The impulse to power-pamper has also surged because two primary archetypes for ambitious young professionals have collapsed. The puffed-up, Macanudo-chomping Wall Street "hitter" in his Gucci-loafer "deal wheels" got punctured by "corporate casual" sometime around 1997. His antithesis, the smugly rumpled dot-commer "Yettie" -- young entrepreneurial technocrat -- tanked quicker than Priceline shares over the past year. What resulted from this implosion of the reigning nineties clichés was an oddly postmodern attempt to fuse the two. The goal, suddenly, is to be hiply casual yet sleek, to be outside the box but still a player.
James Jurney, 31, was crunching equity derivatives for Morgan Stanley when corporate casual got its start a half-decade ago. "My friends and I got a huge kick out of the Dockers-and-polo-shirt look. We called it the 'Blockbuster uniform,' " Jurney says. Looking to capitalize, Jurney and his wife, Gwendolyn, founded casual-but-chic custom clothier Seize Sur Vingt on Elizabeth Street. Already, he sees many of those confused young professionals suddenly catching on.
"It's sort of a last aspect of that nineties 'aficionado' gig," Jurney says. "First, it was the wine-speak and the cigar-speak. Clothing is the latest thing. We get people coming in every day asking for Sea Island cotton or Super 100s, even if they're not sure what that means. They've picked up these terms somewhere."
Even the big fashion houses like Hugo Boss and Zegna are seeing an explosion of men's business tied to evolving American-male tastes. Gildo Zegna has noted that "the feminization of men's fashion," which he says started with the move toward corporate casual in the United States, has led to an increased male literacy in everything from accessories to cosmetics.
"Now that men in the media are being objectified the way women always have been, there's a margin of men who are responding to that," says Simon Doonan, Barneys' creative director. "But remember, if you went to a deli in New York in the fifties, you'd find straight guys with matching tie pins, cuff links, and pinkie rings, and they would have glazed nails! There was always a permission for this sort of thing among a certain class of urban men. It's just the language has changed. Now if you're a 'regular sort of dude,' you want to go for a groomed sort of Friends look."
"We couldnt call it makeup," says an Aramis VP. "The M-word is taboo. Guys have a real problem with that."
"I know some insane guys who have had everything done. They spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on hair plugs. They spent Christmas down in Brazil. Plastic surgery is very good there, and it's cheaper. I just said, 'You do realize that nobody cares, right? You're a guy.' I'm mystified by it. Unless you're Antonio Sabato Jr., nobody's looking, honey."
Still, for most men, being lured into the beauty subculture involved overcoming some resistance. To enter was to swallow the fear, like when you're sent to buy tampons for your girlfriend. If men were going to get dragged into this netherworld, we at least needed to be coaxed in along a comfortably familiar path. That path, it turned out, was any boy's best friend: high technology.
Frank Carfaro, 30, is fashionable, is straight, and runs the Desiron custom-furniture showroom in SoHo. Carfaro devotes maybe ten minutes every morning to slathering on skin products from Prada's pricey new unisex skin-care line. "Even Origins is a little foofy," he says. "But to have something in this extruded polypropylene tube, where you have to open up a Tyvek package to pull it out, that's just the greatest gadget."
Day spas are luring in men by translating their socialite-friendly treatments into scientific-sounding procedures. At Yasmine Djerradine on East 60th Street, the "nonsurgical face-lift" is a two-hour process. I tried it. Nathalie Dinoia, a Bond-girl sort of French stunner in a lab coat, electro-massaged my cheeks and chin with two small sponge-coated electrodes. You don't work out your facial muscles; you have them worked out for you. All you do is shut your eyes and watch the strobe-light show flickering in your skull. It's all very no-pain-but-gain.
Boys like that.
"You have to understand: One of the reasons cosmetic surgery is becoming more appealing is that it's becoming less invasive. Men will put up with a lot less than women will -- in terms of scarring, in terms of recovery, in terms of pain," says Dr. George Beraka, a Park Avenue plastic surgeon.
One of Beraka's patients, Ron, who despite his day job -- hairdresser -- gives off a seriously regular-guy Springsteen vibe, decided to give himself an eye job and laser peel for his 50th birthday.
"Before, I looked really weathered. I looked like hell. Now I don't look a day over 35. No joke," he marvels. "It's outrageous. My girlfriend is twenty years younger than me. She's younger than my son. And she has no idea I had anything done." He laughs. "It's expensive, but so what? It's a midlife crisis. I would have just spent it on a Harley anyway."
The male panacea of this plastic-surgery moment is the "mandibular glove" chin implant that runs up the jaw, giving men that Heath Ledger jawline via the miracle of silicone.
"The last three face-lifts I did were men," says star-kissed cosmetic surgeon Dr. Thomas Romo, head of facial plastic surgery at Lenox Hill. Romo has seen his male practice spike from 25 percent to 40 percent in only five years. Men are particularly motivated toward his youth-enhancing endoscopic brow-lifts: recovery time, three days.
"The Wall Street guy will come in," Romo says. "You know, he gets out of college, he gets a little age on him, he starts eating steaks at Morton's and sitting around on his butt. He starts getting a heavier neck. The way to improve that neck is with liposuction and a chin implant. That's just a great way to go."