Slap it on, chaps! Britain’s first make-up store for men has just opened. So could it spare HENRY DEEDES’ blushes when he popped in for a makeover?
Puffy eyes, droopy chops, gills the colour of Dulux white emulsion. We’ve all sat through early morning meetings feeling like we’ve stepped off the set of a cheap zombie thriller.
The worst bit about lockdown for me was having to see my haggard-looking face staring back at me through the computer screen each morning. So appalled did I become at the sight, I took to growing a beard. The result bore little improvement.
Of course, it’s all right for you ladies out there. A squirt of concealer here, a light dusting with the powder puff there, et voila. A cinch. We chaps have no such rescue remedies to fall back upon.
Up until now, that is.
Journalist Henry Deedes has make up applied by Danny Gray founder of War Paint for men
Henry Deedes BEFORE he underwent his make-up makeover in the London Carnaby Street store
Opening its doors to shoppers last Friday was War Paint, an Aladdin’s Cave on London’s Carnaby Street dedicated solely to selling men’s slap.
‘Men? In make-up?’ I hear you cry. Oh come off it, did you really not see it coming?
The male sex has been on a one-way route to feminisation for years now. Just look at those himbos on Love Island, their pristine bodies plucked, waxed and shaved of all traces of fluff. See the size of those footballers’ Louis Vuitton washbags as they exit the team bus, laden with hair mousses and expensive unguents.
And it’s not just the metrosexual types piling the stuff on. The whole craze has crossed over into the mainstream.
The statistics are there to prove it. A poll commissioned by YouGov revealed roughly one in 20 British men now wear make-up, with one in 50 wearing it on a weekly basis and one in 100 wearing it daily. Whisper it, but chances are your man’s been using your Max Factor mascara all these years without you even realising it.
War Paint is the brainchild of Danny Gray, 36, a former salesman who’s been putting on make-up since he was 14 years old.
At school, he was badly bullied, which led to a crisis about his looks. It was only after discovering the miracle powers of his sister’s concealer cream that he rediscovered his confidence. Since then, he never leaves the house without it.
Far from ribbing him about it, his mates encouraged him to develop it as a business idea.
Three years ago, he sold his car, re-mortgaged his house and spent £95,000 on his first batch of self-developed beauty products for men. He expected £2,000 worth of sales in his first month. When he turned over £11,000, he knew he was on to something.
‘It was pretty clear there was a market,’ he says. ‘For years, men had been going into Boots and buying make-up, pretending that it was for their girlfriend. I wanted to break that taboo.’
Business took off quickly. John Lewis agreed to stock his products. Television shows such as Jeremy Vine’s couldn’t get enough of him. So brazen did he feel about his business, he ended up turning down a £70,000 offer from the Dragons’ Den judges.
Pictured, the exterior of the War Paint store which is Britain’s first store dedicated to make-up for men
Opening a shop was always the ambition. Back in January, he stumbled upon an empty space on one of the capital’s most famous streets, and, throwing caution to the wind, seven months later here we are.
Danny has kindly agreed to give my pasty face a once-over and book it in for a much-needed MoT. When he greets me at the immaculately decorated store, you can see immediately that he’s a bit of a perfectionist.
His clothes are pristine and his hair perfect (which he later tells me has been helped with a little transplant surgery). He fusses over anything and everything, be it the seat I sit on or my glass of water.
Anyway, down to business. We start with a quick examination of my skin. Danny pulls up a large mirror. Ugh! Next to his flawless visage, mine’s a right old mess. It’s blotchy, sun-damaged, not to mention shiny as a pickled egg. I’d also forgotten to shave that morning. Oops.
Danny points out a few red blobs around my right cheek. Alcohol damage? ‘Nah, it’s nothing — everyone has those,’ Danny says sweetly, lying through his immaculately capped teeth.
H e begins by adding a primer. This is one of those things I’ve always read about flicking through magazines but hadn’t a clue what it was.
‘This just evens everything out, gets it all one skin tone,’ says Danny, dabbing around my face with an artisan’s touch. A quick peek in the mirror to admire his handiwork. Whoah! That certainly sent those gin spots packing.
Outside, a crowd has gathered, their faces pressed up against the glass, clearly wondering why on earth a man is slathering another man’s face with make-up. One even takes a selfie with us in the background. I suspect this may happen quite a bit in the coming weeks. Next up comes a layer of tinted moisturiser. When Danny tells me this is cream containing skin foundation, I’m worried he’s about to turn me into a carrot-creamed Donald Trump.
‘No, no, no, it’s going to be very subtle,’ he assures me, putting his magic sponge to work again. ‘This is why you need make-up especially for men. It needs to be thin. If you tried the women’s version of this, it would be much thicker and would cling to your stubble.’
When that’s all rubbed in, Danny applies a white, anti-shine powder with what looks like a fancy shaving brush.
War Paint is the brainchild of Danny Gray, 36, (pictured) a former salesman who’s been putting on make-up since he was 14 years old
Far from looking like the Orange Tango man, my skin has a faint glow and seems smooth and replenished
One final thing to do. Eyebrows. He gives mine a gimlet-eyed stare.
‘How often do you get them trimmed?’ he asks matter-of-factly. ‘Er, sort of never,’ I reply bashfully.
‘Hmm. Well, they’re not bad.’ He gives them a quick smear with his ‘beard and brow gel’, which is supposed to give them a slick finish. ‘When I was younger I used to just use boot polish,’ Danny tells me. What a relief things have moved on since then.
When I examine myself in the mirror, the results are surprising. I was half expecting to resemble a wide-eyed mannequin-like chorus member from a West End show. It turns out to be less of a makeover and more of a tweak.
Far from looking like the Orange Tango man, my skin has a faint glow and seems smooth and replenished. Before, my forehead had enough oil on it to coat a packet of crisps: now, it has a wonderfully matte finish. There is something remarkably satisfying about how I look. Like someone’s just given my face a gentle polish.
Walking back to work through sweltering Piccadilly, sweat trickling down my brow, I worry that everything might start to run.
Back in the office, I make a dash for the bathroom mirror, assuming I’m going to look like a melted waxwork from Madame Tussauds. But not at all. The War Paint potions have held up nicely. Meanwhile, not a single person in the newsroom bats an eyelid.
It’s all very well caking yourself in concealer, but I’m just not sure us men are quite ready for other people to know about it. Would I consider wearing it again? Hmm, I might. It would certainly make those bleary-eyed Monday mornings a little more manageable. But, sssh, don’t tell anyone. Please.
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