Do you read Vanity Fair, GQ, newspaper horoscopes and gossip columns? Do you watch shows like “The Bachelor”? Do you click on the sensationalized links with tempting pictures on the columns beside almost every “news” or gossip website out there? Do you say, “I read Playboy for the articles,” or maybe, “I go to Hooters for the hot wings”? Do you enjoy redundancy, contradiction, unsubstantiated claims, and vanity poorly disguised as humility? Do you lie to yourself a lot? Do you like Donald Trump? Yes? Then Manmade: The Essential Skincare & Grooming Reference for Every Man by Chris Salgardo, president of Kiehl’s Since 1851, is your kind of material.
This is one of the worst books I’ve ever read. When I saw the title was available for review, I picked it up thinking it might be kind of fun to a book like this in my collection. A third of the way through I was already bored out of my mind reading the same things page after page—literally the same words and advice—presented in a most unappealing and unhelpful way; however, I did manage to get through it all. This can be reduced to a brochure for product that also offers beauty advice, much as a L’OREAL commercial with about that much depth.
In the middle of this drivel, Salgardo divides men into five categories: The Modern Gentleman, The Hands-On Man, The Extreme Dude, The Rebel Artist, and The Renaissance Man. For each category there is an introductory narrative that reads like a bad conclusion to a survey taken on Facebook to determine what kind of superhero you are, an interview in which he asks a “famous” specimen (I have no clue who any of them) that is completely unhelpful and mostly unrelated to the book, and sometimes actually contradictory to the book’s mission, and finally (among other things) a picture collage of examples of these types of men, in each of which Salgardo has placed a picture of himself posing as if from 1980’s album cover—but he makes sure to remind his readers on several occasions that this is not about vanity; it’s about presenting your best self. Riiiight.
In order to properly express all my thoughts on just how horrible this text is, I would have to write more content than the text itself contains without the pictures and redundancy. However, I will offer one example. Since I am known for my beard, I thought this relevant bit from the book would be enough to dissuade its purchase:
“BEARD … Don’t confuse shave oils for beard oils. The first are used to prepare the skin for shaving, the second to keep facial hair looking great. Buy both” (53). (Okay.)
“Beard Oil: Applied before shaving—preferably in the shower, where the steamy heat can help the oils penetrate more deeply—beard oil softens facial hair, making it easier to shave off, helping prevent razor burn” (61). (Wait…What?)
“BEARD OIL OR CONDITIONER To keep facial hair from getting wiry.
SHAVING OIL, CREAM, AND RAZOR To prepare skin for a smoother, nick-free shave that foams just can’t provide” (63). (Okay, getting back on track, but the redundancy is killing me.)
Yes, Salgardo, please do not get them confused, especially not within just a few pages in a book wherein you claim to be an expert and answer all types of questions from men who stop you on the street every day because you are so famous.
His best advice is this: Look at product labels, purchase and experiment with different things to see if they do what they say they do, and stick with what works for you. Ironically, this is exactly what we already do, rendering his book completely unnecessary.
I’m not familiar with Pam Krauss Books, but it’s an imprint of Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, from which I have reviewed several books. Their credibility really took a hit with this one.
*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.