DENTON (UNT), Texas -- Women have long been portrayed in popular culture as being more concerned about their appearance than men, but research from the University of North Texas indicates that men become committed to brands of grooming products based on how satisfied they are with specific parts of their bodies and how invested they are in their appearance. The research also shows that gay men are more likely than heterosexual men to be dissatisfied with various parts of their bodies.
Jessica Strubel, assistant professor in UNT's Department of Merchandising and Digital Retailing, and Trent Petrie, professor in the Department of Psychology, surveyed 737 men through an online questionnaire about their satisfaction with their bodies, legs and faces; how important their personal appearance is to them and their commitment to grooming and appearance-enhancing products. The professors also measured the men's sexuality through the Kinsey scale.
The research results, which Strubel will present through a poster at the American Psychological Association annual conference Aug. 6 in Toronto, showed that the men's sexuality -- in particular, the men reporting a strong identification with being gay -- was related to more dissatisfaction with their legs, bodies and faces, and behaviors associated with being well groomed. However, sexuality did not determine how committed the men were to grooming products. Instead, the more the men were satisfied with their facial features and were invested in their appearance, the more likely they were to be committed to a specific brand of grooming products.
During the past three years, grooming products specifically developed for and marketed to men, such as facial cleaners, lotions and body wash, have increased globally by more than 70 percent, according to the market research firm Mintel, which predicts sales will grow from $4.1 billion in 2014 to $4.6 billion in 2009.
"The images men have of themselves is a powerful motivator of purchase behavior because what men buy frequently acts as an extension of the self," Strubel says, noting that men invest in their appearance because of social pressures to look vibrant and youthful.
"Even younger men, such as Millennials, are invested in their looks, and this investment may influence the types of grooming products they purchase," she says, adding that products specifically marketed for men offer optimism to those who are "negotiating the disparity between their perceived and ideal selves through the consumption of appearance-modifying products, such as supplements, dieting aids, clothing and even plastic surgery."
Strubel now plans to analyze product purchase intention of only the gay men in the survey, who face a different set of pressures about personal image than heterosexual men.
"Gay men are similar to heterosexual women -- they use their appearances to attract men. But the gay community prefers certain aesthetics and standards of physical attractiveness. Other research has shown that gay men are more likely than heterosexual men to use steroids and have cosmetic surgery," she says.