Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Grooming: ManCave Men's Grooming Gear

For a few months now I've been sampling on and off with products from Mancave, a British start-up company that launched in 2012. I'd seen the products on Instagram for a while and was more than happy to give a couple of their products a road test. Through the letterbox popped three products, one of which I managed to leave in a hotel room after having to vacate at speed - no it wasn't a fire alarm, I had the worst hangover of 2017 and had approximately ten minutes to shower, dress and get out! Typical Stephen behaviour all truth be told.

Anyway, enough of my mystery drinking tours of obscure Welsh hotels and back onto the grooming products. Today I'll be looking at ManCave's Protective Moisturiser and their Lemon & Oak Shower Gel

ManCave have a clear mission statement, to bring a fresh and inspiring regime of grooming essentials - developed and formulated as a natural defence for man!

This is what they say about their products over at the ManCave website
'With an ingredient-focused approach that delivers a natural grooming regime packed with essential oils and premium natural extracts, you will find a brand that has removed harmful ingredients and find one which offers vegan friendly products that are free from parabens, sulphates and petrochemicals and are never tested on animals.'
First up is the Protective Moisturiser - it uses UVA Filters to help protect from UV rays whilst locking in hydration and helping to counteract signs of premature ageing with Shea Butter and Radicare.

Personally I found this product to be an absolute face saver after a recent foray into the Suffolk sunshine. After wandering in the early morning sun down the coast to say I was burnt was an understatement - within four hours my face was dry and towards the evening I could see exceptionally dry patches appearing just under my eyes and on my forehead. This was not a good look. 

When I realised I hadn't moisturised that evening I applied just a pea sized amount and within two hours the dry patches had gone - my face looked and felt hydrated.

After using for a week each morning and night my skin (above the beard) was much smoother and genuinely looked more supple. In terms of applying it couldn't be easier, it lacks the greasiness that comes with some male moisturisers which means it's a case of slap on and watch it be absorbed into the skin at a fair old rate of knots. For the lazy man out there (like me) this is a no fuss, good for results moisturiser.

When you throw into the mix the fact that this costs just £8.99 you have cracking value for money.
Lemon and Oak Shower Gel - 200ml £3.99 - This is actually the second shower gel (the first was Cedarwood) in the ManCave range - and was developed to uplift, invigorate and stimulate (sounds like my missus)

So, what's it like? Bloody brilliant! For £3.99 you really cannot argue about the value for money if it does what a shower gel should - wash of the grime, leave you smelling lovely and good on the skin. 

Personally I really do have an affection for the fragrance of this shower gel - the lemon has that zesty citrus punch to the face that I need first thing in the morning but it also oozes a rather subtle masculinity with the oak giving it a touch of warmth after the citrus blast. Yes please, more of the same.
The shower gel lathers up brilliantly with only a small amount, around the size of a fifty pence piece needed to generate a mini-foam party in the shower. 

I've been using this on and off for a few months now, it sits in my travel bag when I go away on business and it's great - not only do I feel confident that I'm clean, I actually feel clean and the fragrance that's left on my skin doesn't alter my aftershaves. 
What we have here is not a failure to communicate as Guns N Roses once said, what we actually have is a brand with a series of exceptional quality products that are priced very reasonably. Trust me, you can fork out up to ten times more for products like this that will come nowhere near to delivering the same results. 

For me, it's a massive yes to ManCave.


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Monday, September 18, 2017

FASHION: Canali Clothing

I am a sucker for a good suit, a nice looking shirt or even a nice luxury pair of cufflinks. The past would see me eye up a nice find and then stalk it in the days leading up to payday before rushing off to buy it. My spending behaviour hasn't changed much, but my tastes have certainly got more expensive! When I was asked if I would take a look at Canali, a purveyor of fine Italian clothing since 1934, my mind shot back to a beautiful Canal shirt I owned back in the 1990s. It cost a fortune but it lasted for years and oozed fine, quality tailoring rivalled only by a £400+ Valentino shirt I nearly bankrupted myself buying (£400 was a lot of money to me in 1995).

