IN THE ORIGINAL"Rocky" film, the fighter's sweetheart, Adrian, is an ugly duckling who becomes a swan in one quick scene, just by taking off her glasses and redoing her hair. Rocky, like most men, needed more time to undergo a change in appearance. He took three whole movies to go from scruffy palooka to debonair businessman.
A Rocky-like transformation could not take place without changing a man's attitude toward the importance of his appearance, says Linda Jackson, a professor of psychology at Michigan State University.
"Men are not as used to focusing on their looks as women are," she says. "Men are far more comfortable with accomplishment-oriented goals. They feel that being vain about their appearance is somehow feminine and an admission of weakness."
So, except for politicians who pay image consultants to upgrade their appearance, makeovers for men remain, in Jackson's words, "low-frequency events."
Paul Glick, a Chicago-based image consultant, confirms this, estimating that only about 7% to 10% of his clientele are men. "They are usually professionals or people in public relations or sales who want to better their image," Glick says. Some want fast solutions to problems such as poor voice projection or nervous twitches; others expect a complete overhaul. He notes that about 70% of his male clients are concerned with hiding hair loss.
Corporate executives, who make up the majority of Glick's clientele, mostly want help improving their personal style with the hope that it will benefit their careers, he says.
"Women ultimately have the edge over their male co-workers because women are more open to enhancing their image and developing presentation skills," Glick says. "But men can be taught how to think the same way."
Nance Mitchell, a Beverly Hills skin-care expert and author of "Skin Sense; The Complete Guide to Skin Care for Men," recently counseled a male executive who was worried about an influx of younger men into his company. The man told Mitchell that he was starting to feel like "a relic," and he wanted some advice on a hair style that would suit his age and his features, yet give the impression that he was in tune with the times.
First she told him to lose his sideburns, which went out of style in the '70s. She reshaped his hair into a classic side-parted style and advised him to shampoo daily to keep it looking full and to prevent buildup of styling mousse. Then she had him tint and reshape his eyebrows. To reduce facial puffiness, she persuaded him to cut down on his drinking. She also suggested that he have a facial every other week to exfoliate his skin.
The man began a program of regular aerobic exercise, coordinated by a trainer Mitchell recommended. After a few months, his physique improved and Mitchell referred him to a wardrobe consultant, who updated his office apparel. The process was gradual, Mitchell says. "After eight months, he felt and looked much younger."
But "the changes don't always stick," Mitchell adds, "especially if the client is on a limited budget or tight schedule." Comprehensive makeovers can involve several consultations with skin- and hair-care specialists, wardrobe consultants, nutritionists, exercise experts, voice coaches and, in some cases, plastic surgeons. Experts charge between $50 and $200 an hour, so a makeover can easily cost more than $1,000--not including the price of a new wardrobe.
For some men, like Martin Gardner, maintaining a new look was simply too much work. Gardner, now in his early 40s and a manager for a software firm, underwent a makeover for a television appearance a few years ago. His skin was bronzed with makeup and his hair was streaked with blond highlights.
"I never even liked going to the barber," he says. "So when they put foil in my hair to color it, I never felt dumber. I kept thinking that I looked like a television aerial."
When the foil came off, however, Gardner was impressed by the difference. "I thought only wimps would color their hair. But when I saw how much younger I looked, I changed my mind."
He highlighted his hair once more, but he decided that it took too much time. "If the look they gave me could be done in a few minutes, I'd keep it. But for me, it's more trouble than it's worth."
Those who are willing to endure the hassle and expense may have unrealistic expectations that result in disappointment.
"A makeover by itself usually doesn't translate into increased self-esteem," Jackson says. If a man expects that external changes will affect more than his physical appearance, he is unlikely to be satisfied, she says.
Experts agree that the most successful makeovers--for men or women--involve subtle changes that the person can easily adopt and maintain.
But the psychological aspects of making a major change in appearance need attention also. "I believe in the 'Be better, look better, feel better theory,' " Glick says. "It never fails to evoke a positive response. Men are no exception."