More males are plucking, waxing and threading to perfection as the grooming phenomenon remains undented by the global financial crisis.
When David Beckham started wearing rosary beads, British clothing chain Top Man put them on their shelves. French football player Thierry Henry pulled his socks up over his knees and within weeks, Sunday soccer competitions in the UK were awash with woollen suspender-wearers. Cesc Fabregas, Fernando Torres and Joe Hart decide to have their eyebrows shaped and suddenly British men are plucking, waxing and threading like centrefolds. Wayne Rooney shaved his head and... best to leave it there.
The eyebrows, however, are something of a phenomenon. These delicate circumflexes or great wiry banks of hair, destined to keep the rain and sweat from our eyes, have always, according to style guru Stephen Bayley, been "curiously eloquent of status". "In determining sexual vitality (or even genetic faults) eyebrows are specially important. Just as Darwinists struggle to understand pubic hair, so the eyebrow is an evolutionary mystery, at once meaningless, yet profound. None signifies a profane vanity. Too much a beery, bacterial backwardness."
A decade ago, women would have secretly "corrected" their partner's unibrows alongside a sprinkling of other imperfections but, rather like naked Sundays, this was never alluded to outside domestic confines. Now, thanks to the metrosexual tendencies of footballers - the fake tans, facials and manscaping (cleaning up of superfluous body fur) - male eyebrows are taking off and being taken off.
Beckham was something of a narcissism pioneer in the world of football, admitting seven years ago that he enjoyed massages and facials and would regularly get his eyebrows plucked. Since then, plenty in both the sporting and real worlds have followed suit. David Ginola tossed his long, glossy hair for L'Oreal, rugby player Gavin Henson confessed to a faiblesse for fake tan, Gary Lineker was accused of wearing foundation and Ashley Cole is said to enjoy "spa days".
Now the male grooming phenomenon is such that it was one of the only industries to remain undented by the recession (the sector has grown by 800 per cent over the past seven years and is expected to expand further by 2014).
"For the past five or six years," says a spokesman for male beauty parlour Gentleman's Tonic, "ever since David Beckham, Jonny Wilkinson and Ashley Cole started to flaunt their meterosexuality, and more recently because of Mad Men, in which the men are so beautifully groomed, we have seen an increase in all our services, waxing and eyebrows included."
Last month, the Ritz Salon incorporated eyebrow-shaping into its male treatment menus, while even the most traditional barbers, like Truefitt & Hill, have begun to offer manicures, pedicures and waxing to complement that quick trim. Bayley says his own barber, Mr Schumi of Chelsea, "cuts my hair with electric sheep shears and does a low pass over my eyebrows. Not quite Brazilian, but not entirely grizzly. Middlebrow, in fact."
While eyebrow-trimming, is a relatively dignified solution for the older man, more aggressive and longer lasting hair-removal methods like waxing and threading are far more popular, says eyebrow specialist Vaishaly Patel, who charges £70 ($121) for a "man shape".
"There has been a definite increase in men having their eyebrows threaded in my clinic. The key thing to do is never to make them look too done, but having them threaded really opens up their eyes, making men look fresher and not so tired." Although Patel is consistently asked "not to make it look obvious" by her male clients, writer and style commentator Nicholas Foulkes says that the time for embarrassment has long since passed.
"That the monobrow and Denis Healey manner of occular coiffure are no longer acceptable is not in doubt: threading and plucking of male eyebrows are just aspects of a male grooming boom that knows no boundaries."
What next? The total banishment of body hair? Don't scoff too soon, says Bayley. "Significantly, a recent trend in heterosexual pornography has been the total eradication of body hair. Footballers and athletes are now following the same curve: depilation of any hirsute area makes a crude, but effective, connection with ideas of perfection."
The Daily Telegraph