Having a ball: Boys want beauty too

JO MOIR
Last updated 05:00 12/07/2014
lewis brown
MAARTEN HOLL/Fairfax NZ

FIRST FORMAL: Tawa College 16-year-olds Lewis Brown and Nina Stoecklein, who attended their first school ball last month, say a lot of money was spent making sure the night was memorable.

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Teenage boys are increasingly concerned about their appearance and it's their parents' pockets being hit hard as the school ball season rolls around.

While traditionally school balls were all about the girls' dresses, hair and make-up, boys are now being influenced by prominent metrosexuals such as sports stars Dan Carter and Sonny Bill Williams - and with good looks comes expense.

An in-depth look inside the modern school ball was conducted by Otago University doctorate student Lee Smith, who studied three secondary schools to investigate social behaviours at the school formal.

Smith found that while young men appeared to only invest in a tux on the night, they were concerned about their image and wanted to look good.

"They wanted to stand out and make an impression as much as the girls did."

Tawa College had its school ball last month and Lewis Brown, 16, said he had been really excited leading up to his first formal.

His mum organised his suit and all the trimmings down to the cufflinks, which would have been at least $100, and his sister helped him with styling his hair.

While he did buy his partner a corsage, he opted against hiring a car or limo and ended up getting the bus to the ball. "I figured I just needed a suit because basically everyone is wearing the same thing, but there were definitely guys that took their image much more seriously."

Boys' hair was one of the few ways they could be a bit different when in a suit or uniform. "I usually check my hair and make sure it looks good before going to school."

The metrosexual modern guys fronting advertising had definitely had an effect on boys' decisions around appearance, he said.

There was at least one boy at the ball who had spent about $1000 on the night and coloured suits featured as some students did their best to stand out.

Kilbirnie barber Ray George cuts and styles teenaged boys' hair and said they came in with a set idea about what they wanted and often had photos of sports players or celebrities as a guide.

Boys were becoming more concerned about their appearance, probably because of technology and social media, which meant photos of them were regularly being shared between friends.

Smith said the "hard rugby-playing man" mentality had been replaced with images of Carter and Williams, who were often seen advertising hair products and modelling underwear.

Teenage boys expressed feeling anxious about what to wear and worried about making sure their outfit matched their partners', Smith said.

Tawa College year 12 student Nina Stoecklein said that while boys also worried about how they looked now, girls were still likely to spend the most. Most girls either bought a dress or got it made, which could cost anywhere between $200 and $500.

There was also hair and make-up which cost at least $100, she said. "By the time I bought my ticket, I had spent over $600 but I guess the standard amount was anywhere between about $500 and $1000."

Wellington hair and make-up artist Miranda Millen said girls' fashion had done a complete turnaround from the glam and big Kardashian look last year to plain and simple this year.

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"Last year there were lots of braids and hair-ups, but this year I've done lots of loose curls either worn down or simply pinned to the side."

- The Dominion Post

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