black great Sir Colin Meads, who said: "You didn't have any of the dreadlocks or tattoos in my day. It just wasn't like that - we were just ordinary blokes. I have my doubts about [the eyeliner]. He's a big, rugged sort of player so I think it must be part of a punishment or something."

Michael Laws, ex-Mayor of Whanganui, started wearing eyeliner while playing the role of Nero in a university play - it was the perfect accessory for a toga.

But he kept wearing it, he wrote in an opinion piece supporting Nonu, because of the flack he got from other
men; it was a way to shove two-fingers up to anyone who thought he was less of a man for wearing makeup.

Mathura-Jeffree doesn't often have people commenting about what's on his face, but then, he says, he wouldn't expect to.

"Men don't, as a rule, bounce down the street saying, 'I'm wearing this and that,' but neither do women. There is that sort of caricature concept of what it is to do that or be that, but it doesn't emasculate anyone by wearing makeup.

"If you need to look good, if you're a bit dark under the eyes, or your skin needs a good scrub and polish then go for it - there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It does not change the man inside; in fact it makes the man validate himself a bit better and stronger. Who wants to look at some hideous old mess on the side of the road?"

Improving that "mess" - male or female - starts with the basics. And while Dion Nash might not wear a
smoky eye or rosy, blushed cheeks, his male-focused skin care company Triumph & Disaster is going from strength to strength, years after the ex-Black Cap first started experimenting in the corner of changing rooms.

"Playing cricket, we were always in the sun. So way before the term metrosexual was even coined, I was it; the whole team was. None of us would admit to it, but we all had our tricks."

Nash says while most of his teammates would grab a cheap tube of something from the supermarket, he was more curious about which products worked.

"I remember my big breakthrough was reading an interview with Rod Stewart. They asked him what the secret of youth was and he said Oil of Olay - so I went straight out and bought a tub. I thrashed it," he says.

Triumph & Disaster was born during a visit to Brooklyn, New York, in 2011, where Nash noticed something of a trend; a swarm of young men, covered in tattoos, wearing waistcoats and "looking all groomed and sharp".

He says it felt like a throwback to the not-so-distant past.

"All of our grandfathers had their potions and lotions and somewhere along the way that's turned into something metrosexual - and we think that tag is icky. But to me, it's about claiming back the masculinity of grooming. Going to a barber and getting a cut throat shave, or taking a discerning view of your haircut - that stuff is old school. Our grandparents did that - what's wrong with us doing it?"

So what happened in between then and now to change things? "What happened? Grunge happened! Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder ruined it for everyone," Nash says with a laugh.

He reckons the hardest part of getting men on board the cleanse, tone, moisturise train - let alone mascara and the rest of it - is, well, other men.

"Getting over [the worry of] something falling out of your bag and having everyone take the piss out of you."

Triumph & Disaster products look simple: no pictures, just hard-wearing foil tubes and a bit of a yarn about the company's back story.

But the question still remains, who's buying this stuff? "I can give you the corporate spiel of urban, high-earning, metrosexual individuals," says Nash, "but the reality is it's any guy who likes to look after himself. And it's not necessarily about vanity - it's feeling better and taking time for yourself."

The 41-year-old believes there are three different men who cosmetic companies are talking to: over-40s who are interested, but don't know where to start.

"They've probably realised, 'The six-pack is not where it used to be, but if I look sharp and groomed, well, I can actually pull this off - and aging gracefully is okay,'" he says; the 30-year-olds who are "still holding on to their six-pack"; and the 20-somethings who don't think twice about taking care of their appearance.

And Nash is bang on the money. According to an international survey titled The State of Men, attitudes to what should go on your face depend on when you were born. Researchers asked men what was and wasn't appropriate for a man to use on himself.

Approval of using skin care (in this instance, everything from moisturiser to eye cream) was fairly uniform between Millennials (aged 18-34), Gen Xers (35-47) and Boomers (48-67) at an average of 54 percent, as was fake tan, at an average of 19 percent.

But hit something like foundation and you see a parting as wide as a receding hairline. While 18 percent
of younger men had no problem wearing a bit of slap, that number dropped to five percent and four percent
respectively for Gen X and Boomers.

Just one percent of Boomers thought eyeliner was okay, compared to 12 percent of Millennial men, and an average of 26 percent of men asked thought it was all rubbish anyway - a man's face should be a blank canvas.

Sometimes you don't get a choice. Seven Sharp host Jesse Mulligan, 38, plonks himself in the TVNZ makeup
chair five nights a week - again, wearing just enough that both the makeup and his skin's imperfections are invisible on camera.

It all adds to the sense of ritual and occasion, he says, although being made up has become such a regular part of his day, he often forgets he's wearing it.

"The worst thing is I no longer notice it happening. A couple of times a week somebody will ask, 'Have you been powdered?' and I reply, 'Honestly, I don't know.' To be made up so often you no longer notice it happening is the surest sign you need to reconnect with your Hamilton bogan roots."

That Waikato blood has meant mixed responses to the added extras, including, but not limited to, a gagging partner and mates who give what Mulligan calls that 'I'm sure you know what you're doing with this whole media career, but I'm having a lot of difficulty looking you in the eye right now' look.

So could a tube of something golden and creamy ever slip its way into the Mulligan bathroom cupboard?

Well, never say never.

"If I was single, it'd be easy to look at the horrible red blotchiness my genes have gifted me and think, 'Well, a little powder won't hurt.' But I'm engaged; my partner loves me anyway and is physically repulsed by any hint of cosmetic improvement. So I'm unlikely to be applying slap on the weekends any time soon."

Sunday Star Times