Build Yourself A Good Grooming Routine
- Words by Richard Cable
- Pictures by James Pearson-Howes
Building a good grooming routine, tailored for your personal needs and executed with craft and pride, is an undeniably worthwhile pursuit. Here’s why and how to go about it.
Like all pleasurable things in life, grooming is something you should do more of and aim to get better at each time you do it.
‘Pleasure’ may not be a word you associate with your grooming routine. Or perhaps you don’t even consider that you have a routine, in which case we should back up a little and make sure everyone is properly on board before we go any further.
YOU ALREADY HAVE A ROUTINE, WHETHER YOU KNOW IT OR NOT
First up, you do have a routine, even if that routine is the ‘classic’ one-product shower and a cursory brush of the teeth. It may be the Reliant Robin, the Microsoft Vista, the Ghostbusters reboot of routines, but it is a routine nonetheless, and that, at least, is a start.
This is the sort of routine you can get away with for a three-year window in your early twenties, when a tiny subset of guys are lucky enough to combine a high degree of natural desirability with effortless boho chic.
If that doesn’t sound like you, it’s time to up your game and build yourself a proper routine.
NOBODY EVER TEACHES YOU THIS STUFF...
Let’s separate out and put aside for a moment any preconceptions we may have about grooming (it’s girly, it’s vain, it’s time-consuming, etc).
Look at grooming as a craft skill, pure and simple. A craft skill that, as grown up, adult human beings, we should aim to be good at. After all, using your face to advertise that you’re not good at something doesn’t feel like a particularly positive move.
The trouble is that nobody ever teaches men this stuff. Ask your male friends about the time their dad took them aside and showed them how to shave properly, or wash and condition their hair, or - sweet mercy - exfoliate and moisturise.
...BUT IT’S NEVER TOO LATE TO LEARN
It can happen.
Like learning how to ski, or how to whistle through your fingers or how to tie a bow tie, it’s never too late to learn. And in contrast to tying the bow tie, you’ll actually look much better afterwards.
Over the coming months, we plan to make Ilk a pretty comprehensive resource for all of your grooming questions and needs, including ‘how to’ videos covering even the most familiar topics. From the deceptively simple ‘how to dry your face’, to the technical challenges of burn-free shaving, to the specialised and esoteric world of male fragrances.
Because no one ever teaches men this stuff. Sure there are tutorials, but generally speaking they are hosted by extras from Zoolander or shot in the style of a corporate training video from the early Eighties. We aim to do much better, and to introduce you to the very best products for the job.
GO LOOKING FOR TROUBLE...
You’ve mastered the basic techniques and you’re doing everything properly. Your daily grooming experience should already feel much less like a chore and much more like a pleasure, if for no better reason than pride in a job well done.
Now it’s time to go looking for trouble with the intention of shooting it, or more accurately shooting the trouble that’s already found you.
Literally nobody is perfect. We all have challenges, problems and niggles to deal with, but as men we have a tendency to adopt a ‘wait and see’ approach to the remedy.
Most issues, from dry, oily or sensitive skin to enlarged pores, to ingrowing, unwanted, greasy or damaged hair, to cracked lips, discoloured nails and off-white teeth, all the way through to laughter lines and the venerable monobrow, can be addressed with a bit of proactivity and the right product.
This is another area where we will be making ourselves particularly useful.
...AND DON’T LET YOUR ROUTINE BECOME ROUTINE
Now that you are enjoying a proper, considered and grown up routine, it’s a little bit like being in a proper, considered and grown up relationship. It needs to adapt and evolve. You need to keep it fresh and try new things; have some fun. And you need to deal with the little problems before they become big ones, or things could get ugly.
Remember, it’s a routine, not a habit. Your body, your hair and your skin will change over time, as will your tastes, preferences and outlook, so your routine and the techniques and products you use will need to change in response.
So if you’re still using the same brand of deodorant you first bought when you were 15, or buying hair product on price point rather than performance, or eschewing eye serum as a gimmick for sissies, then it’s probably time to take a long hard look at this relationship and start figuring out how to bring the magic back.
A GOOD ROUTINE IS ITS OWN REWARD
Grooming is an essential part of your day. We say so much to the world without ever opening our mouths. In taking the care and time to be properly and competently groomed, we are doing nothing more controversial than ensuring that we are in control of these unspoken messages.
A good grooming routine, built to meet your personal needs and executed with craft and pride, is an undeniably worthwhile pursuit. As the incomparable WH Auden put it: “Routine, in an intelligent man, is a sign of ambition.”
Try it and let us know how you get on.