There is a famous story in political history about the Kennedy/Nixon debate of 1960 wherein makeup may have well changed the course of world history. For the first debate to be nationally televised, John F. Kennedy willingly put on makeup to be on camera. Richard Nixon, on the other hand, felt makeup was unmanly and refused. People who watched the debate were certain that Kennedy won hands-down. Those who heard it on the radio ruled it a tie, or that Nixon had come out ahead.
It also helped that JFK was younger and arguably better looking, and Nixon was recovering from the flu and was not looking his best that day. Still, there is little disagreement among historians that Richard Nixon made the wrong call that day, and every presidential candidate since that election has worn makeup to be on camera, even though almost all have been men.
However, while men wearing makeup in such very specific contexts is common as of 2019, and has been for most of the televised era, in general makeup is not an everyday essential for men. According to a SkinStore survey of 3,000 American women, the average American woman spends $300,000 on cosmetics over the course of a lifetime — or roughly the median price of a home in the U.S. as of 2019.
Men, by comparison, spend next to nothing when it comes to cosmetic products over the course of a lifetime — unless one is willing to expand the definition to include products like soap, chapstick or toothpaste.
But as ideas about men’s wellness and grooming have risen in prominence and popularity, the markets are changing. Firms like Oars + Alps are gaining a name making the types of products normally marketed to women — facial moisturizers and cleansers — and repackaging and designing them into a more male-friendly palette.
That in turn has pushed a host of other brands to go a step further, and to begin actively marketing and designing cosmetic products for a mixed male and female audience — or for an entirely male audience. Charlotte Tilbury and Fenty have both created male-specific media content in the form of makeup application tutorials, while Chanel has gone a step further with its late 2018 release of a small line of makeup for men.
The Chanel products have been well-reviewed but come with an impressive price tag. Men unfamiliar with purchasing cosmetics may find the prospect of paying $65 for a small bottle of foundation a bit of a disqualifier at the door.
But not all makeup for men is Chanel. There is an emerging field of startups popping up in the still relatively green field of male-centric makeup. Stryx, for example, advertises itself as “handsome made easy” and “sleek, discreet and easy to use.” The firm also refers to the goods it sells — currently concealer and tinted moisturizer — as “Products” or “Toots.”
But its strongest selling point, according to Co-Founder Isaac Rami, it is that it doesn’t look like makeup at a quick glance. The non-descript black tube that holds the concealer stick could be a pen, the moisturizer looks a lot like a phone charger.
The brand thus far has handled the vast majority of its marketing and brand expansion via Instagram, the perfect growth medium for the emerging firm. It’s visual, it attracts forwarding-looking, forward-thinking consumers — and it allows them a real-time channel with their customers to continue to develop their product.
"We’re able to directly speak to our consumers and change and develop things in the direction they [want to] see ... it’s in our DNA," he told Mashable.
That will mean, down the road, and expansion of the product line into more products and more variations within products. That growth, he said, is slated to happen organically alongside a market for wellness and self-care that is more relevant to male customers, particularly younger male customers, than it ever has been in the past.
The challenge for Styx as a startup brand in a field that is still developing, he said, is to refine that early interest into expanded interest — and help the product line grow and develop alongside its customer base.