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A Room of His Own

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Look after your bathroom like you look after your skin.

The darkened grout between your shower tiles is the backdrop to your grooming regimen, along with moldy shower curtains and dusty sink ledges. A splattered mirror compromises how you see yourself, literally. An unflattering overhead light casts shadows under your eyes, and bathes you in interrogation-style brightness. 

We groom ourselves to present ourselves. How we feel is what we show. If you’re unsatisfied with sudden wrinkles or acne, then there’s a retinol for that. If your new mantra is carefree, might I recommend a texturizing spray and a year-long hair-growth spurt? Whether you realize it or not, what you present to the world, aesthetically, is a reflection of your grooming regimen—or lack thereof. And whether or not anyone else ever sees the aesthetics of your bathroom, that is where you groom yourself. As such, that space is something you also need to groom. You might spend an hour in there, trimming your beard or shaving your face, manicuring your body hair, plucking errant eyebrows, or even simply bathing. If we travel and our hotel bathroom is the least bit rejuvenating, we feel that and perhaps even complain about it, because that hotel is supposed to be relaxing. And yet, many of us let go of these standards when given the chance to curate our own restorative space.

Beyond the shower curtains, mirror, and shower grout, consider the brands that you let into this space. In grooming, one of the core values is function. It’s the barrier to entry for most consumers. If the product doesn’t work, you toss it. Price might be another barrier. But for many, those are the only two filters. Little is thought of the product’s aesthetics, its ingredient quality, or the brand’s own ethos. And that curation is the step that elevates any man’s grooming space: Are these brands also a reflection of how he feels about himself? And of the person he projects outside of this mirror? 

Think of your bathroom sink or medicine cabinet in this way: Is the product there because it’s a brand name you have recognized since forever? Is it mass-made? If so, are its ingredients safe, given that there were likely corners cut to produce millions of products? Again, the product probably works, hence its global popularity, but does buying it give you any sense of self, any authority of consumer choice? Lastly, might there be a product or brand that, despite costing twice as much, produces a product that won’t stay fresh for five years unopened, because its ingredients are more natural, safer for your skin and hair? If it’s a device—a razor, or a hair trimmer, or even tweezers—is it of the quality where you won’t let it rust, or collect bacteria? If you’re perfectly indifferent to throwing it away and replacing it, then why did you invite it into your space in the first place? Now you’ll purchase a second sub-par product, totaling the cost of the high-quality one, had you invested in the first place, and taken proper care. 

On top of all these things, will purchasing any of these products and devices potentially keep the lights on for a small business owner or an ethics-centered brand? Is there a pulse inside that product? It’s a lot to consider, given the often autopilot rhythm with which we approach our grooming regimen each morning and night. But it does create a deeper bond to your regimen if you, as a consumer, have edited the assortment and found brands or products that you can proudly display, and whose story you can tell.

On the topic of proud display, let’s not undervalue brand aesthetics themselves. If you cannot choose what your bathroom looks like—assuming we aren’t all homeowners and renovators—then the things you have control over in your grooming space are the floor mats, shower curtain, towels, lighting, and grooming products. What if, in researching brands and products that check all the boxes above, you also added one other barrier to entry: Does it look good? It’s the fourth and shortest wall, because function, price, and quality should all precede the superficiality of the brand’s product design. But by keeping this fourth barrier in place, you sit in the center of these four rings, considering only those products that pass every test. 

Suddenly, your bathroom isn’t simply the place you do your grooming regimen, but the place you reboot yourself—on par with your bedroom. How you walk out of the bathroom each morning is a sharp 180 from how you walked in. And whether that’s a five-minute turnaround or an hourlong one, is entirely up to you. But these small things, these edits we are able to make in our grooming space, become the foundation of how much we value and connect with our own regimen. It builds awareness and intention, not only as consumers but as self carers. It’s all in line with Bobby Berk’s own mantra for creating order at home and boosting self-esteem: start small. This is one space where that is both easy and necessary.

Do so, and your intent is reflected into the world. Others will notice, and it will go far beyond your hairstyle (or sleek, polished dome), a pair of rested eyes, and a clear complexion. It’s a radiance, far brighter than that overhead light you swapped out for softer, flattering bulbs. For god’s sake, swap out the bright bulbs.