Dear Men’s Grooming Brands, When Will the Macho Ad Guy Finally Man Up?


Dear Men’s Grooming Brands, When Will the Macho Ad Guy Finally Man Up?

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

It’s been awhile since I last watched TV. So when my Netflix refused to load, I finally turned back to the idiot box – but about 10 minutes into The Mummy Returns, the interminable ad break kicked off, and I was treated to a barrage of men’s grooming ads. Looks like the tried-and-true recipe for appealing to men has not changed in several decades: Add a dash of red sports car to a lot of daaru that is being splashed around willy-nilly. Throw in some cringeworthy catchphrases about being “cool” or “macho”. Slap on a pair of aviator sunglasses. And then, send in hordes of scantily-clad women, for whom all of the above is totally irresistible.

Sidharth Malhotra shares the Brylcreem motto with men.

Image credit: Brylcreem

How come these ads were harder to swallow than a movie where an Ancient Egyptian corpse comes to life for the second time, I wondered. There’s no way any woman on earth would respond well to the boorish, juvenile guys in these ads, who so often confuse “sexy” with “sexism”. Still, you can’t help but think about all the guys – and girls – out there who actually think that the typical, ill-behaved mard in most ads is the epitome of cool. It’s not likely that brands would continue to shove the same old stereotypes in your face if it didn’t convince at least a few impressionable minds.

And yet, it’s especially strange to see that in these woke times, when there’s a growing acknowledgment that the “macho” dudes around us are not cute or cool or funny, it’s somehow okay to see that the bro behaviour we despise in real life is desirable in the world of ads. It’s as though we refuse to expect better, or to follow a philosophy of #SochBadlaStyleBadla.

Perhaps it’s fitting, then, that a classic men’s brand like Brylcreem is bringing a breath of fresh air into the toxic environment that pervades the men’s grooming industry. Putting their money where their mouth is, the brand prints women’s helpline numbers on their packaging, encouraging men to be more thoughtful about positive masculinity even as they get ready each morning.

Brylcreem has also started changing ideas of manhood in Bollywood — which, with its item songs and aggressive heroes, is often no better than the men’s grooming industry. Tying up with a younger, more sensitive crop of film stars like Varun Dhawan and Sidharth Malhotra, Brylcreem is sending a message to counter what we see on-screen. Dhawan and Malhotra, after all, don’t crow for attention or act like cooler-than-thou brats. Instead, they let their work speak for itself — that includes being better role models, who insist that #BoysManUp and leave behind such immature behaviour.

It’s as though we refuse to expect better, or to follow a philosophy of #SochBadlaStyleBadla.

Call it a much-needed return to old-school gentlemanly values, or a refreshing recognition that the new generation of men can be better than the depictions of them in movies and ads. By encouraging men to be more respectful and responsible, Brylcreem is, for once, on the same page as those of us who roll our eyes and change the channel as soon as we see yet another guy whose new shaving cream magically turns him into God’s gift to women.

Varun Dhawan, the new-age man who insists that #BoysManUp.

Image credit: Brylcreem

Ultimately, that’s a young boy’s version of a perfect life. Sure, brands have got to advertise somehow, but it’d be nice if more men’s grooming products could follow Brylcreem’s lead and make ads for real men.