Every man has his favourite pair of jeans: they’re more than a staple — they’re a much-loved must-have. While the same cannot yet be said for men’s skin and haircare products, in recent years the male grooming market has skyrocketed. Creams and tinctures adorn the bathroom shelves of skinny-jean-sporting hipsters everywhere. Guys boast topknots, manbuns, beards and moustaches that would once have been deemed eccentric — or even unhygienic. Between 2008 and 2013 alone, the market for men’s personal care products rose 15%, according to market research firm Mintel.
Many brands want in on this recent phenomenon, but ensuring the success of men’s skin and haircare products is no easy task. Men’s grooming specialist Baxter of California sees no reason their products can’t be like a favourite pair of jeans. Here’s how they’re going about it.
Back to the barber’s shop
There was once a place of plush leather-clad chairs and sleek, sparkling chrome, of glinting jars of unguents and steaming towels, where the hushed tranquillity was broken only by the snip of a scissor, the swish of a cut-throat razor on leather and an occasional “the usual today, sir?” That place was the barber’s shop of old, a repository of masculine luxury and indulgence.
Baxter of California offers the promise of a return to that golden age, but with a contemporary twist. The modern-retro feel of the Baxter Finley barber’s shop in Los Angeles and the Baxter of California product line uphold a tradition of male grooming with roots in the good old days of natty dressing, dapper gents and iconic figures such as Jay Gatsby. At the same time, Baxter of California is no stranger to innovation: back in 1965 when the brand was founded, it created a skin conditioner that was the first of its kind to be marketed to men.
“We sort of trail blazed a new path of distribution for male grooming. If I’m going to buy men’s grooming products and accessories, I’m going to go to the same place I buy my shirts and where I buy my denim…”
Its range of razors, from the classic safety to the cut-throat, meet all possible wet-shave requirements and combine handcrafted refinement with award-winning style. Its extensive collection of hair pomades and skincare products have a rock-solid reputation and effortlessly blend innovation, efficacy and a clean aesthetic with just a hint of retro. Baxter gives men the chance to take home a little bit of the masculine pampering they might enjoy at the hands of a traditional barber.
Baxter gives men the chance to take home a little bit of the masculine pampering they might enjoy at the hands of a traditional barber.
The brand’s blend of reassuring tradition, high quality and pared-back contemporary style means that Baxter’s products have reached the same cool, hip stores where the brand’s target audience buy their clothes. As creative director Jean-Pierre Mastey said in an interview with Fast Company “We sort of trail blazed a new path of distribution for male grooming. If I’m going to buy men’s grooming products and accessories, I’m going to go to the same place I buy my shirts and where I buy my denim: there’s no reason why they can’t coexist and be under the same roof.”
Recently, the brand branched out from its usual men’s grooming range into — wait for it — scented candles. Now, we’ve all had a chance to get used to skincare products for men over the past few years, but scented candles? For men? It may sound outlandish at first, but the driving force behind such a strategy is a powerful one: smell. What other sense can be so evocative and stir memories with such vividness? Bold names and scents such as “Smoke Ash” speak to men’s inner lumberjack yet stand apart from the grooming range. With Baxter of California, it isn’t just about hair and skincare: it’s about a certain lifestyle. A lifestyle that the brand’s slick new blog seeks to portray through “an exploration of California and the Baxter way of life”.
Men’s grooming is a sector in which the rules remain to be written, with scope for creative and original strategies that offer not just a product but a whole philosophy for living. If scented candles are the next male must — have, it begs the question: whatever next?