Do men and spas really mix?

Mar 4 2014

Suave Spy


2 min read

At some stage in the twentieth century, men gave up on the world of spa treatments. This flew in the face of all historical precedent. Spas had been predominantly male preserves, places where you went to recuperate from the stresses of business life, such as smoking too many cigars or drinking too much brandy.

A stay at a sanatorium or retreat in the Edwardian era might offer rest and relaxation, grooming treatments, a healthy diet, and a range of sporting activities from game-shooting to billiards. Your doctor might have recommended it as a cure for stress (or "neurasthenia" in the language of the day), and the aim was to detoxify the system and generally recharge the batteries.

Spa-going for men fell from favour in the period following the war. This was the generation that invented the teenager as a cultural phenomenon, in which youthfulness became an ideology, and the main focus of your leisure time was more likely to be about wrecking your health rather than restoring it. The therapeutic atmosphere of the gentlemen's retreats -- sitting by the fire and taking it easy -- hardly chimed with rocking around the clock.

The one exception to this tendency was in grooming. Men weren't interested in skincare (indeed, by the 1950s, they probably considered it to be exclusively a girl thing), but they were interested more than ever in their hair. All male youth movements since the fifties have involved haircare. The painstakingly arranged, extravagantly dressed haircuts of James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause (1955), or the young Elvis Presley, were high-maintenance styles that required plenty in the way of lotions and potions such as Brylcreem or Vitalis.

The first sighting of a social type known as the Peacock Male, denoting a guy who actually cared about the way he looked, occurred in the 1960s, but the concept only really began to take off in the eighties. An openness to the concept of moisturising, and a keen interest in looking creatively unshaved, were the hallmarks of the New Man. Twenty years later, his descendant, the Metrosexual Male, stalks the spa scene, spending an ever-increasing proportion of his disposable income on rehydrating lotions, exfoliants, and products that an earlier generation would have classified as make-up.

What do men want at a spa?

* Massage - and lots of it. The rougher, the better.

* Facials - Yep, we've got over our nervousness about looking clean and healthy. Just no cucumber slices, please.

* Hydrotherapy - Being submerged is always good, especially if it comes with high-pressure underwater jets. Kewwwl.

* Saunas and steam rooms - The ultimate self-indulgence. Sitting around in swirling steam has something of the manly Deer Hunter vibe about it.

* Mud - It took a while for men to get their heads round the idea of mud, but how much persuading do you need that slapping it all over each other with your partner might be the second-best fun you can get up to together?

Suave spy

Suave Spy

4th March 2014

Spy Likes:

Tepedariums (heated seats make my spa day); pools you can actually swim in; eucalyptus steams rooms; deep tissue massages.

Spy Dislikes:

Anything to do with ice or cold plunge pools; having to go outside mid-spa day; other people talking loudly; hot tubs with the bubbles on!

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