A growing number of men in South Africa are bucking tradition and stereotype to buy and use male grooming products. According to data released by research group Euromonitor International, South African men have spent well over half a billion US dollars per year since 2016.
“You know in the old days we used to go to the female hair salons if we wanted to cut our hair like this or to look after our feet or nails. All those were aimed at females, now it’s at males and it’s great,” said Joubert, reclining in a luxury leather chair for a pedicure in Sorbet Man, a men-only parlour in Johannesburg.
Two decades ago, well-groomed male celebrities began to change traditional attitudes towards masculinity, encouraging swathes of men to take greater care of their appearance and embrace the use of beauty products.
South Africa has been slow to catch the “metrosexual” wave, but a growing middle class and the spread of fashion trends on social media has seen global companies such as Unilever, Procter & Gamble and L’Oreal target more products at African men.
“With social media showing so many pretty pictures essentially and women starting to define the kind of men that they like and you look at the rise of those kinds of well-groomed men like David Beckham for example. As women start to show that you know, there’s that interest in that kind of man, who looks after himself, who has this great presence and appearance – other men are getting influenced to think, ‘okay well then it’s not so bad, then maybe I should look after myself a whole lot better’,” he told Reuters.
Salon chains are opening men-only parlours to sell these products and to meet the demand for everything from manicures to eyebrow threading.
“It’s created an awakening in the market that because not only are we seeing more of the ‘Sorbet Man’ coming up but we also seeing other people coming into the market, looking at…following obviously on the footsteps of Sorbet, into the male grooming industry,” says Luleka Masinga who runs a Sorbet Man franchise.
Africa offers companies the chance to target millions of new consumers.
“It’s changed now so drastically whereas men are more metrosexual. So two, say five years ago a man wouldn’t go get a manicure done, he wouldn’t go get a facial done because that wasn’t considered as being manly,” said Dexter Pillay, co-owner of Bespoke Man, a salon in Johannesburg’s business district.
Trend analysts say African youth are a tasty target for marketers hungry to sell to young males around the continent who are increasingly more conscious of their appearance.