Brother, Can You Spare Some Style?

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There’s an ad campaign out there – we’re not naming any names, but you’ve almost certainly seen it – which asks the question, “What’s in your wallet?” In these trying economic times, the answer for all too many of us is, “Not nearly as much as there used to be,” and if you’re one of the folks who currently finds themselves in the midst of a search for employment, then you’re probably really feeling some lightness in your back pocket.

It can be rather disheartening when you’re trying to balance your budget, and we know that you need to find places to cut down on expenses, but be sensible, man, and keep yourself looking stylish at all costs. After all, did not the great philosopher Fernando once say, “It is better to look good than to feel good”?

Indeed, he did, and you must heed his words, for he is far more marvelous than you or I.

So how do you go about maintaining your outer awesomeness for future job interviews without having to break the bank? No, it’s not just about closing your eyes while you’re eating Ramen noodles and pretending it’s a sirloin steak…although, come to think of it, that actually worked pretty well for me when I was in college. If you put a bit of thought, care, and concern into your efforts, you can still come out with the right clothes, the right shoes, and, of course, the right shave.

Job Interview

As to the latter category…wait, hang on, let me just walk over to the CD player and cue up “Hymn for a Contractual Obligation”…we’ve already discussed in a previous column about how guys tend to buy a razor and stick with it for the long haul, so just go ahead and invest in Gillette’s new Fusion ProGlide and get it over with. First and foremost, it proves an awesome shave, but more importantly in this instance, odds are that you won’t feel the urge to replace it until well after you’ve found gainful employment again. As for your shaving gel and any of the other products with which you prefer to pamper your face, start scouring the Sunday papers for coupons as well as fliers for sales at your neighborhood drug store or pharmacy. If you keep your eyes open, the odds of you having to pay full price for these amenities drop significantly.

But what of the right clothes? Or, more importantly (as far as women are concerned, anyway), the right shoes?

Don’t freak out on me here, but…have you considered going the secondhand-store route? Kids, thrift stores aren’t just for hipsters anymore. They’re a great place to get near-new clothes, and if you investigate the scene and scout out the locations nearest to your area’s highest-priced homes, you’ll be astonished at the quality of clothing you can find…and, more importantly, the breadth of the big-name brands amongst their selection. How do you find the secondhand and thrift stores in your area? Well, first and foremost, there’s The Thrift Shopper, a one-stop web destination for all your thrift shopping needs. Per the site, “Search for thrift stores in our national thrift store directory, join our online thrifting community, and learn more about thrift shopping!” Beyond that, though, here are some of the more prominent names in the business that are likely to have locations in your neck of the woods:

CHKD Thrift Stores
The Salvation Army

But, okay, maybe you just can’t get past seeing secondhand stores as a step down. If that’s the case, then try their upscale cousins: consignment shops. Or you can let the crappy economy work for you and keep an ear to the ground for word on going-out-of-business sales. Or, heck, you could even consider checking out the occasional estate sale. Yeah, it’s a little grim, but just imagine the possibilities for retro fashion!

Guys, how do you manage to save money but still look your best?

Look, no one ever said it was going to be easy to look good, but with a little effort, at least it doesn’t have to be expensive. So get out there, beat the street, and turn that reasonably-priced look of class into a new job that kicks ass!


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Facial Hair—As Seen on TV

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As someone who was facial-hair free for the first two decades of his life and has occasionally re-embraced that appearance (often without intending to do so, but that’s a story for another time), I certainly wouldn’t dismiss anyone from going after a nice, clean-shaven look. All it takes is the press of a button on your remote control, however, to see that many of today’s TV stars are quite happy to sport a ‘stache, grow a goatee, or cultivate a beard.

Given that my livelihood involves praising and, as often as not, criticizing small-screen programming, this can sometimes prove to be a problem for me, and depending on your viewing habits, it’s possible you’ve experienced this same situation: you watch a show, you see an actor who’s carefully farming his facial hair, and you find yourself thinking, “Say I wonder if *I* could pull that off…”

Unless you’ve got a professional stylist in your corner, the probable answer is, “No, you can’t,” but there are certain styles that still continue to breed amongst the general public as a result of having gotten significant television exposure.

Here are just a few:

· The Obsequious Interviewer’s Beard. It’s a given that you should be well-versed in movie trivia if you decide to adopt this look, but the most important procedure surrounding this beard is regular conditioning, as you will find yourself stroking it in a contemplative manner whenever anyone is speaking to you. Nobody likes beardruff. (You know, dandruff of the beard…?)

