Some sample headlines: "Strip Away The Fat Â– See The Results In Nine Days;" "Ten Most Common Summer Clothing Mistakes;" "A Better Body Â– 25 Fast Tips." Sounds like the cover of Cosmo, but these are all headlines from men's magazines, and men take them seriously.
"That's what got me on the bandwagon," says one man working out at the gym. "Trying to look and think more about my appearance than I used to. You see more magazines, and they have the really nice looking guys on the cover and it gives a goal, something to work towards."
Could society's new gender roles be forcing more men to the mirror?
"I think men are under more pressure to be physically attractive, largely because women are becoming more and more economically powerful," says Rutgers University anthropologist Helen Fisher. "So women don't need to take the first offer that comes along."
Millions of women buy magazines offering advice on all aspects of their lives: fitness, sex, relationships. Now, men's magazines are finding success with the same formula. Men, it seems, are eager for the information.
"Guys don't really talk about intimate sex that much," says one man, besides just, you know, some macho stuff."
Concurs Men's Health editor Michael Lafavore, "Men still don't ask each other for advice. They're not going to say, 'Gee your hair looks great, who cuts it?' Or, 'What mousse do you use?' It doesn't mean they're not interested. Men don't talk to each other."
Michael Lafavore started Men's Health ten years ago. It's been very successful with something he calls "service journalism." Lots and lots of advice.
"Men have always been vain, but I think this is the first magazine that said, 'Yeah, we are, so let's admit it and here's what you might want to know."
Even G.Q., the grandfather of men's fashion magazines, is broadening its base and giving advice on more than just clothing.
"We started a page last year called New Products because our readers are interested in what's new out there," says editor Art Cooper. "They want to know if there's a new skin cream. Guys are using skin creams, fragrances certainly. Any kind of grooming products they are very interested in. There's been a big boom in that."
G.Q. should know They did US$76 million in advertising last year by catering to men's vanity.
"I think looks have always been important to men," Cooper says. "I think men are really more vain than women. You take a guy who is relatively attractive, and all men feel they are relatively attractive, and watch them walk past a store window. Look at the furtive glances and the self-admiration. I think all men are more secure than women."
Are the images portrayed in men's magazines doing damage to the male psyche? Says one man, "They hold up an image of perfection, but they don't make me feel at all inadequate. I feel very, kind of, self-confident about the way I look."
"I think that a great many parts of daily life are causing men to be more worried about their looks," says Fisher. "We can't all achieve these physical ideals that our movies and our magazines and our posters show us."
Most men won't ever turn themselves into a perfect 'ten.' But they may be able to convince themselves that they'll never be a 'three,' 'two,' or a 'one.'
Says Lafavore, "Our readers are baby boomers, and baby boomers are not going to age gracefully, shall we say. I mean, we're inclined to think they're going to come up with a cure for this aging thing."