The rise of the Uber Man Babe….
I used to think I was good-looking when no one cared. Now I’m a bit worse for wear and everyone digs a looker. It seems like men need to be attractive these days more than ever. When did all this start? When I was little I was teased because I looked different, Chinese eyes and English lip. Luckily for me, one day a small group of girls decided I was ‘cute’ and from that day on I lived my early years as a ‘good-looking boy’. When girls are pretty they get free stuff. When boys are good looking they get called ‘gaylord’. At least these were the rules in the early eighties.
As a teenager, John Bender blew my mind. He was so cool it hurt my brain. I wanted to be just like him and I think that’s where the shift began. Rather than be inspired to ‘be’ like someone, I think young men these days just want to ‘look’ like someone, and it seems that if you’re a ‘someone’ these days, you better be ridiculously good-looking. I hark back to my youth when the idols that would potentially shape my self confidence were so outrageous there wasn’t any pressure to conform. No pressure to be as good as or at least a little bit like them, I could worship them from afar.
Teenage boys were allowed to be weird when I was young. There were trends, yes. One year I foolishly rocked up to the school disco with pink and green neon socks. Chinos rolled high so I could dazzle. I hadn’t realised that they were now ‘lame’ and glow-in-the-dark laces were the shit. I’m no scientist, having chosen to mainly burn irons filings rather then actually listen in class, but I do wonder what effect todays ‘uber man-babe’ is having on innocent teenage boys. The desire to be attractive has never been so powerful. Attractive people live longer, earn more, get more friends and are better in bed. It’s true and I know it’s true because that’s basically all I can see. Everywhere I look. All men now have to be hot whether they like it or not.
I’d never really cared what people thought about my looks, as I long as I thought I looked cool. Now this sounds a bit egotistical but it’s not. As long as I felt confident in either my hair, or my face or my body type or my clothes it didn’t matter what you thought. I didn’t care. Now I see young men, and old men squeezed into clothes that simply make them look like a sausage and I can see in their eyes they know they look a bit of a twat. I see so many awesome tattoos that it’s unusual to see a lad with bare arms and I see so many beards and top buns I imagine jet loads of Greek barbers taking wild lavish holidays on hipster cash.
Now there’s nothing wrong with taking pride in your appearance. Men have always done it. Dandy’s and Mods and Punks and Rockers, even ravers with pork pie hats and stupid whistles, all sharing identities because of what they loved. There was a reason for the primping and a purpose for all that hair spray. It meant something, but this was for rebellious reasons. You did it to stand out from a boring crowd. Now, emulating the latest screen idols and pop stars is simply a basic requirement. You do it so you fit in to a neon circus.
Up until now, being attractive was generally only important if you were a woman or a chippendale. Simple. Beautiful women will have beautiful babies and everything will be great. I learned that from the TV and magazines. Today it seems that how a man looks is very important too. Important because it get’s those beautiful women who will have your beautiful children and no one wants ugly kids. The only trouble with all that, is that I don’t feel like an “Uber man babe” and I haven’t for a long time now. I haven’t felt like a good-looking boy ever since I saw a kid wearing skinny jeans who wasn’t riding a BMX. Thats when it all went wrong for teenage boys. Skinny jeans and beards.
Skinny jeans, a fashion tsunami that meant one thing. Skinny legs. I couldn’t get them past my calves let alone my bulky thighs so I gave up in a sweaty flap in Top Man, Oxford street. I was annoyed. I saw all the cool guys wearing skinny jeans and I wished I had thinner legs. Shit, what was that? Someones trousers were making me feel bad. Now by this time I was in my mid thirties, I had a fairly confident view of myself. I’d even had a facial injury that left me slashed and stitched, but even that didn’t affect my ego. Everywhere I went I saw the jeans getting skinnier and skinnier. Phases come and go, I’d been around long enough to see stuff change, I was always happy with how I looked, this will pass. Of course it didn’t. Next came the hair. So much hair. I’d slipped back into an Edwardian acid trip and no one had told me to stop shaving. Which wouldn’t have helped. I had the same yellow Bic razor from 16 to 30 there was no way I’d ever be able to rock a sweet sexy beard. I even felt so ashamed of myself I photoshopped a beard on my face, just to see if I did look hotter. I think the results are conclusive.
I look totally bangable, but it will never come true.
Fuck. I went from ‘good-looking boy’ to ‘nothing-special fella’. All because my trousers weren’t that tight and my shameful smooth chin was on show. I was doubting myself on my appearance alone. I wanted to hide. I over heard a couple of young women talking, ‘I’d bang anyone with a beard and a man bun’. Her friend laughed, and I saw a few of the other girls in the carriage nod. I caught my reflection in the window as we chugged out of the station into the darkness of Blackfriars tunnel. No bun, no beard. I couldn’t wait to get out of there. I was being judged inferior to another man because of the way I looked. And then it struck me. This is what it feels like to be a girl. So many times I’d sit next to a young woman on the tube who was expertly avoiding blinding herself as she put on her most business like eye’s. Yes, it’s a skill but let’s put that another way. If I told you I spent twenty minutes every day applying paint and inks to my face with an assortment of sharpened pencils and metal tweezers on a crowded and unstable carriage 50 metres underground, I hope you’d say, ‘why the fuck are you doing that?” and I’d have to answer, ‘because I have to look good you moron”.
Looking good doesn’t come cheap. Beauty comes armed with a juggernaught of chemical and electrical corporations. The average British woman (according to a one-second web session) will now spend around £100,000 on hair and beauty products in her life time. That’s a lot of money. That’s a lot of money going into the pockets of greedy people who are really only selling paint and soap that you could be spending on treats. Women have been caught in this trap for decades and I will in no way try and address the issues that generations of the pursuit of beauty has created but if they are a sign of things to come for the future boy, we need to do something about it.
Girls have their screen idols and heroines endorse make up and face cream and are told if they buy it they’ll look like them. Wash your hair with Pantone Pro V and you’ll look like Shakira. If you wear the same eye shadow as Keira Knightly, in many ways, you are Keira Knightley. Which is a large bag of bollocks.
I don’t know how to save the women of this world, the beauty hooks are dug in so far that even anal bleaching is a bum story. I can instead try and help the fellas. If you’re devastatingly handsome, great, if you love the latest fashion, double great. If you’re not good-looking also great, do something interesting instead. Define who you are by the things you do, not the way you look. If you want to wear skinny jeans and rock face fuzz go for it, but for please also have a personality which exceeds, ‘like yeah man, totally agree and shit’. If you want to devote your life to lifting weights and having enormous tanned traps, boom, eat that chicken and smash those reps, but dude, don’t be a meat head. If you love making your own Japanese school girl outfits and wearing mascara, sweet, but for fuck sake don’t be an awkward pervert. Don’t let what you look like define who you are because if you let it go too far, someone will make you pay for it. Either with your self esteem or your wallet. Boys of the world unite.
What you have to do, is be good at being you. Luckily, Proctor & Gamble haven’t bottled that. Yet.