· The Reality-Show Beard. Yes, it’s scraggly. If you’re trying to survive for some reason or find yourself in a race that one might choose to describe as amazing, then you’re not going to have time to keep it neat and trim. Still, it has a certain rugged charm to it. NOTE: This beard is only included under the presumption that, at some point, you’ll want to tighten it up a bit…and when you do, might I suggest – particularly as a result of contractual obligation – that you might consider using Gillette products? I hear good things about the Gillette Fusion ProGlide…

Gillette TV· The Alternate-Universe Goatee. It’s a longstanding staple of science fiction television that, should a show’s characters ever find themselves in an alternate universe where everyone has a counterpart; the counterpart of one of the clean-shaven male characters will sport a goatee. Growing one of these is an instant opportunity to do things different from the way you ordinarily would, and it also provides you with an instant out: just shave and say, “That wasn’t me! It must have been my counterpart from that other universe!” Works every time.

· The Bad-Ass Cop Scruff. You have to walk a very fine line to be able to get this just right, because if you’re not careful, you might find yourself with the better part of a beard before you know it. In addition, a nice-looking wardrobe goes a long way, as raggedy clothes will transform a bad-ass into a bum in most people’s eyes. Lastly, those who aren’t fond of sunglasses will need to practice their steely stare to accomplish maximum bad-assery.

· The Hawaiian Private Investigator ‘Stache. When it comes to TV-inspired facial hair, this is the trickiest of all looks, not to mention the most expensive, as you not only have to be able to look good wearing Hawaiian shirts, but you also have to be able to afford to drive a Ferrari 308 GTS. To date, only one man has ever successfully pulled this off. I can’t quite recall his name, though. I want to say it might be Thomas something…

As noted, these are just a few of the facial-hair looks that you can find up and down your TV dial…if, y’know, your TV happens to be thirty years old and still has a dial…but whether you choose one of these looks or go for something from a different realm altogether, be aware that your results will vary wildly. Just because you can reproduce the beard, goatee, or ‘stache down to the last whisker doesn’t mean that it’s going to look the same on you as it does on them, so once you’ve shaved it into what you perceive to be perfection, examine your new look and treat it like a network executive looking at a TV pilot. Ask yourself, “Do I deserve to be picked up or passed over?” If it’s the latter, then you know what you need to do: wipe the slate clean and start again from scratch.

Hey, that’s show biz!


Take My Wife, Please (Just Leave My Razor)

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Let’s talk about the battle of the sexes, shall we? Not in the traditional sense, as in “men are better than women” or “women are better than men,” because that’s just not a road I’m willing to go down. I mean, I’m married: by definition, that means that any answer I give is the wrong one unless it matches the one given by my wife. No, in this case, I’m talking about the way men and women battle against body hair and how differently they tend to spend their money.

For instance, when was the last time you bought a new razor? And when you bought it, how much did you spend on it? I asked my wife how long ago she suspected it was that I bought my last razor, and while she didn’t know specifically, she was at least confident that it wasn’t in 2010.

“I’m sure it’s been at least a year,” she said. “All I know is that the last one got so gross-looking that I thought it was going to fall apart. I’ve had four or five since then! Guys tend to get a good razor and keep it for years. Women don’t have that. There are very few razors for women that aren’t disposable, but guys get a razor, and they stick with it for the long haul.”

She’s right…well, except for the bit about non-disposable razors for women. (What, like you didn’t think I’d throw in a plug for the Gillette Venus?) But when I buy a razor, I’ve always stuck to the basics, and when I buy a razor, I use it ‘til it falls apart. I’ve never had any problems with these tendencies…or, at least, I hadn’t until I invited my wife into this discussion.

I knew that bringing her into the conversation was going to be like traversing a minefield…and it was: when I first brought up the topic of shaving, she cut me a look that said, “If you’re suggesting that my legs aren’t smooth enough, I’m going to slug you.” Once we got over that hump, though, she made some very interesting observations about how men are beginning to reevaluate the importance of shaving. By her theory, it may have something to do with a certain television show about 1950s ad men…not that we’re naming any names.

“You know how those guys go to the barber shop and get a straight-razor shave, get lathered up, have a hot towel placed on their face, and all that stuff?” she asked me. “I’m sorry, but that is a man facial! Men used to place a lot of importance in a good, clean shave. But, sweetie, grunge is over, and now’s your chance to get some of the same feelings that guys in the ‘50s used to get, but in the privacy of your own home.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I look back at that comment, it translates into, “Sweetie, you have my permission to spend as much money as you want on a quality razor, shaving gel, and anything else you think will make your face look good and feel good.” (Thanks, honey.)

When you think about it, it does make sense: given how rarely I replace my razors, there’s no real reason why I shouldn’t take some of the money I’ve saved and buy a really, really good one…possibly a Gillette Fusion ProGlide, he remarked, as casually as his contractual obligations would allow. You should, however, plan on me keeping that razor for at least a year, maybe longer. I’m resigned to some change, but, damn, I can’t change everything.