Canali sadly are too expensive for my humble tastes, but their clothes are just so out of this world I couldn't resist to put together a 'wish-list' of items from their amazing website to form a nice formal outfit. 

So, what did I choose from their extensive range?
Canali Formal Dress Wishlist
Dark Blue Super 140S Impeccable Wool Venezia Suit - £1300
This elegant Venezia suit features a classic silhouette and features a subtle blue overcheck adds a layer of dynamism to the ensemble. Created from a luxurious Super 140s Impeccabile wool, this style is perfect for the man who is constantly on-the-go thanks to a series of characteristics that will leave you looking sharp from morning to night.

Our "Impeccabile" shirts blend elegance and practicality, making them an essential addition to your wardrobe. Shirts from this line are made from a special fabric that uses body heat to naturally remove creases while a modern fit offers a refined and contemporary silhouette. This style features bold yet refined houndstooth motif that adds a dynamic touch to any ensemble.

These classic gunmetal gray rectangular cufflinks feature a unique raised motif that adds a layer of dynamism to your more formal looks.

This dark blue tie comes in a luxurious pure silk and is a versatile and stylish accessory that is a must in any modern-day man's wardrobe. Wear it with your formal looks or for an elegant evening out.

This elegant overcoat is made from a luxurious and ultra-soft pure cashmere, making it the ideal outerwear choice to keep you warm in style throughout the colder months of the year. Distinctive details like a fly front and contrasting undercollar add unique finishing touches.

As a contemporary yet refined alternative to the classic derby shoe, this double monk strap has been buffed by hand for a truly unique and distinctive aesthetic. The leather sole features a rubber insert, adding practicality to the mix.

I really could go mad, and if it wasn't for the steadying influence of my other half when it comes to my spending I would have a field-day over at the Canali site - there is everything from casual jackets to seriously formal suits. Speaking from experience the clothes are some of the most comfortable I've ever bought and they are so hardwearing that they last for year after year, so that initial investment pays off over time.

Yes, this is a luxury brand, but when parting with your cash on Canali you can be assured you are buying quality.


What do you think to my choices?

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Sunday, September 10, 2017

AFTERSHAVE: Secret Scent Box - August 2017

If may be September but the August Secret Scent Box deserves an airing so today I'll be looking at the three aftershaves that dropped through my letterbox just under two weeks ago. 

The concept of the Secret Scent Box is quite simple, you sign up for a modest fee and every month without fail a small box containing three 9ml testers of aftershave are delivered direct to your door. You can see what I received previously in April of this year here, or September 2016 here.

Even better, they also offer the service to females with a Secret Scent Box for Her, so if the concept of this male box floats your boat then why not take the time to sign up? 

AFTERSHAVE: Secret Scent Box - August 2017
 So, what was in the box this month? Well, these babies.....
AFTERSHAVE: Secret Scent Box - August 2017
Hollister - Wave for Him
  • Head: Grapefruit, Yuzu and Bamboo Leaves
  • Heart: Lavender, Neroli and Cypress
  • Dry-down: Driftwood Accord, Musk and Tonka Bean
From the notes I would expect this to have a citrus head with floral heart and an almost sweet base but the way in which the notes combine is nothing short of magical and somewhat surprising to me. Hollister is not a brand I tend to veer towards, it being aimed at an audience much younger than I. 

The grapefruit isn't as tart as I expected and is tempered by the yuzu which adds a slight sourness to the initial fragrance before this is counteracted by the sweetness of the vanilla essence within the tonka bean. The lavender does provide something of a floral interlude, but this stays as a light, young fragrance for well over eight hours. 

Fresh and ever so light on the nose this is one I could see myself wearing on a night out - the driftwood accord and musk are't overpowering placing this in the same category for lightness and freshness as CK One, Bvlgari Pour Homme and Tom Ford Grey Vetiver.

