The men’s grooming sector has undergone a noticeable revolution within the last five years. Gone are the days where a guy would be bestowed with the dreaded “metrosexual” title for actively taking interest in his physical appearance. The very word “metrosexual” – which slyly suggested that personal care and heterosexuality are somehow odd bedfellows – has long since been shot with an airbrush gun, dusted with finishing powder, sprayed with unisex cologne, and buried six-feet-under with very little pomp and circumstance.

In its place has come a realization that the beauty industry has been neglecting a rather influential and monied market: Men.

At the same time, a constant stream of research on millennials and Generation Z has revealed dramatically different perceptions of gender and ideas of masculinity than older generations. Last year, consulting agency The Innovation Group published a study that found that 56% of the Gen Z members they profiled preferred gender-neutral pronouns, 44% shopped in both the men’s and women’s sections for clothing, and 70% supported gender-neutral bathrooms. Such studies are evidence that the generation who will lead the next era’s conversations about gender binaries apparently don’t even think they’re a thing anymore.

That’s a big deal for the beauty industry which has previously focused much of its effort on marketing to women specifically. Brands like Milk, which launched a men’s makeup line last year, are taking this shift to heart and reviving the efforts of forward-thinkers like Jean-Paul Gaultier, who in the ’80s launched a disruptive men’s makeup line before the world was ready.

The fashion industry is also responding to paradigm shift, offering a-gender shopping spaces and collections, and in the case of NYFW:M, more playful and eccentric approaches to grooming. While many of the presentations offered the standard minimal makeup and clean, slick-backed hairstyling, more than a few bypassed the status quo and went straight for the drama. From David Bowie to Blade Runner, there was no shortage of inspiration and contoured cheekbones.

We captured a few of the looks below…


Inspiration: Blade Runner meets David Bowie

Process: “There wasn’t one specific look for the models. The guys with longer hair we gave a slicked back look with AXE Spike Hair Gel. We wet that with water and diffused the product into the hair. After that, we went through the ends with Messy Look Pomade which has a creamy texture that gives the ends separation and definition. For the guys with shorter or more textured hair – specifically the afro looks – we minimized the width. We just used a bit of AXE  Salt Spray and diffused that in the hair. We finished with the Messy Look Pomade, again, for a bit of separation. Then there were the guys with braids; for them we used a bit of salt spray and intertwined ribbon in with the hair.” – Lead Hair Stylist, John Ruidant  


AXE Salt Spray / $13.99 – brings out hair’s natural texture and provides grip without the stickiness of a gel or hairspray.

AXE Messy Look Matte Gel / $5.69 – defines and separates hair.

AXE Messy Look Pomade / $16.15 – defines and separates hair.

AXE Spiked Up Glue / $5.46 – defines hair with stronger hold than messy look products.


“For four of the models we went with a geometric, Zorro type of mask with two-tone color. We airbrushed that because it was a much quicker way to execute it. The rest of the models had a highlight contour based on their skin tone. The guys with deeper complexions had turquoise and blues combined with metallic tones. The whole look was just about brining out their contour using color and metallics.” – Lead Makeup Artist, Misha Shahzada 


Make Up Forever Flash Palette / $139.99 – easy to mix colors to achieve desired look.

Skin Illustrator Palette / $109.99 – ideal for special effects makeup.


Inspiration: Craftivism, spirituality and naturalism.

Hair: “The inspiration was definitely more on the natural side as far as embracing texture and keeping the hair in natural styles. We had to incorporate the hair with all of the headpieces so we though a lot about layers. We didn’t do too much, just used the AXE Salt Spray to complement the texture, and the Clean Cut Pomade because it was more shine-based then the matte. We pushed that into the ends of the hair for definition. As far as models with locs, we would sometimes braid them into different styles. We just cleaned up a couple of the model’s hairlines and left it at that – it was pretty straightforward.” – Lead Hair Stylist, John Ruidant  


AXE Salt Spray / $13.99 – brings out hair’s natural texture and provides grip without the stickiness of a gel or hairspray.

AXE Clean Cut Pomade / $17.04 – creates shine and minimizes frizz.

Makeup: “We kept the skin really natural as well. We just moisturized the model’s skin and then covered up some blemishes. It was all really clean and minimal which kept the focus on the vibrancy of the collection.” Lead Makeup Artist, Misha Shahzada 


Avène Mattifying Moisturizer / $29  – moisturizes, controls shine and acts as makeup base.

Bobbi Brown Palette / $268.78 – conceals and corrects in shades that suit all skin tones.

Palomo Spain

Inspiration: Exploration of desires, pimps, madams, virtue, purity and eroticism.

Hair: “I mostly mixed Bb.Gel and Bb.Curl Gel-Oil to achieve the wet texture – the oil keeps the hair looking wet and not dry or stiff. We also blow-dried Bumble and bumble’s Holding Spray into the hair to achieve a dry texture. We then mixed Bb.Gel and Bb.Curl Anti-Humidity Gel Oil and paint onto the hair to create a contrasting wet look. For models with longer hair, we sculpted the wet texture around the face to create visual lines” – Lead Stylist, Ezio Diaferia 


Bb.Gel / $34 – sculpts hair with medium hold and soft finish.

Bb.Curl Gel-Oil / $34 – prevents frizz while providing the hold of a gel and moisture of an oil.

Bb.Holding Spray / $23 – helps hair hold shape and minimizes frizz.

Makeup: “The inspiration was ’20s glamour, Galliano, New York City, ’80s trash, slut, hooker, but there were also virginal elements to keep it fresh. We broke up the look according to certain characters. The key elements involved using the same color blush and lip. So one lipstick color on the cheeks and lips. We went with a bright, metallic under eye and deep, deep deep, purple sockets.” Lead Makeup Artist, Marcelo Gutierrez


Chanel Rouge Tentation (169) Lipsticle / $34.89

Make Up Forever Eye Palette / $34

Pat McGrath “Lust 004” Shimmer Kit / $60

Matthew Adams Dolan

Inspiration: Nightmares, night sweats, John Lennon, Yoko Ono, disheveled awakenings.

Hair: “We went for a disheveled, sweaty look which we got by applying salt spray to wet hair. After that we used our hands to pull the hair down and around the face and added AXE Messy Look Matte Gel to give the ends separation and maintain hold. We finished with AXE Messy Look Flexible Paste to keep flyaways under control.” – Lead Stylist, John Ruidant


AXE Clean Cut Shine Gel / $7.50 – creates a wet look with movement and minimal hold.

AXE Messy Look Matte Gel / $5.69 – provides a messy, bedhead look with all-day hold.

AXE Messy Look Flexible Paste / $10.95 – provides a messy, bedhead look with stronger hold than gel.

Makeup: “We wanted to leave the skin as naked as possible so we avoided foundation and only covered up minor blemishes. We used berry-colored stains to get a flushed look on the lips and cheeks and contoured the eyelids to create a more fatigued effect that gave the face dimension. Lastly, we used emollient cream on the apples of the cheeks, forehead and neck for a sweaty look.” – Lead Makeup Artist, Misha Shahzada 


Avène Thermal Water Spray /$18.50

Avène Tolerance Extreme Cream /$38

Avène Cold Cream Lip Balm /$14

Laura Mercier Secret Concealer/$25 – hides blemishes

Elizabeth Arden 8 Hour Cream/$22 – creates shine

For more inspiration and solid tips on how to take care of your mug, check out our monthly Groom Service column

Words by Stephanie Smith-Strickland
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