Friday, 28 January 2011

Valentines 3: Men Are Useless

One of the more convenient services I've come across if you're interested in grooming products at all is this new website, Menareuseless. Basically you subscribe to toiletries and get a monthly drop of stuff in a letterbox-sized box, so there's no picking up at the Post Office.

There are two levels and the box is packed with goodies like shower gel, razors, moisturiser, toothpaste, all that sort of stuff. It's a monthly drop and they choose the toiletries.

It's based on research that says 78% of blokes admit to stealing their partner's toiletries with shampoo being one of the most commonly nicked from partners. 7% of men said they'd run out of toiletries and washed using washing up liquid once.

If you're in that category this is a great service. The site needs a little updating as the £9.99 a month option seems to have vanished but £12.99 isn't exorbitant. My box included the King of Shaves balm, a King of Shaves razor, the body wash pictured in the selection above, a spare cartridge for the razor and a few other bits. It's middle market/supermarket product rather than anything too designery.

I'm not wild about King of Shaves razors, I'm a Gilette man myself and that company's new offering gave me the best home shave I've had for ages this morning. I'm a bit fussy and clearly need to go and buy my own stuff, but if you're really strapped for time and don't mind someone else choosing your brands (concierge shopping they call it; economies of scale I reckon, and no less legit for that) it's a good option. A few months' subscription to this would be welcomed on Valentine's day by many.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Valentine's Day requests 2: maybe not for me...

So yesterday I told you about a few cufflinks - and word's getting around that I'm looking at Valentine's Day presents for blokes. Of which cufflinks are just one example.

And so, apparently, is this £59.99 drill from Clas Ohlson, the chain that's opened up in a number of places including Croydon just near me.

This is interesting. Threatening to buy your wife a washing machine, vacuum cleaner or any of those other stereotypically "female functional" appliances for Christmas or Valentine's Day and you're (rightly) the butt of a lot of jokes. So people hear I'm writing for the same market from the male side and the hardware starts pouring in - 'get him a drill, or electric screwdriver', the suggestions go. Bit of an imbalance there.

Other suggestions I've had include USB memory drives from Verbatim and cod liver oil capsules. There are (or may be, I'm no medical expert) health benefits to these but good grief, if the age of romance isn't dead it's looking a bit peeky from here.

Tomorrow I'll be back to stuff that might go down well.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Valentines gifts to request 1: cufflinks

It's that time of year again - Valentine's is in a very few weeks, we haven't all been paid yet and even when we are there isn't going to be much cash around. So if your loved one asks what you want for the special day it may be that a touch of frugality will go down well.

Here's a picture of some cufflinks I rather like. They're from a range of a couple of pairs available exclusively through the British Heart Foundation, and will cost you a very reasonable £12.99. Other designs are available but the important thing is where the money goes.

Essentially the BHF has commissioned some artists - these ones are by Donald Hamilton Frasier - to design some cufflinks to sell to raise money for research into how zebra fish repair their cells, to see whether damaged heart tissue could be made to self-regenerate in the same way (a grown-up will be able to put that into proper medical language if you happen to know anyone who understands this stuff - wrong blog for a proper medical explanation I'm afraid).

Other cufflinks on the Net include some reasonably exclusive models coming onto - it's a bit of a fun website which has bargains available, bought in bulk, for one day only at a time. Monday will see Sonia Spencer pantone cufflinks on for £17 as compared to the usual £49, so well worth knowing about. My usual tailor at A Suit That Fits (sponsored link to their homepage, I get loyalty points) offers them as well.

Personally I'd urge everyone to buy the BHF ones or indeed to donate whether you want cufflinks or not. In the coming days I'll be looking at other Valentine's treats for blokes - ideas would be more than welcome.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Taming the trainers

Trainers and sports footwear in general are a topic which have changed drastically during my lifetime. When I was a child we were told they'd damage your feet if you wore them all the time; the smart thinking now is that if they're well made then the reverse is true.

So I thought I'd treat myself in the sales - and bought a pair of Fit Flops from with some loyalty points I had spare and a little money. They arrived and, I'd use them for walking the dog but snazzy Nikes they aren't. I've worn them a few times and my legs ache, which is presumably the idea.

They work by having a sort of wobble board under the sole which exercises different foot muscles and tones you. A bit. I'm not kidding myself that this is any substitute for proper exercise.

Dunlop Volley trainers
The other trainers at which I've been looking are the new (or "revived" I should probably say) Dunlop Volley (pictured). Unostentatious, a bit retro to appeal to those of us who remember them from first time around and probably very trendy among young people who'll no doubt put them on and not do the laces up, I like these.

