Babes, Beer, Gadgets, Hair Color

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As everyone knows, there are only so many glossy heavily stylized suspiciously homoerotic magazine photos and billboards and MTV videos featuring chick-magnet male models and ‘NSync pretty boys that a Gen-Y frat boy stud-wannabe can take before his remaining synapses short circuit and he just caves in and, like, frosts his hair. You know?
   And besides, what righteous totally hetero hella Linkin Park dude wouldn’t love to see a hot, partially lobotomized chick climb across café tables just to lick his cute, chemically blasted tresses like a hairy ice-cream cone?
   What dude wouldn’t like to see said chick slither around her desk in her power skirt all salivating and sultry because his hair is just such a bitchin’ shade of imitation chemical magenta?
   Because this is apparently exactly what happens. This is how it unfolds in the ad campaign and the website and billboards and magazine spreads and in the covert cultural bitchslap that is the late-night TV commercial.
   And this is exactly how it will unfold in your very own slightly beer-numbed fantasy life if you are just this type of guy, and if you’ll just succumb and fork over $10.99 for a bottle of Maxim Haircolor for Men.
   Oh yes. Say it like you mean it. Maxim. Hair color. For Men.
   Maxim — as in the thick glossy winkingly sexist wildly successful men’s magazine, as in the beer ‘n’ sports ‘n’ cars ‘n’ dumb airbrushed chicks-you-will-never-ever-attain publication no one you know actually admits to reading — recently launched its first major spin-off male grooming product. Because it’s just that kind of a world.
   Maxim for Men is over-the-counter hair color in a bottle, the very same insanely popular scalp-boiling Agent Orange byproduct normally sold to untold billions of women for twelve bucks a pop at the twenty-four-hour Wal-Mart at two a.m.


Usually this occurs after you and your girlfriend had a whole lot of cheap tequila and your girlfriend decides she’s sick of being a dishwater blonde and has always wanted to try life as a neon Goth redhead porn star — or maybe just, you know, an ash blonde.
   This is, in short, the multibillion-dollar fashionista hair-dye world finally made accessible, righteous and palatable to the grunting loose-jawed frequently homophobic Tomb Raider set.
   Because well do Maxim executives know the plight of the young desperately horny slightly undereducated all-American media-saturated punch-drunk male.
   Well do those executives know the sad social conundrum faced by millions of slouchy ball-scratching high-fivin’ boy-men who play Xbox until their eyeballs blister, then guzzle Red Bull like water and masturbate far too frequently to really bad porn.
   It is this: How can you be remotely stylish and hence attract sex-starved babes — who might sleep with you if you get them really, really drunk — without appearing, you know, too stylish?
   How can you assume the sexy, chest-waxin’ accoutrements of the glossy slightly androgynous male model, without actually losing any cred with the beer-bong homies or getting in decent physical shape or going outside or being forced to buy one of those bewildering chick beauty products?
   Maxim is all over your baffled selves, boys. Maxim has the answer. And it is a beautiful slice of sinisterly clever inverse marketing, really.
   It goes like this: Suck out a nice hunk of every macho guy’s secret homoerotic desire to be one of those shaven-chested model types, stamp it with the Maxim-approved seal of authentic, unassailable, winking manhood and sell it back to them as totally guy-approved hetero fashion sense.
   It is wicked dumb genius. It is the equivalent of the NFL endorsing a line of spiffy fingernail polishes in team colors. Or Budweiser introducing a cute oversized purse so you can secretly lug that six-pack to the megaplex.
   Be just like a girl without actually feeling the slightest bit threatened! Get in touch with your creative side, while you actually don’t!
   Be like millions of attuned, self-assured male musicians and artists and wry individuals who’ve been dyeing their hair funky colors for decades and getting laid like crazy sans any need for the tacit approval of a quasi-macho magazine!
   This is, apparently, Maxim‘s message. Unless it’s not. No one is exactly sure. It’s just that kind of product.
   After all, you don’t see Cigar Aficionado marketing a nice men’s eye cream. Or Car & Driver hawking its sandalwood all-over body spray. Or Guns & Ammo selling a bitchin’ camouflage thong/massage oil ensemble for $19.95 with any Glock .357 proof-of-purchase. But then again, maybe you should.
   Maybe Maxim hair dye is a step in the right direction. Maybe it’s a rare opportunity for these fashion-impaired boy-men to pay a little more attention to style and personality. Maybe it will instill awareness that two showers a month is just too darned few. Maybe it will encourage these men to dabble in the realm of the modish and the sly, to dunk their heads in vats of Maxim hair color’s various shades — “Red Rum” or “Sandstorm” or “Blackjack” — and feel mildly, vacuously chic, without actually risking anything. Oh wait.
   Okay, maybe it’s not that at all. Maybe MHCFM is just another product from one of those presumptuous niche companies that are trying to transform themselves into irritating “lifestyle” brands via completely unrelated products they know nothing about. You know, like Starbucks.
   Maybe Maxim hair color is just the first cute and exasperating and completely unnecessary salvo, a smirking danger sign, a toxic hint of what’s to come. Just imagine:
   Maxim-branded hair plugs. Maxim tooth bleach. Maxim penis pumps, condoms, assless leather chaps, nipple clips, butt plugs. Maxim motor oil. Maxim lavender scented aromatherapy candles and matching potpourri. Maxim action figures (Dude! I got the Travis!), Maxim Lobotomy-in-a-Can. Maxim Masturbation-in-a-Sock. Maxim Pop Tarts-in-an-Enema.
   Verily, where will it end?
   Are we reaching saturation, the critical mass of brand penetration? Or are we doomed to suffer the slings and arrows of tacky companies stamping their logos on anything remotely salable, from Microsoft vibrators to Elle tampons to Toyota personal lubricant?
   Of course we are. Now pass me the Sports Illustrated eyebrow wax, dude.  

©2002 Nerve.com, Inc. and Mark Morford


Mark Morford writes for sfgate.com, the website for the San Francisco Chronicle. He was recently named Best Online Columnist for 2003 by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. He is also a yoga teacher and fiction writer and an outstanding parallel parker and fervent wine devotee and former L.A. rock-god wannabe and paradoxical contrarian and tattooed love-monkey and ardent dog lover and sincere Astroglide advocate.