AFTERSHAVE: Secret Scent Box - August 2017
Jimmy Choo - Man Ice
  • Head: Mandarin, Bergamot and Cedrat
  • Heart: Vetiver, Patchouli, Cedarwood and Apple
  • Dry-down: Musk, Moss, Dry Amber 
As a recent covert to Jimmy Choo fragrances I had high hopes for Man Ice having just tried and tested Man Intense. I was not to be disappointed. While on first sprays you'll have a sensory overload of mandarin, the orange fragrance mixed with the tartness of the cedrat means that this retains it citrus vibe from the moment you spray for for hours afterwards. Perfect in my book, I do love a good citrus fragrance. 

It takes a good hour before the head notes even  start to blend with my skin and alter, but to my surprise and given the heart and dry-down notes this never really loses the lightness on the nose. I'd expect warmth to come through after about an hour or two as the cedarwood, musk and amber came to the fore but nope, nada. 

This for me is again another aftershave that I would wear on a night out. Three sprays and you'll be smelling lovely for a good seven to eight hours and despite being light and citrus you can detect hints of apple and vetiver for a few hours. This one is very unique and is bound to draw attention for all the right reasons.
AFTERSHAVE: Secret Scent Box - August 2017
Ralph Lauren - Safari for Men
  • Head: Lavender, Neroli, Bergamot and Lemon
  • Heart: Carnation, Cinnamon, Tarragon and Jasmine
  • Dry-down: Sandalwood, Amber, Patchouli and Musk
Safari has been around for years, and I hadn't really given it much thought for, oh, about ten years until the box arrived. As soon as I sprayed it I realised why I've been avoiding it - the fragrance triggered such strong memories.

With a floral head with just a touch of citrus you could be forgiven for thinking that like the other two samples this would again be light and airy but nooooooo, the citrus fades away quickly and it dries down to be incredibly warm on the nose - the amber is the overwhelming fragrance but it does something cheeky after about thirty minutes, it develops a kind of floral spiciness that I remembered well. 

This ranks up there as one of the most hardwearing aftershaves on the market in my opinion. Three sprays and you'll still be smelling this on your skin up to twenty hours later - yes, it's potent! 

Personally it's a little too warm for me to wear on a night out but this is perfect for wearing around the office. 
AFTERSHAVE: Secret Scent Box - August 2017
Once again, for £15 you can't sniff (well you can, but in a good way) at the value that Secret Scent Box delivers. It has opened my eyes (and nose) to two fragrances I would probably bypass on the shelf and brought quite a few memories back at the same time. If you like your aftershaves, or know someone who really does need to diversify their collection then this service is the best place to start. 

This is my third box from Secret Scent Box and for the third time I've been very happy, no, delighted with the contents.


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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

AFTERSHAVE: Joop! WOW! Eau de Toilette

Those folk over at Secret Scent Box have a lot to answer for, I'd like to blame my aftershave addiction on them (like a true addict) but alas, my obsession has been going on for many decades, yes decades. That said, I'd had no desire whatsoever to try or buy Joop! Wow Eau de Toilette until a sample dropped through the door as part of the Secret Scent Box in April of this year.  

The original Joop! was  staple in my aftershave collection when younger, from the ages of fifteen to twenty four I would always have a bottle of the purple goodness on the shelf and it never failed to deliver compliments as the warm yet sweet tones wafted off a young Stephen. The missus put pay to me wearing it with any regularity - she claimed women liked to too much. A bottle has sneaked into my collection again thanks to my brother and his penchant for buying me aftershave for Christmas (thanks Joel).

Anyhow, I digress, I received a 9ml sample of this in the Secret Scent Box, sprayed it three times, let it dry and then went in search of a bottle of Wow to call my own I am that impulsive, much to the dismay of the other half.

The notes to Joop! Wow are:

Head: Bergamot, Cardamom and Violet

Heart: Geranium, Fir Balsam and Vetiver

Dry-down: Cashmeran, Tonka Bean and Vanilla
Now this section is copied from my previous thoughts as after all, first impressions count. So here goes some cracking copying and pasting!

