If you’re under the age of 30, you’ve probably heard of Zoe Sugg, aka Zoella, Michelle Phan and Tanya Burr. Each of them gained fame — and a fair fortune — from doling out beauty tips to women on YouTube. But you might not have heard of Aaron Marino, Joseph Andrews or Emil and Rasmus Albrechtsen. Nowadays, one in every 10 viewers of beauty videos on YouTube are men, according to the video marketing platform Pixability. Guys are watching grooming how-tos in rapidly growing numbers, and a select few are getting rich as a result.
“The videos came by accident,” says Aaron Marino, 39, a former gym owner in Atlanta, Georgia. He seems a natural, but that’s because he has spent the best part of a decade talking to camera and uploading the videos online. His wife gave him a video camera in 2008. “It was a logical progression to turn it on, start talking and post some videos up on YouTube,” he says. “That changed everything.”
Posting under the username AlphaM, Marino regularly gets tens of thousands of views — one on how to eliminate butt acne was watched by 30,000 people in the first 48 hours. He has branched out into style consulting and has his own line of hair products. His success is at least partially due to the fact that he has been around longer than most men’s grooming vloggers, but he’s also aware that attitudes have changed. “Back in 2008, people were using the term metrosexual as if it were a bad thing,” he says. The 2015 man has embraced primping and grooming, and isn’t ashamed to turn to YouTube for advice. “Guys are interested in figuring things out for themselves,” Marino says, “but getting advice from someone who is comfortable talking about it helps.”
“Back in 2008, people were using the term metrosexual as if it were a bad thing”Men have had questions about back hair, odours and how to tame wild eyebrows for almost as long as they’ve been trying to attract partners. What has changed is the easy access to the answers. “You can get advice you wouldn’t feel comfortable asking friends, family or co-workers about.”
That’s something the biggest YouTubers in the men’s grooming world agree with. Although only 26, Emil Albrechtsen and his identical twin, Rasmus, are two of the most recognisable faces on the web. Where Marino’s focus is broad, theirs is narrow and intensely focused: all of their videos are about men’s hairstyles, the subject matter of 92% of all male-focused grooming videos uploaded on YouTube. Nine of the twins’ 10 most-watched videos show how to re-create famous footballers’ mops, six of them are about Cristiano Ronaldo’s gelled do. The most popular has nearly 7m views.
Emil says their success — since the first episode, they have had 150m views of their videos, branded Slikhaar TV, and are closing in on 1m subscribers — is due to the fact that “men often don’t want to talk with other men about styling and grooming tips”. Put a screen, keyboard and camera in between them, though, and they’re comfortable.
When the Albrechtsen brothers uploaded their first video in 2009, they had a simple goal: to give advice about the hair products and styles they liked. Now the telegenic Danish brothers have their own line of hair products (an unskippable step for vloggers targeting fame and fortune), which are sold in more than 120 countries, and a hair salon, Slikhaar Studio, in their native Aarhus. The brothers are coy about how much they earn, only saying their company turns over seven figures annually, and they earn “more than the average Danish doctor”. Fans from Britain, Australia and beyond have visited the salon to have their hair cut, though in the future, committed viewers looking for a fancy short back and sides won’t have to travel that far: the entrepreneurial Albrechtsens are planning to franchise the idea globally.
Robin James: ‘I’m obsessed with James Dean’s style’Every day, more than 1,000 emails hit Marino’s inbox from all over the world: 94% of his viewers are male, and 85% of those are aged between 18 and 55. “It’s not just young men. It’s guys who are single again, men who are divorced. Their wife didn’t care if they had back hair, but now they’re dating again, they’re asking, ‘What do I do?’”
There is one common theme in many of the questions Marino deals with, regardless of where the emails come from or the age of the sender: hair loss. “Guys are horrified by it,” he says. The YouTuber once followed a viewer as he was fitted for a toupee. He has also tried nose-hair waxing, where a small Brazilian woman yanked wax sticks out of his nostrils, an experience he likens to getting punched in the face.
The pain was temporary, but the cash and lifestyle are permanent. In the hours before speaking with Marino at 1pm local time, he had been to the gym and filmed two videos, which take an average of two and a half hours to plan, shoot and edit. He releases five videos a week on YouTube and through his website, with an average of 10 advertisers a day approaching him asking him to highlight their product (43% of his viewers click through to links he peppers throughout his videos), though he’s careful about which ones he chooses. “They used to say content is king,” he says, “but that’s not true: it’s credibility.”
According to Pixability, there are more than 3,000 YouTube channels dedicated to the male pursuit of beauty. Popular UK Youtubers include Tanya Burr’s boyfriend, Jim Chapman, Robin James, who vlogs under the name The Utter Gutter, and Thom Watson, whose username is Manface.
Many YouTubers fizzle out, producing a few videos and then fading into obscurity. But in among that group, there could be serious competition for the established players. For that reason, they need to keep on their toes — and fight the fear all men have: ageing into irrelevance.
The five best dudetubers
Rasmus and Emil Albrechtsen, 26, aka Slikhaar TV
Most-watched video How to style your hair like Cristiano Ronaldo (6.8m views)
See it youtube.com/user/mhrrasmus
Aaron Marino, 39
Most-watched video How to choose the best hairstyle for your face shape (2.4m views)
See it youtube.com/user/AlphaMconsulting
Jim Chapman, 27
Most-watched video Getting his armpit waxed by his girlfriend’s brother (2.6m views)
See it youtube.com/user/j1mmyb0bba
Joseph Andrews, 21
Most-watched video Getting his hair styled into a disconnected undercut (4.9m views)
See it youtube.com/user/joeisblu
Luca Fersko, 17
Most-watched video The best men’s hairstyles: summer 2015 edition (500K views)
See it youtube.com/user/lucafersko