While brushing my teeth one night I started looking at my boyfriend’s old and new shaver and noticed that they both have little dots serving as a grip surface. Also the bottle of after-shave had them even though they were all of different companies! The thing and smaller safety razors donned stripes instead. Coincidence or not?

The function of these products is quite clear and they do come with ‘masculine’ aesthetics: Curves and fittings stand in as much for ergonomics as well as sense of precision tooling and appreciation for technology. The fine-handed task reserved for razors is contrasted by the ‘grab and splash on’ mentality of a sports after-shave bottle. The colors are set in a palette of dark tones and ‘fresh’ or ‘sporty’ attention colors.

Adding friction for a better grip is a good idea, especially for shaving where possibly wet hands need to guide the blades without slipping. But does it also add to the intended image of the product? What is the intended image? The rather stereotypical points I listed do not derive from the fact that each of these products might be pleasant or even superior in usability terms. They simply communicate about the nature of the product – and the story of a whole range of items that are targeted especially at men. The dots and stripes fit this world very well.

The poster boy for a classical razor ad is rarely a boy. The ads point at the potency, success, and cleanliness of the man in the frames. There’s no forgetting the sweeping close-ups of those multilayered blades and cheek caresses by lovers either. The most interesting thing now is how the come-back of facial hair is changing this image. I’m thinking here of the “express yourself” marketing campaign currently seen here on the streets where styling -and humour- is more important than posing as Superman. Look around at clothing ads – beards are here in all kinds of varieties!

Now, is there a clear area emerging where men’s toiletry should carry new semantic leads? What should it look and feel like? My last question, on a slightly lighter note, relates to the difficulty I had in finding appropriate words for referring to these forms in English. Is there any freudian etymological relation also between the occasionally accentuated masculine semantics of these products and the terms ‘bumps’ and ‘humps’?

 

The products I used here were:
a bottle of Adidas Dynamic Pulse after-shave, Remington R6150, Philips Cool Skin Shaver, a Gilette Fusion handle and a general budget shaver. The umbrella companies that own these brands (apart from the last item, which is most likely made by BIC or similar) are as far as I understand: Adidas Group (which owns Adidas and Reebok among others), Spectrum Brands (owning e.g. Varta next to Remington), Philips, and P&G for Gilette. I’m actually surprized that we have managed to gather this much corporate variety into our bathroom cupboard!