Whether you want to dress better, eat healthier or sculpt that ever-elusive six pack, ShortList’s Tom Ellen discovers the new trends to tick all the self-improvement boxes.
Cast your mind back, if your presumably hazy memory will allow it, to 11.59pm on 31 December 2011. We’re prepared to bet that, as the second hand marched determinedly towards the 12 on the clock face, you turned to an equally tipsy friend and declared your intentions to change your unremarkable ways and grab next year by the scruff of the neck and become a powerfully dynamic new you.
However, here in the drizzle-flecked gloom of mid-January, aspirational rhetoric has no doubt been long forgotten; consigned to the bottom of a lengthy mental to-do list, in favour of more pressing everyday matters.
It doesn’t have to be like this, though. How do we know? Well, we’ve consulted the experts and asked them to reveal the very latest developments in their particular fields for the coming year. Trust us — whether your new year’s resolution is to update your wardrobe, improve your diet or revitalise your exercise or grooming regime, all it takes is some inside knowledge from the right people. Oh, and a little willpower. Which, happily, we can also help you acquire. So read on, and prepare to bid goodbye to the old you. Because, face it, he was so 2011…
Work out more, eat less. We all know that’s how it works. It would just be far more useful to us if someone, you know, made it interesting and achievable. Thankfully, we spoke to Joseph Latham, personal trainer at Soho Gyms (Sohogyms.com), who believes that organisation is the key to making the most of your monthly gym fee and bidding goodbye to that post-Christmas paunch.
“The main thing is making sure you put sessions in your diary,” he tells ShortList. “If you don’t schedule your workouts, the weekend will arrive and you’ll find you haven’t been to the gym once. Having a personal trainer helps too, as it’s someone to encourage you to stick to your routine, and give you a b*llocking if you don’t.”
And if you thought the old “I can’t find time for the gym” excuse would hold any water this year, think again. “Something that’s sure to gain popularity in 2012 is Tabata training,” says Latham. “This is extremely quick, intense bouts of exercise — 20 seconds of anything from sprinting to skipping — followed by 10 seconds of rest. You only do it for about five minutes, so it can easily fit into a lunch break, and it’s great for getting into shape.”
He continues: “Kettle bells are also being used more frequently, and boxing training is picking up too. Men are moving away from conventional heavy lifting and weight training to go down a more athletic route. With the Olympics all over the TV and newspapers this year, people will be after the leaner, sportier physiques they see in athletes.”
And for those who aren’t keen on embracing the gym, Latham has the following words.
“There’s tons of stuff you can do without any equipment in a small space. Go back to the kind of exercise you did at school: star jumps, press-ups and squats are all great. You could even pick up a couple of dumb-bells at Argos and integrate that into your routine.”
So, that’s your new exercise regime sorted. But what good is it entering 2012 with sculpted abs and Adonis-like biceps if they’re draped in clothes that scream “2011”? Thankfully, Stacey Smith, head of menswear at Matches (Matchesfashion.com), can bring us up to sartorial speed.
“A big trend to look out for this summer is utilitarianism,” she says. “Workwear shapes and military details give menswear a cool, urban feel with a luxurious edge. You’ll see this in Burberry Brit’s indigo workwear shirt (£350) and Valentino’s jacket with epaulettes and patch pocket (£1,700).”
Smith also claims that, despite sounding like something you’d chew rather than wear, “fruity pastels” will be all the rage. “Many collections will come in ice-cream shades, from pale pink seersucker jackets to colours such as soft pistachio, blueberry crush and banana split,” she says. “You’ll see these trends emerging in new collections from Levi’s Made & Crafted and Piombo. Like all trends, a nod in the direction is all that’s needed — going ‘all out’ is too much. I’d suggest Hardy Amies’ pale blue mosaic print shirt (£265) as a nice way into this look.”
She adds: “‘Old school sports days’ is another trend to look out for. As proper sportswear goes hi-tech and functional, fashion will start to look back to athletes of the past and to traditional American sporting icons for style tips.”
Don’t start rifling through your old school PE kits just yet, though — new collections from E Tautz and Michael Bastian later this year will feature plenty of items that reflect this style.
And Smith offers this final piece of advice for readers lucky enough to be in possession of a full head of hair: “Short back and sides with the hair slicked back or to the side is here to stay — think Michael Pitt in Boardwalk Empire.” Minus the Tommy gun, of course.
While we’re by no means suggesting that you should aim to construct a Brian Fantana-esque ‘musk cupboard’ in 2012, it’s worth having a cache of effective products on the bathroom shelf.
Annalise Quest, general merchandise manager for beauty at Harrods (Harrods.com), claims that this year’s major focus for male grooming will be skin brightening.
