It can be difficult to know how to ‘be a man’ in these days. Economic factors beyond any one person’s control have undermined the ability for a single man to be the sole provider for a whole family. The necessities of budgeting require the financial input of two people to support a household, and even the faintest degree of respect for women dictates they should be able to work and not merely contribute to the home but own part of it. Even if you could support a family single handed, to be the sole breadwinner restricts the independence of your partner.
Other traditional signifier of masculinity have become inexorably linked to toxic or damaging behaving – it’s the extremes of normal male behaviour that have created scandals at home and abroad for prominent figures from Louis CK to Harvey Weinstein.
To feel secure as a man, you need to stake out some territory that you can feel proud of, that make you feel connected to a heritage of men but keeps you safe from the toxic side of male behaviour.
Shaving (your face at least) is an archetypal male ritual. It’s a way of asserting dominance over the wildness of your face, and whether you’re aiming for the closest clean shave or shaping and maintaining a fashionable beard. It’s also a meditative ritual: five minutes just for you in the morning, looking at your face in the bathroom mirror and preparing for the day.
To make shaving special, you need the right kit. Assemble a shaving kit you can feel proud of, with proper shaving soap, badger hair brushes and even an old fashioned safety razor and you’ll be sharing a shaving tradition with people like Clark Gable and Cary Grant: the golden age icons of manhood.
Another way to mark yourself out as a man is to dress like one. It’s not in the least unmasculine to make some effort with your appearance and take an interest in fashion. As with shaving try connecting yourself to some of the great men of the past by eschewing our current informality and dressing a little more smartly.
It doesn’t have to be expensive. Doing a deep dive into charity shops could furnish you with a few jackets and waistcoats you could wear with smart trousers to effect a classically masculine look. You don’t need tailored suits to affect a manly presence, just learn what looks good on you, and shop to match!