The big thing about the Dunlops has to be the comfort. They feel like slippers but support your feet and are more solidly constructed than the Converse I bought last year. The canvas has a slight flexibility about it, too, so when a couple of days ago I managed to fall 8ft or so off a loft ladder and landed on my ankle, they accommodate the swelling without being painful. (I'm not hurt, thanks for asking, just a little stiff - for once I landed well). These are £39.99 new, they don't look as though the wearer is trying to be overly trendy and mid-life-crisis-ish and are among my favourites already.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Going for a shave

OK, the bathroom's being done - and it's not a picnic, I can tell you. The workmen are exceptionally considerate and are somehow leaving no dust and mess (given that they removed three walls of tiles yesterday that's an achievement) but the job is what it is. And I'm shaving mirrorless at the moment.

So sometime this week I'm going to try this new barber's that's opened up near us, and which specialises in hot towel shaves and suchlike treats. I shall report back...

(Oh, and a quick update on operation "learn to tie a bow tie: the one I'd ordered in the sales, although it didn't say so on the label, was a ready-made jobby. Even had instructions on how to tie the damned thing on the box, so I didn't realise until I'd opened it and made it non-returnable. Naughty, naughty John Lewis. I've made other arrangements).

Monday, 10 January 2011

Tied in knots

So, it's been New Year Sales time and I've found, as always, more luck in the menswear departments than my wife has found in clothing for females. I have a number of theories as to why this might be; first, much as I hate stereotyping, the shopping experience tends to be aimed more at women than men - so the good stuff sells out more quickly. Second men have less variety in their clothing, often - so if someone has a load of shirts to offload they're going to apply to most of us (and of course the common sizes vanish very quickly).

Flickr: cambiodefractal
Which is why I've done a lot of shopping online - and there's nothing better for price comparison than shopping in this way. And it's this time of year that the cost of so-called 'designer' items really starts to hit home.

I was looking in particular at ties this year. Some of mine are fine in person but when I'm presenting they can look a bit funereal under lights. And I'd just love to find the answer to a few questions, highlighted by ties but they apply to a lot of items:

1. Are people really crazy enough to pay over £100 for a tie because it has the right label on it? Actually let's just tick "yes" for that and carry on.

2. Is there any sort of standard for tie manufacture? Some of my older ones went flimsy quite quickly and look terrible when knotted. And a tie that looks bad when you knot it is pretty useless. Instead of telling me on a website that a tie is designed by a particular individual, or that it's hand made, wouldn't it be good if someone could tell me whether it's reinforced adequately, how well stitched it is and whether the little loop you tuck the back into is going to fall off after the second time you wear it, like a Van Heusen I bought last year?

3. My favourite bugbear - what exactly do you mean, "designer" goods - whether ties, scarves or otherwise? If you can prove to me that nobody actually designed the other stuff then fine, but I strongly suspect everything's been designed by someone at some point. After that we just get back to point 1.

Personally I'm going to continue getting stuff I think looks good and which matches my outfits, and the hell with the name on the back.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Pimp my iPad

In the run-up to Christmas one of the things I was looking at was presents for blokes. One thing that didn't quite make the shortlist this time around but is worth a mention isiPod/iPad skins. The ones I was sent to look at were from Gadget Glamour.

The idea is pretty simple. You peel the skins off their backing and stick them on your Apple treasures.

I've tried it with an iPhone 4, which now looks considerably greener than it did. If I just used the phone then I'm sure I'd find it useful as well as decorative because I'd be able to spot mine easily if it fell out of my pocket or something, or if there were any chance of it getting mixed up with other identical models.

This isn't all that likely in my case, what with working mostly alone and using a case anyway to get over the dreaded death grip. But coupled with matching wallpaper (supplied by the company) it'll work well enough and could be a fun thing for the gadget-obsessed partner of your dreams for Valentine's Day - and goodness knows we're going to need something cheap this year...

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

I can't tie a bow tie

Flickr> RubyGoes Happy New Year
OK, big confession time - and a New Year's Resolution; I'm going to learn to tie a bow tie. There's a video and a blog entry on the A Suit That fits website (sponsored link to the homepage, the blog is at the bottom and you won't be charged) so I have no excuse.

Possibly more interesting from the psychological point of view and the study of the fragile middle-aged male psyche is that I also have no reason to learn to tie one. The last Black Tie event I attended was the Baftas in 2008, to which I was invited as a freelance journalist and ligger; I bought an off the peg suit, wore a bow tie that fastened at the back and thought I looked perfectly OK. No doubt a gentleman could have told the difference at a glance, as the saying goes, so presumably I'm not a gentleman.

There's been nothing since so why I should think it's remotely important that I acquire this skill I don't know. Nevertheless I've ordered a small tasteful (oh yes it is) dark red example of the breed in the John Lewis sale, should be with me anytime now - and I'll look forward to fiddling with it, just in case.

Mid-life crisis? Work displacement? Does one have to exclude the other..?