“It’s on the back of a trend we’ve seen in Asia,” she tells ShortList. “Male grooming in China and Korea is huge — men shop side-by-side with women in the grooming halls — and Lab Series is one of the best-selling brands. Pigmentation correction and brightening of the skin is huge there, and it’s a trend that we’ll see taking root in the UK soon too. Products such as Kiehl’s Clearly Corrective Solution — which specifically targets skin tone and pigmentation — and Origins’ Mega-Bright are worth looking out for.”
And there’s another grooming trend that’s set to appeal to the deeply ingrained male love of gadgetry.
“Techno-beauty is set to be huge this year,” says Quest. “Most men are now au fait with grooming, so they’re looking for the next step. Gadgets such as Clarisonic’s Opal represent that. The Opal uses sonic technology to pulsate the skin around the eyes, so the moisturiser can penetrate even deeper. These gadgets have, until now, only been available in spas, but will become more readily available this year.”
Finally, Quest offers the following fragrance advice for smelling tip-top in 2012: “Acqua Di Parma aftershave — with its fresh, citrus notes — will remain popular this year, as will deep, woody scents such as Tom Ford’s Tuscan Leather. I’d suggest Robert Piguet’s Bois Noir for 2012, as this is built on woody scents as well as a citrus base note, which is very unusual.”
Even the most inattentive primary school student knows that we are what we eat. And since you’re unlikely to achieve much in 2012 if you resemble a giant Zinger Burger in a suit, this year may be a good time to reassess your gastronomic habits.
Nutritionist Paule Neyrat, who contributed to the book Nature: Simple, Healthy And Good by Alain Ducasse, tells us: “Foods that are rich in vitamin C and mineral salts will keep you feeling strong, healthy and alert. Try a dish such as mackerel marinated in orange juice. Mackerel is an oily fish, full of good, unsaturated fats, as well as vitamin A and mineral salts. In addition, the orange juice provides vitamin C and is actually much nicer than the usual accompaniments.”
What’s more, since sticking to your new year’s resolutions requires a degree of pro-activity, Neyrat advises eating plenty of complex carbohydrates. “These are the main source of energy for our body,” he says. “So use recipes that incorporate brown breads, pasta, rice and quinoa.”
Neyrat also has some handy tips for losing your seasonal weight without resorting to dieting. “By eating slowly to savour the flavours of the ingredients, you’ll feel fuller. Also, cook using a small amount of fat — preferably just a touch of olive oil, which is beneficial for your health.”
He adds: “Always eat a good breakfast — fresh wholemeal bread, some dairy and fruit. Avoid processed foods and cured meats, and buy seasonal produce, as it’s much tastier. For lunch and dinner, go for fish or poultry — they’re both rich in protein, but less fatty than red meats. Chicken breast in yoghurt with stir-fried vegetables is easy to cook and provides lots of protein without any superfluous fat.”
If you absolutely must have red meat, however, plump for duck. “It’s particularly rich in iron — something that is often lacking in people’s diets,” says Neyrat.
Lastly, when snacking at work, avoid the vending machine’s liberally salted, highly sugared wares and bring your own healthier options from home. Neyrat says: “Prepare fresh condiments for yourself, such as hummus or light pesto, and eat these on wholemeal bread or crackers.”
By now, you’ve been fully briefed on how to look the part, dress the part, eat the part and, erm, moisturise the part. However, it’s no use making all these fancy resolutions if your willpower is about as sturdy as a tissue umbrella. You need to begin 2012 fully focused. Steve Miller, motivational clinical hypnotherapist at Themovitationhouse.com, claims that relaxation is the key.
“When the conscious mind rests, the unconscious mind becomes more receptive,” he tells us. “So it’s difficult to re-programme your brain unless it’s properly relaxed. To relax your mind, find somewhere warm where you can sit comfortably. Then, close your eyes and imagine each muscle group relaxing. Once you’ve done this, count down from 10 to one on every other breath out. Finally, tell yourself you are going deeper and deeper into a state of physical and mental relaxation. Enjoy this state for a few minutes before counting back up to 10. On eight, open your eyes, and on 10, tell yourself you are fully alert and ready to enjoy the rest of your day.”
In addition to a calm, composed mind, Miller also believes that positive language is vital to achieving your goals in 2012.
“Avoid using negative words such as ‘not’, ‘can’t’ and ‘won’t’,” he says. “If you say to yourself, ‘I won’t be nervous in job interviews this year,’ you will be, because you’re still using the word ‘nervous’. Instead, say, ‘I will be more composed in job interviews this year.’ Frame your language positively.”
Finally, Miller advises giving resolutions time to take hold. “It takes around 21 days for new habits to be formed,” he tells us. “New year’s resolutions often fail within a couple of weeks simply because people haven’t allowed them to be programmed properly. It’s important that you practise the relaxation technique for at least 21 days, while visualising yourself succeeding in your goals. For example, if you want to be more confident on dates this year, mentally picture yourself doing so in detail, right down to what you’ll wear, eat and what you might talk about.”
So the message is clear — it won’t be easy, but be patient and soon the new you will become second nature. And if it’s already too late, don’t worry. There’s always next year.