Great Grooming Elegant Toiletries Give Dad a Dash of Style

Article excerpt

MEN ARE vain.

They know it. We know it. Why not act on it for Father's Day?

There are any number of men's grooming items - old and new - on the market. New ones pack the fragrance counters of department stores almost as overwhelmingly as women's products do.

Or they fill up shelves of drug and fine-toiletries shops.

Or they decorate displays in men's clothing boutiques.

Some of the old items abound in antique stores, where brass dressing-table trays, cologne flasks and aged leather accessories crowd out the cut glass and vintage prints framed in wood that are older than Dad himself.

Men are unashamedly interested in their looks these days, says Frank Uible, owner of F. Rutledge Haberdashers in Clayton.

"We're in a time, cyclically, where society is more permissive to men taking care of themselves," Uible says.

He comes at this theory from a couple of perspectives.

"One is the health boom," Uible says. "Guys are taking better care of themselves."

That and the new products go hand in hand.

Also, Uible adds, "Men feel like they need it for the competitive edge in the office."

To these ends, Uible recently brought into his clothing store a line of British men's shampoo, soap, bath foam and cologne called Molton Brown. He saw it in England a year ago, then at Barneys New York.

"I've got this stuff right in the front of my store," Uible says, of the simply styled bottles and paper containers. If he'd been selling these five years ago, he adds, "it would've scared the heck out of most of my customers. At that time, those kind of grooming products weren't perceived as masculine."

All that certainly has changed.

Besides the wealth of men's fragrances and related products in department stores and in toiletries chains such as The Body Shop and H2O, The Gap and Banana Republic have new offerings of soap, shampoo, conditioner and lotion in so-called unisex scents. Prices at The Gap's Galleria store, for instance, ranged from $2.50 to $7.50, according to a salesperson. A recent call to the Banana Republic store there turned up no such scented items yet in St. Louis.

"Where the growth is in men's grooming is no longer just fragrance but in the total spectrum of men's products - in skin care and body systems, so to speak," says Tom Julian, a New York-based menswear consultant.

He cites Polo Sport by Ralph Lauren as one of the more successful lines, offering shave creams and gels, toners, moisturizers and alpha hydroxy acids - well-known by women as a fruit-and-lactic-acid combination for exfoliating and moisturizing skin - in its "face fitness" sunscreens. …