On the masculinity beat

An ad in the June/July Details, the grooming issue:

How to read this ad?

First important fact: Details is a lifestyle magazine for men, aimed at metrosexual (straight) men and gay men. So the ad is appealing to men who care about how they look.

Second fact: The ad is for the MITCH line of products from Paul Mitchell — on Paul Mitchell the hairdresser, see here; on John Paul Mitchell Systems (hair care products and styling tools), see here; and the company’s website is here —  which offers Double Hitter (“sulfate-free shampoo & conditioner”) and six kinds of hair-styling product:

Hardwired maximum hold spiking glue
Construction Paste elastic hold: “great for messy, undone styles”
Reformer strong hold matte finish texturizer: “pliable putty styler with powerful hold”
Steady Grip firm hold natural shine gel
Clean Cut medium hold semi-matte styling cream
Barber’s Classic moderate hold high shine pomade

The four young men in the ad are conspicuous users of these products. There’s plenty of product in the ad.

[Digression on the mass noun product as used in the previous sentence. From OED3 (June 2007):

orig. N. Amer. Any commercial preparation used to style the hair or (occas.) as a cosmetic.

1989   St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Nexis) 27 Apr. (Style West section) 4   The key to making mascara work is ‘to make sure that there is not too much product on it’.

1993   Chatelaine (Electronic ed.) Nov.,   Two of the most common mistakes people make with gel are using too much product and applying it incorrectly.

2001   N.Y. Mag. 25 June–2 July 58,   I don’t wash my hair or even rinse it after the beach—I just put a lot of product in to make it shiny.

2004   S. Olson Children of God go Bowling iii. 44   There was just the right amount of product in his hair to make it look both coifed and neglected.]

Besides the aggressively styled hair, what do we see in the ad? Two very prominent belt buckles, a notable watch, four versions of casual masculine dress, mostly manly things to drink, and challenging facial expressions. The women I’ve talked to about this ad don’t find these presentations of self particularly alluring, especially since the men appear in a pack of four. But if you’re a man, you can identify with the guys, want to be like them, hang out with them (and, if you’re gay, maybe do them).

Then there’s the advertising slogan Man Up — another dose of masculinity. Some background: links to Ben Zimmer on the expression here, notes on the porn flick Man Up here, and a cartoon with the phrasal overlap portmanteau snowman up here.

Whether this whole package makes men want to go out and buy some MITCH products for themselves is another matter.

2 Responses to “On the masculinity beat”

  1. Robert Says:

    On that last point: As a general rule, when I see or read an ad, my principal reaction is “Why would this make anyone want to buy the product?” But I assume that the people who spend money on these matters have actually determined that at least some of these approaches work.

  2. m.m. Says:

    “if you’re gay, maybe do them” – more accurately, bed at least one of them xD

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