'The Next Big Thing?' is a series of blogs that will focus on small businesses and start-up brands in the UK. Whether they are quirky, practical, pioneering or downright bizarre, this blog will shine the spotlight on what could be the next big thing...
Male grooming no longer has the stigma about it that it once had. The services and products that relate to the male grooming industry continue to grow and the trend looks far from abating. But what's around the corner that can satisfy men's yearning to look good? Well, Sharp and Dapper reckon they have the next big thing...
But before unveiling their fashion accessory, let's take a quick look at the facts. A report by Global Industry Analysts recently revealed that global sales of men's grooming products will be about $33.2 billion by 2015. A spokesperson from the group said that this boom is being driven by "the rapid rise of the metrosexual male, innovative appealing products, a growing middle class population, increased internet connectivity, and universality of prestige across the world."
The now commonly recognised description of 'the metrosexual male' was a term that originated in an article by journalist Mark Simpson, published in The Independent in 1994. Simpson wrote: "Metrosexual man, the single young man with a high disposable income, living or working in the city (because that's where all the best shops are), is perhaps the most promising consumer market of the decade. In the Eighties he was only to be found inside fashion magazines such as GQ, in television advertisements for Levi's jeans or in gay bars. In the Nineties, he's everywhere and he's going shopping."
With this article, Simpson was highlighting that the taboo around men caring about how they looked was changing. These days, being a well-dressed man is universally acknowledged as being a good thing; confidence, sex appeal and respect are all by-products. Indeed, the essence of what a well-dressed man looks like has branched out in many different directions since the 1990s.
One such direction is the resurgence of looking 'dapper'. Dapperness has infiltrated popular culture as we know it. Just look at mega-hit American TV series Mad Men, set in various advertising agencies in the 1960s. Its main character, Don Draper, has become the pin-up boy for the modern day dapper man, with his pocket squares and felt fedoras. There are entire blogs dedicated to giving advice on how to 'dress like the Mad Men', with devout followers now secretly wanting to smoke and drink whisky in their office cubicles before lunch.
And the dapper man continues to spread. Russell Manley, founder of vintage-style hair salons Tommy Guns NY, has witnessed their rise on both sides of the Atlantic: "Whether in New York or London, the dapper man is ever-prevalent. These guys know what they want, including the type of grooming products that they use to compliment their look. Its high-end brands like Baxter of California that now prove popular, and the classic short back and sides is definitely a favoured cut. We've even launched a traditional hot towel shave, which caters to this audience."
But let's be clear. Dapper gentlemen aren't a new fad. The famous Broadway start Fred Astaire was the epitome of dapper. Whether in a casual sports jacket or white tie and tails, Astaire has become a male fashion icon for the dapper gentleman of today - it was he who first started the idiosyncratic use of an old tie in place of a belt, for example.
Enter Sharp and Dapper, on a mission to ensure that every gentleman looks his best. Their primary product - The Shirt Companion - prevents your shirt from riding up out of your trousers; a simple solution for your shirt becoming untucked and flapping about; just attach four individual braces between your shirt and your socks, and the dapper style takes on a whole new edge. Lots of people might not know that this male fashion accessory exists, but The Shirt Companion actually finds its roots in the early 1900s, adding to its dapper heritage.
Co-founder Durham Atkinson talks about where the idea came from to bring this forgotten accessory back: "I was working as a bartender with my business partner Johan Ekelund and both of us were repeatedly falling victim to ballooning shirts, especially with our busy, active jobs. We tried out a similar product that is already in use by the U.S. army, but it just wasn't as practical as we would have liked. So we decided to improve on it, and fix the problem once and for all. Our product is handmade in Notting Hill and is the first of a range of similar products that we are set to launch under the Sharp and Dapper brand, including braces, clip on buttons and socks - soon there will be no excuse to not looking good."
Start-ups and small businesses should continue to find products like this, which are tailor-made for this growing audience. The dapper man usually has a disposable income, an eye for quality and will be perpetually on the hunt for ways in which they can achieve their desired look. Now where's my fedora?
Alex Perry works at consumer PR and brand marketing agency be more...