Archival Consumed: Sharps

A recently published book called ”The Male Mystique” offers a collection of ads from men’s magazines of the 60’s and 70’s. Among other things, it makes a convincing case that the marketer’s construction of manhood has been conflicted and simpleminded for a long time: macho oafs, shameless peacocks and the interchangeable ”groovy” chicks who love them fill out pitches for Bacchus after-shave, Score Liquid Hair Groom and something called Male Comfort Spray (which ”helps prevent perspiration discomfort, the kind only a man can get”).

That stuff, whatever it was, seems mercifully to have faded from the scene. Men’s grooming products are now a $1-billion-plus category, with a snowballing number of new offerings. But the marketing dichotomy lingers in the form of two caricatures of maleness: the ”Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” guy vs. the Maxim guy. Still, one new brand, a small New York startup called Sharps, seems almost explicitly designed as an attempt to find a third way. Though around only since last year, it has found its way into top-end retailers like Barneys and Fred Segal, as well as newish boutique barbershop chains like American Male. One of its most popular items, called Kid Glove Shave Gel, is a top seller at the Barneys in Beverly Hills. Through Sharps’s online store, it sells to customers in all but a handful of states, thanks to attention from magazines like InStyle and Men’s Health.
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