First impressions literally are "wow" - this has a strength that defies how light it actually is on the nose. It's instant spice at first that fades gently into a slightly heavier floral earthy note. It's almost as if the vetiver is battling the heart notes to keep this smelling masculine. As it starts to progress through the heart it gets lighter and lighter on the nose as the sweetness from the tonka bean and vanilla give hints of sweetness that linger on the nose and remain evident to those around you for hour after hour.

I expected something of a teenage fragrance when looking through the notes but actually it's so incredibly refined. This would make an excellent aftershave for daywear or nights out on the town. It's unique, I really can't say "it reminds me of......" because it doesn't, and that's rare nowadays. After five hours of being on it finally settled and stayed evident to me and those around me for another eight hours. It's got legs people, it has legs.


Those were my first thoughts and I have to say they haven't changed much. A bit of the shine has worn off over time but I still find this such a unique and hardwearing fragrance that it is just perfect for daywear, around the office or for events where you want to stand out from the crowd. A floral spice with sweetness that just rests on the nose - perfect.

At just under £40 for a 60ml bottle this would make a perfect gift for anyone aged sixteen to forty five in my opinion and represents great value for money.


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Friday, August 18, 2017

HAIR: The Charming Man Refining Cream

Back to hair today, and it seems like an absolute age since I reviewed one of the many products that get slapped onto my head on a daily basis. Today I’m taking a look at The Charming Man Refining Cream, £12.99 for a 100ml tub.
The Charming Man Refining Cream
The Charming Man Refining Cream
The Charming Man Refining Cream
A couple of observations before I start – one, I can’t use this without humming ‘Charmless Man’ by Blur, which is no reflection on the product, more a reflection on my own warped mind and secondly, my hair is horrifically long at the moment.

This is what they say about the cream over at the The Charming Man website:
‘Our refining cream consists of a soft, thick yet lightweight formula which is designed to be used on any type of hair. It’s based on a water soluble solution which makes it brilliantly pliable, giving you the freedom to re-work your hairstyle throughout the day.’ 
The proof of the pudding is in the sniffing, and as soon as the lid is off boom, you have hints of almond and cherry that only just detectable – heaven in a tub. These notes are ever so subtle so there is little danger of you attracting insects and the like due to an OTT fragrance within your hair.

When I first received this to try some three months or so ago my hair was significantly shorter, and as they direct, just a peanut sized amount was needed to cover my palms in the rich cream. Rubbing it between my palms I looked down (humming Blur – I hate Blur) and wondered how such a thick cream would be absorbed into my locks, it really does have a thick texture but fear not, you won’t end up with white streaks through your hair, that is unless like me you have stupid amounts of grey/white hair already.

So far it smells great and is a doddle to apply to the hair. The three most important things for me are the firmness of the hold, how long that hold lasts and how my hair feels to the touch, after all, I have an annoying habit now my hair is longer to flick and run my hands through it far more often than I should.

In terms of hold, the cream does add weight and texture to my hair which in turn keeps it nicely in style. As it is absorbed and dries it leaves a little bit of a shine to my hair but it’s far from greasy and for that I’m grateful – there is nothing worse than touching your hair and then finding that the residue has turned your hands into a human version of fly paper. Once dried the hold is firm but not crispy which means that if the style does get blown out by gale force winds it’s so, so easy to pop back into place.

Applying first thing in the morning I can play around my hair all day and some ten hours later the style is still looking top notch. Yeeeeessssssssssss.

With no hints of flakes on drying, the ease with which you can wash it out and the fact that after months of using this on and off I’m still nowhere nearly a fifth of the way down the tub this is great value for money. It does the job and it does it well. If I had to find a niggle, and it’s a minor niggle, now that I’m resembling Cousin IT from the Addams Family (see below) unless I straighten my hair I find that it does curl a touch at the ends. I wouldn’t expect a hair styling cream to hold that length of hair in place so I can’t and shouldn't be too judgemental.


Me, before styling......
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