Masculine aesthetic

Search “morning routine” or “what I eat in a day” on YouTube and you will be met with a seemingly endless sea of faces – predominantly influencer starlets dressed in athleisure wear doing pilates and eating avocado toast.

Routine-based content has been around since the early days of YouTube when vlogs ushered in a burgeoning era of intimacy on the internet. Whilst Facebook, Flickr and other photo-sharing apps provided a 2D platform, YouTube was 3D — suddenly photos weren’t enough, we wanted (and could have) insight into everything our favourite creators wore, ate, used and did in a day. Centred around wellness and self-care, the content has typically been categorised as feminine and the genre has long been dominated by female creators.

But things are changing. You can now get a deeper look into the daily habits of aspirational men, and TikTok is at the fore. Creators such as @matthew.campos, @trellthetrainer and @mackenziewc, are carving out their own space with routine-based videos. Men make up just over half of the total users on Instagram and 43% of TikTok, and yet, on the latter, #menskincare has over 200 million views and #menslifestyle has over 100 million (in comparison, there are just 300,000 posts under #mensskincare on Instagram and 555,000 under #menslifestyle), making TikTok the unlikely home for men’s self-care content.

One creator disrupting the genre is Matthew Campos (436,700 followers on TikTok). The 25-year-old posts short, almost-ASMR daily vlogs showing him cooking, cleaning, doing skincare, making the occasional cocktail and winding down in the evenings. Matthew thinks much of his account’s success on TikTok is down to how “raw” the app feels in comparison to Instagram’s performativity, but also to changing attitudes towards masculinity in Gen-Z men. “If I was to show a Boomer one of my videos they might think it was a little feminine,” says Matthew, “but I feel like the reaction from my generation is that it is super cool to take care of yourself.”

A broader redefining of self-care as masculine is feeding into this, too. Biz Sherbert, Culture Editor at The Digital Fairy, notes that over the last few years, there has been a shift away from the dominance of Glossier pink skincare lines towards Gen-Z favourites CeraVe and The Ordinary, which use intentionally non-gendered branding. As a result, there are more opportunities for male lifestyle influencers to collaborate with brands and begin to occupy some of the online spaces that have, until now, been mainly inhabited by women creating content for other women.

Videos created by Matthew and other similar content creators, such as 32-year-old ex-Love Islander Marvin Brooks (213,000 TikTok followers), go beyond skincare and involve healthy eating, cooking and working out, as well as cleaning and tidying. The appeal of this kind of content is in how it dances the line between achievable (everyone can get up and make their bed in the morning) and aspirational (both Matthew and Marvin are good-looking, seem well-off and live in airy, minimalist apartments).

TikTok’s popularity with younger generations who are more likely to be more open and accepting when it comes to what is considered masculine makes it the perfect platform for male wellness content, but it can also sometimes feel like an extension of the app’s famous “clean girl look”, which refers to an aspirational aesthetic epitomised by being polished, put-together and productive: Three adjectives that also come to mind when engaging with many of the accounts under the men’s lifestyle hashtag. The Clean Guy Aesthetic might have nothing to do with makeup, but the tidy home, clear skin and healthy lifestyle principles still apply.

Sherbert, however, has an interesting alternative take on the trend. She suggests the popularity and resonance of this type of content might be a reaction to the prevalence of memes dedicated to how poorly some single men take care of themselves and their surroundings. “Content like this almost feels like hopeful proof that not all men have crusty navy sheets and a single bar of soap in the shower,” she says.

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