I don’t think that men will ever place quite the same importance on shaving as women do. I mean, even my wife admits, “Women are more high maintenance than men to begin with, so it stands to reason that they’d be that way about their shaving!” Try to imagine a guy walking into a grocery store or pharmacy, looking through the dozens of shaving creams and gel and selecting one based on color, scent, and other chemical attributes, then looking at the specific properties of the razors, then contemplating the type of moisturizer to use afterwards. I’m not saying that guys don’t do all of those things – a lot of us certainly do – but if you checked the average amount of time each gender spends on the selection process, the time spent by women is a heck of a lot longer.

With that said, though, if I’m going to spend a bit more money to look and feel my best during and after my shave, the least I can do is take the time to make sure I’m getting a product that’ll leave me feeling that I’ve gotten my money’s worth, right?

Ah, forget it. I’ll just let my wife pick something out for me.


Date Due Diligence

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When you’re preparing to go out on a date, there’s really just one thing to remember: the little things matter. Unfortunately, since this is a column and not a motivational poster, I’m guessing that I can’t just leave it at that, so allow me to expand on the topic a bit.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should admit up front that I’ve been a happily married man for the better part of a decade, and I’ve also got a 4-year-old daughter, so when I say “date,” I actually mean “a chance to escape from the child for a few hours.” If you too have spawned, then you’ll appreciate why I’m underlining this point: be sure you have a sitter in place that the mother of your child trusts. She’ll still feel obligated to call at least once, but with the right sitter selection, you’ll hopefully be able to keep her from checking in at half-hour intervals…or, God forbid, even more frequently.

On a related note, if you and your significant other have been together for an extended period of time, be considerate and plan your date according to what she loves and you can at least tolerate. For instance, if you know she hates sports, don’t try to rationalize taking her to a hockey game. (“Well, she took a psychology class six years ago, so I’m betting she’ll be able to appreciate this as an exercise in observing human behavior…on ice.”) But that doesn’t mean that you have to torture yourself, either: if you know that she loves it when you take her to see chick flicks, don’t be afraid to quietly steer her toward one where the leading lady is someone who’s hot enough that you won’t mind watching her on the big screen for 90 minutes.

Prepare yourself accordingly for your night out, because you can bet your lady friend will. Shower it up, wash and rise all the appropriate areas, and then – and I cannot emphasize this enough – give yourself a nice, clean shave. If the night ends the way you’re hoping that it will, she’s not going to want to have to worry about the possibility of whisker burn. If you wear cologne, be sure it’s not a scent that’s going to give her a migraine. When it comes to getting dressed, pick an outfit that she bought you (trust me, it goes over like gangbusters), and be sure to wear your finest footwear. There’s a reason the expression “shoes make the man” was popularized, and it’s because women are always aware of what you’re wearing on your feet. To this day, my wife tells the tale of how she married me despite the awful shoes I wore on our first date, and she can still describe them down to the last detail.

You may be dressed, but you’re not quite ready to go. Before you walk out the door, be sure you’ve got your finances in order. If you’re not flush with cash, then at least be sure that you’ve got credit available on your cards. The only thing more embarrassing than the waiter returning to your table with a request for alternative payment is not having an alternative…or, at least, not one that doesn’t involve tenses of the verbs “to dine” and “to dash.”

At last, it’s time for the date to begin! Good luck, God speed, and here’s hoping all the little things we’ve discussed will pay off for you in a big way.


Say hello to your friendly neighborhood Gillette Pro!

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Everyone talks about how great it is to be a work-at-home writer, but it’s a slippery slope. Once you lose that daily physical interaction with fellow co-workers, you soon realize just how little upkeep you need to perform on your person. Your morning shower suddenly turns into an every-other-morning shower. Your office attire downshifts from professional to semi-casual to, “Do I really need to wear pants today?” And your shaving habits…? Well, let’s just say that Grizzly Adams’ attorneys called, and the phrase “image misappropriation” came up.

Maybe that’s why, when Gillette contacted me and offered me the opportunity to serve as a so-called Gillette Pro, I decided it might not be such a bad idea to say, “Sure, why not?” Mind you, their offer of sponsorship may possibly have expedited my acceptance…but I digress.

For the next several months, I’m teaming with Gillette and serving as a…hmmm, what’s the best phrase to describe this gig? I’ve heard the term “spokesblogger” bandied about, so I guess that’ll work as well as anything. It would be disingenuous to suggest that I’m doing this entirely out of the kindness of my heart (I believe I touched on that moment ago), but beyond simply assisting in spreading the gospel of Gillette in a sponsored-conversation format, I’m getting the chance to step outside of my usual pop culture comfort zone and get a bit more personal. That doesn’t mean you should expect to see a piece entitled “What Shaving Means To Me,” because, well, that’s just a bit too on-the-nose, don’t you think? But with that said, I have been cultivating and chopping whiskers for the better part of 25 years now, so I’ve amassed a decent stockpile of material on the topic…some of it even worth reading!…and I plan to start writing my first column just as soon as I feed the family of birds who’ve taken up residence in my beard.

You know, come to think of it, this Gillette Pro thing really couldn’t have come at a better time.

Look for my first post in the series on Tuesday.