What I’ve Learned in 2015, Part One

Some SHB contributors reflect on the past 12 months in life, and in beauty.



Big year for me, 2015. Big year. Got Netflix. Got an iPhone. Nearly downloaded an app. Worked out what #OITNB meant and watched all of Orange Is the New Black. On Netflix. You’d have thought I’d have been content to stop there, but no. Flushed with success, I embarked on the greatest journey of all – colour. On my face. Specifically, red. Specificallyer – red lipstick.

I simply cannot convey to you with only the paltry resource of the written word at my disposal what a momentous thing this was. I do not do red lipstick, any more than I do running, karaoke or bum sex. The difference is, I have always wanted to do red lipstick. And so, after three Valium and several close consultations with the oracle, who picked a shade to suit me – Bobbi Brown’s Burnt Red – and promised me I wouldn’t die, I did it.
I wore it down the high street. Nobody laughed, or pointed. I wore it into town and nobody stopped me in the street and said “That’s not for the likes of you! You’re not hot! Or cool!” before punching me to the ground, which is what – I realised as I strode down Oxford Street with increasing confidence – I had always believed in my heart would happen. I didn’t, in short, die.

On I have gone proudly since. Nars Jungle Red. Chanel Rouge Coco Gabrielle. Boots No 7 Stay Perfect Brick Red. Clinique Poppy Pop. Bourjois Velvet in Hot Pepper. You can’t keep me away from the stuff. I love the way it ups my outfit and my game and pulls me together so simply. I love the unspoken camaraderie amongst other red lippie sporters you pass on the street or see on the train. I love the little reminder it gives me that rules are made to be broken. And that sometimes they’re not even rules. They’re just things people told you were true.
Do you know what my last lipstick purchase was? Bobbi Brown’s Orange. ORANGE. Lauren Oakey made me try it on the counter at Selfridges. It is totally, totally fabulous. And so, in it, am I.




In 2015 it turned out, to my surprise, that I was A Bearded Man.

I’ve worn some manner of beard for a few years now. And I use the verb advisedly, because, natural outcropping though it may be, on my chin a beard has always felt like an adornment, something put on, rather than an integral part of my facial topography. Which is why a few months ago I was seriously thrown by my loved ones’ reaction to me shaving it off. Actually no, not even shaving it, just reducing what was a modest, slightly fuzzy facewarmer back to short stubble.

“Urgh! You look weird.” I was told diplomatically by one of the kids, a beacon of tact. “It’s disgusting”, confirmed his brother, for whom I foresee a long and successful career in The Samaritans or the conciliation service, ACAS. Their mother, meanwhile, looked at me as if I’d strutted into the kitchen in a PVC Sexy Nurse outfit or, I don’t know, a trilby.

I had believed I was a man with a beard, but I was wrong. I had become a Bearded Man. A man for whom the beard had become default, and for whom clean-shaven – which, let me reiterate, I wasn’t even – was now aberrant.

My parents and brothers would think differently. They see me less often and in the familial minds’ eye I remain smooth-chinned. Though 47, as the youngest of my mother’s children she, I think, is still surprised to see me in adult clothes or permitted by law to drive a car. I will to her always be a small boy become a grown man, become a grown man disguising with a beard that he is still a small boy.

But to those with whom I share my daily life, though they’ve seen me clean-shaven, the man I thought I was is now, disconcertingly, a stranger to them. I have transitioned. I am a different man. I am A Bearded Man.




Makeup-wise, I am pretty much the opposite to Coco Chanel (in so many ways), as I’m always more likely to ADD an extra thing before I leave the house, just for the hell of it. I’ll scan my face in a mirror and find space to squeeze another lovely product on it. Even on a Sunday, the makeup day of rest for some, I’ve been known to do a full face even if the most I’ll be doing that day is walking to the Co-Op to buy some bread (wine). But on more occasions this year than any other, I’ve found that I’ve cleansed my face in the morning and then LEFT IT ALONE. A completely bare face wearing only a serum and moisturiser, going about its day, sometimes to the shops. My face has never known the like.

I’ve always loved the look of black lashes, fresh skin and a bright lip, but it’s only ever lasted me till the front door, where, before I even know what’s happened, I’ll whip out a liquid liner and slick on some flicks. But lately, I’ve whacked on a bit on concealer and mascara, then felt my hand go past the thick, black gel pot and instead, grab a soft kajal pencil and go low-key. I know I’ll always continue to love wearing all the makeup, but it’s been nice to discover I’m happy for my face to be outside without it, even if I am still carrying up to four eyeliners and two red lipsticks about my person.

Joining these in my bag this year has been my first Kindle. Our whirlwind romance began last Christmas and still shows no sign of exiting the honeymoon period. It’s more comfortable and satisfying to hold, lights up for reading on a poorly lit bus and I have never known true fear like the moment a can of Diet Coke burst in my bag, knowing it was in there somewhere having a really terrible time. You should all totally get one…Yes, yes, I KNOW. You all already have one.




Six things I’ve learned this year:

1. Not to argue with pricks on Twitter. Mostly they just want attention, poor loves. Besides, you’ll never win because they’re a bit thick and angry. It’s like trying to reason with a racist cab driver with a tiny willy like a button mushroom that’s been left in the salad drawer too long and gone a bit discoloured and wrinkly.

2. Scrubbing your face with an electric brush is surprisingly fun. See my review of the Clinique For Men Sonic System here. Still using it six months later. Feeling Clarisonic, give me gin and tonic (Tanqueray, Schweppes full-fat, wedge of lime, three ice cubes please).

3. Barbers are also fun. This year, I got into the habit of going to posh-ish barbers as an occasional treat – usually a branch of Murdock. Haircut, a beard trim or shave, have a drink as it all gets done, get slapped with some nice products, walk out smelling lovely and feeling a bit more handsome. They don’t ask if you want any “rubbers” or “sheaths” for the weekend any more, either. Although I kinda miss that.

4. Sheds in high winds aren’t relaxing. I work in a shed at the bottom of my garden and several times this year, it got so noisily buffeted, I genuinely feared it would take off. So next time it gets a bit blowy, if you see a bloke flying past in a small wooden outbuilding, please give me wave and call the… who do you call for something like that? Police? Fire brigade? Civil Aviation Authority? Maybe my mum.

5. Chicken Kiev’s a good thing. It’s a bit 70s Berni Inn but I got back into Chicken Kiev in a big way in 2015. I’ve also enjoyed trying different things on the curry menu, not just kneejerk jalfrezi-ordering. Yeah yeah. Pipe down, Jay Rayner. Up yours, Fay Maschler. AA Gill, you’re fired.

6. Hairs grow in weird places. I turned 45 and noticed a sudden upturn in weirdly long, thick hairs suddenly appearing in my ears/nose/eyebrows/anus. OK, not the last one but definitely the others. So I put one of these lads  on my Christmas list. Hope I get it, or I’ll look like a lupine Denis Healy by February.

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