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The menswear shows hosted some impeccably plucked and pruned eyebrows, but back in the real world isn’t men’s eyebrow grooming a little, well, taboo?
A swift straw poll among a handful of forty-something women elicited a vehemently negative response – while Dan Rookwood, US editor of Mr Porter, gave an equally conclusive verdict: “Men grooming their eyebrows? In a word, no. In three more: no, no, no.”
Despite such reservations, men are taking their eyebrows in hand, with one in seven men plucking or waxing, according to a report by the Co-operative Pharmacy.
At Philips, for example, its best-selling product is a nose, ear and eyebrow trimmer. “In the UK, year on year, this segment of the category is in double-digit value growth and this trimmer outsells our most popular shaver by 50 per cent in terms of volume,” says Jodie Bridge, marketing director at Philips Personal Care UK.
Traditionally, men assigned the task rather than do it themselves. “Eyebrows were trimmed by the barber, as men got older and their eyebrows got thicker,” says Deborah Gayle, general manager of the Refinery men’s grooming salon in Mayfair. Now, however, men are increasingly turning to specialists. “Over the past five years we have seen a huge increase in men having proper eyebrow shaping,” Gayle adds.
At the Blink Brow Bar in Selfridges, the number of male clients has more than doubled since this time last year. “We have on average two to four men per day. This increased over the festive period, when we averaged five to six,” says counter manager Vinnie Kaur.
Tyra Qureshi, brow manager at Harrods’ Urban Retreat spa, has also noted a recent surge of interest. “In the past few months, particularly over Christmas, more and more men have been asking for eyebrow threading,” she says.
For men on the move, Elemis has just introduced eyebrow grooming at its British Airways Travel Spa on the back of a survey conducted last June, in which 56 per cent of men said they would book a brow or beard trim.
The trend appears not to be specific to Europe. “We’re witnessing this in our other sites in Dubai and Hong Kong,” says Olivier Bonnefoy, owner of Gentlemen’s Tonic, which also has salons in London.
Nor is the expansion in men’s grooming limited to brows. Nicole Tyrimou, beauty and personal care analyst at Euromonitor, says the market “has been growing an average 6 per cent over the past five years and managed to maintain momentum during the global recession, where it only slowed down by one percentage point.”
It’s a case of evolution rather than revolution. Shavata Singh owns Shavata Brow Studio, which has concessions across the UK, and treats businessmen including senior staff at Barclays Capital. “Men are initially brought in by girlfriends and are a bit dubious at first,” she says. However, “once they have had it done and realise no one else needs to know, and that we won’t make [their brows] very thin and manicured, they continue,” she adds.
A tamed brow is a good anti-ageing trick too. “Hair absorbs light and that can create shadows around the eyes, which makes it look as though you have dark circles or heavier lids. This lifts that,” says Singh.
Looking younger can be an asset in the office. “Men’s working life is longer than it used to be and men are having children far later, so in a way they are doing what women have always done: a few tricks to keep looking young,” says Gayle.
Unless you want to look like a Vegas magician, however, a feminised brow is to be avoided. “We have found that guys often have them shaped in a female salon and are given a female arch, which men don’t naturally have,” says Gayle. “They have a lower and straighter brow line.”
So what is the ideal eyebrow shape? Adam Brown, founder of menswear label Orlebar Brown, advises: “Don’t draw attention to them. They should be neat and tidy, not too long and bushy and not too short and stubbly.”
“We focus on reducing the thickness of the brow; from their forties, men often see increased density of hair,” says Brendan Murdock, founder of Murdock London, a barber in Shoreditch frequented by trendy bearded advertising types. His advice: “We would never encourage full reshaping of the brow, as we are here to work with what one has, maintaining masculinity, etc – we don’t wish our customers to feel overly polished,” he says.
Whether men opt for waxing, threading or tinting to hide grey hair, there is a final caveat. “I would never trust a man with overly sculpted eyebrows,” says Robert Johnson, associate editor at GQ. “There is something horribly false about them that suggests a disingenuous streak.”
How to achieve perfect eyebrows
For those wanting to eliminate a monobrow, waxing is an option. “In order to achieve the most natural look, the therapist will wax between the two eyebrows and above them,” says Olivier Bonnefoy of the Gentlemen’s Tonic. It doesn’t stop there. “She may also wax a bit below the eye socket if the gentleman doesn’t shave that part of his face. She will also use a tweezer below the eyebrow,” he says. Shavata Singh suggests tweezing between the brows for a more natural, less stripped look.
Threading (an ancient method using a thin thread to pluck multiple hairs) is the alternative for those low on time. “It doesn’t require a patch test and any immediate redness disappears within 30 minutes,” says Bonnefoy. “A barber may begin by cutting back the brow a little to even out the hair and then will thread primarily above the brow.”
Barbers sometimes use tinting to hide grey eyebrow hair. At The Refinery, barber Chris Foster applies it with a cotton bud. “We go a shade lighter than the natural brow hair so it looks as natural as possible,” he says. This approach follows the current move towards a subtle use of colour, “not necessarily to get rid of all the grey, but take the punch out, so you can still see grey hair but less of it,” he says.