Good old-fashioned male grooming is having a serious moment right now. With facial hair back in fashion, the proliferation of barbershops, hipster haircuts and well-clipped Mad-Men styles, guys everywhere are rediscovering the art of preening. Add to that a booming male skincare and fragrance market and it’s no surprise that men are looking better than ever before.
One gentleman who is thoroughly comfortable with the trend is James Tobin. The TV host spends his days reporting for Sunrise, often caked in a healthy dose of makeup, regularly visits a barber for his stylish cut and maintains a strict training routine to keep himself camera-ready. As host of Seven’s Beauty and the Geek he also witnessed the most extreme of feminine grooming habits at close range and survived to tell the tale. We caught up with the affable James in his family’s Hamptonesque holiday home on New South Wales’ Central Coast, where he escapes on weekends, and learnt all about the finer arts of grooming, from an aficionado.
“I love the clean shaven look, having not had it for years. I love it
For the last few years I haven’t shaved and used a beard clipper to cut it back, but in the last six months I’ve started using a razor. I use the Gillette one. After I shave I use this stuff that they make at Sterling- which is the barber I go to to get my hair cut. It’s basically alcohol with cloves and they make it in the shop. Historically people would use cloves like an anaesthetic to numb the pain. When I get my hair cut they use a razor and shave the back of your neck and then they spray this stuff on. It’s used to close the pores, so now after I shave I spray it on my face, and its got a bit of a sting. It’s an old fashioned thing, it’s got a bit of a smell and stops the shaving rash. It’s my favourite thing at the moment.
I looked at myself in the mirror and thought I looked like my grandfather and I loved it
I did a Weekend Sunrise cross at the 50’s festival up at Rose Sidler’s house a few years ago, and this guy Tony, who has Sterling, did my hair…it was a real fifties haircut. I’d say I go to the barber every 4 to 8 weeks now. My barber specialises in 1920’s to 50’s, clean haircuts. I don’t know if clean is the right word, but neat and tidy. For a fancy night out, I’ll comb my hair and use Nak Silk Provider Pomade because it’s slick and shiny with a matte finish. During the day I use Kevin Murphy Rough Rider when it's still a bit wet, it’s pretty gritty but stays in there. I rub a ten cent piece in my hands and then rub it through. Literally, it takes 20 seconds to do my hair.
If I come home with make up on…
I use Shu Uemura Cleansing Oil. My sister, Julia, who works in Beauty PR gave me that. I don’t cleanse apart from when I’ve got make up on. Julia keeps instilling in me that I should do it, but I don’t. I do use sunscreen. Doing Weekend Sunrise weather in the morning, it’s amazing how burnt you can get between 7 and 10am. It’s just hard to remember to do it when it’s dark. When you’re leaving your house in the dark you don’t think about sunscreen. The Coconut Tree sunscreen is a good one for the face.
I use an Armani moisturiser
Kiehl’s Facial Fuel is awesome and I love that it’s a screw top because I’ve had a number of incidents where squeeze things have opened up in my bag and it sucks. Julia actually works for Elizabeth Arden, she gave me the Eight Hour Cream for my lips to use after bike riding - it’s been helping. The Facial Fewer Eye De-Puffer is a cool idea. I just enjoy using it. I don’t use it every day but if I see it there I just do it.
I go through waves but at the moment I’m just a bit obsessed with cycling
My bike brand is Giant and the make is Propel. It looks a bit like a stealth weapon, it’s very black and matte and looks very fast. I live in the Eastern Beaches so I normally ride in the mornings down to La Perouse and back. I have to wear the full Lycra get up. Cycling is a really social thing because you’re out for ages and you’re just sort of chatting away as you go and you sit down and have a coffee then you go for a bit more of a ride then go for another coffee. Every year I do the Tour de Cure which is a ten day cycling tour that raises money for charities and research. It’s actually a really good way to initiate conversations about men’s health and people’s experiences with cancer. That’s one of the best things about cycling. I actually met some people from Soldier On, which is an organisation that aims to offer support to our service men and women with mental and physical injuries. It’s about getting out on the bike with other people and eventually these conversations just happen, there’s a lot of hours to fill so you end up chatting about lots of different things.
I was standing about to putt and I looked at my legs and I looked up and I thought ‘oh just to explain, the reason I’ve got shaven legs is…
You have two options as a cyclist; one, you look really out of place with the guys that you ride with or two you look entirely out of place with the rest of the population. When I shave I moisturise my legs. Some tips are not to cut yourself because the only thing more embarrassing than walking around with shaven legs is walking around with a massive cut right up the ankle. You look like a 13 year old girl who has shaved for the first time.
You walk away from the series thinking we made a difference to people’s lives and made a good little show
I really love the show [Beauty & the Geek], it doesn’t take itself seriously but it’s also got a really great heart. It’s silly, light-hearted, ridiculous, fun but also has this nice take away message. The Beauties and the Geeks are all such nice people and even though they do ridiculous things, they have fun, have each other’s back and grow through the experience. We try to change the show up every year. This year we went to America and started with American beauties, then we brought in Australian beauties in Vegas and then came back to the mansion in Australia. The creative process begins for the next series trying to think up a new twist.
When it comes to what I think is attractive in a woman…
Natural and paired back is often most appealing. I’ve learnt some stuff from Beauty and the Geek but they’re not beauty tips that I would necessarily want to instil in any of your readers. On the show we try to make the girls look as beautiful as we can but they’ll often walk out of hair and make up and then in private add three more layers of fake tan and bigger lashes! Sometimes, less is more. Minimalistic can be so much more impactful than over the top for women, even though I know sometimes a lot of work goes into looking natural.
Girls think that they don’t look great when they’ve been sweating, but I think it’s quite sexy
I love that work out, gym gear, just-been-exercising look. You want to be dressing for yourself anyway, you just want to be true to yourself. Some people are outdoorsy and beachy and some people like to be a bit more sophisticated. Sometimes you like to do a bit of both, I like to do a bit of both. I’m normally walking around barefoot in shorts and a t-shirt but then I kind of like that occasionally for work I get to dress up in a nice suit. As cliche as it sounds, beauty comes out of someone feeling great about themselves.
I think there’s something nice if you associate a smell with a person
Smell is such an evocative sense that we have. There’s one perfume that will forever remind me of my year 10 business studies teacher, then another perfume that will only remind me of my mate’s mum when I was in primary school. There are some perfumes that just hit a certain spot. I like the John Varvatos perfumes, I like finding ones that aren’t being worn by everyone.
I’ve never said ‘oh let’s go shopping’, but that's not to say I don’t like really nice clothes
I really like Australian designers. My first ever bespoke suit was by Brent Wilson when I was the best man for a mate. He just makes brilliant suits that last such a long time - the difference between a tailored suit and an off-the-rack suit is just chalk and cheese. I also like M.J. Bale and then overseas I really like Burberry. I go down to The Academy Brand on Gould Street in Bondi for basic casual stuff, they are fantastic and I go to Calibre for slightly more dressed up clothing. I’m not a big retail enthusiast, I think The Iconic is awesome, but I don’t do a lot of online shopping. I go shopping with a stylist from work a few times a year and we just do a big mass shop - hit it hard. I’ve got friends who love to get the very newest fashion and the latest gadgets, but I’m pretty casual with that stuff."
Story by Sigourney; Compiled by Nicola Donovan; Photography by Daniel Gurton