Affluent Millennial Men: The Grooming Paradox

It’s a marketing truism that millennials bear little resemblance to older generations. Their beliefs, behaviors and attitudes are challenging expectations and stereotypes.

In no other category is this dynamic more evident than in the world of grooming.

Grooming has long been the domain of women. As social mores continue to shift, affluent (note: household income $125,000+) millennial men are making inroads into this formerly forbidden territory in ways their fathers couldn’t have imagined.

These men are now as likely as women their age to say their external appearance is extremely/very important to them.

However, this transition still faces significant hurdles. These affluent millennials clearly see the value in grooming and are willing to devote time to it. But old-fashioned attitudes regarding masculinity may prevent them from sharing information and inspiration with their peers. This has created a tension that brands and retailers could help to resolve.

While many older men continue to pride themselves on the speediness of their morning rituals, affluent millennial males are different. In fact, they’re less likely to say they “spend as little time as possible on the way I look” than any other demographic (only 27%, versus 43% of affluent millennial women and 41% of affluent Gen-X men).  

A majority (52%) of affluent millennial men report spending a “great deal” or “fair amount” of time getting ready in the morning. But they’re less likely than women under 35 to say the time they spend on their outward appearance is time well-spent (just 13% vs. 26% of affluent millennial women).

This data suggests a tension: Affluent Millennial men want to look their best but don’t feel great about the effort or the results.

Another source of tension is the weekday grooming routine. While attitudes regarding male grooming have shifted dramatically over the past decade, young men still don’t possess the freedom they want – 70% report workplace rules (either written or unwritten) about grooming. And 58% of these millennial men say their grooming choices would be different if workplace rules did not exist (vs. 22% of Total Affluents).

When making grooming choices, affluent young men turn to far more sources of inspiration than men of other generations. Yet they still lag far behind affluent millennial women, who seek inspiration almost everywhere.

Stores are the most commonly cited source of inspiration for these men (41%), followed by friends (25%). However, they certainly do not discuss this topic with friends. While a large percentage (31%) report seeking grooming advice from their significant others, 0% of these affluent millennial men say they seek it from friends (compared to 22% of their female cohorts). Thus, more dissonance: Young men want to be well-groomed and they’re actively seeking inspiration. But their attitudes and behavior haven’t evolved at the same pace as their needs and desires.

Perhaps even more perplexing is the fact that while affluent millennial men spend significant amounts of money on fashion, they report spending less money on grooming than any other demographic aside from 50+ men. They take more time getting ready in the morning than women their age—yet 65% of men under 35 say they spend less than $50 a month on grooming products.

Affluent millennial men also enjoy the shopping experience much less. Just a quarter say they enjoy shopping for grooming products (compared to 32% of millennial women).

Shopping online is more polarizing: 21% say they don’t enjoy Internet shopping at all, while only 6% say the same of shopping in stores. And 87% of affluent millennial men spend less than an hour a week looking for grooming products.

These guys are most likely to buy their grooming products on Amazon (44%), at big box stores (42%) or in department stores (28%), though less likely than their female counterparts to shop at drugstores (18% vs 31%). They are also open to subscription services, with 23% of them saying they’ve tried a subscription service for fashion or grooming—a higher percentage than any other demographic aside from affluent Gen-X women.

Affluent millennial men represent a rich opportunity—and a fascinating challenge—for grooming brands. These men place great importance on their outward appearance, yet they don’t feel comfortable seeking advice from other men. Instead, they’re more likely to turn to their significant others—or visit stores to get ideas.

Education and inspiration would likely be welcome—if presented in a way that doesn’t feel too feminine. The shopping experience also offers room for a great deal of improvement. Affluent young men don’t hate to shop and they’re willing to spend money on their personal appearance. Yet shopping for grooming products has yet to capture much of their time or their dollars.

This article originally appeared in the August 15 edition of Media Post.