Old Boys Club Gets a Facelift

The distinguished company president, aged with wrinkles representing long hours and the resulting wisdom, is being replaced with a younger breed of CEO.

Well, at least they look younger.

If a graying male co-worker or boss suddenly looks refreshed, it could be the result of plastic surgery, which men are getting at skyrocketing rates to stay youthful looking in today's corporate world.

"We're seeing more and more men who are going from generalized good skin care to Botox and then all the way to facial cosmetic surgery," said Dr. Philip Miller, a plastic surgeon in New York City who sees many 40-something male professionals looking to keep a leg up on their peers.

"There's competition in the marketplace," Miller said. "They don't want to come across as appearing tired, inattentive or unkempt."

In 2001, according to The American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 44,726 men got eyelid surgery -- a huge leap from the 15,564 in 1998.

Even full facelifts aren't taboo for men anymore: nearly 12,000 were performed in 2001, doubling the 1998 total. And the latest craze in cosmetic procedures -- the wrinkle-reducing Botox -- was performed on more than 106,000 men last year.

"Everyone is subjected to the same kinds of social pressures, but there are some men more likely to respond," said Stephen Franzoi, a professor of psychology at Marquette University in Milwaukee.

"If there's a perception that youthfulness is something important, and getting rid of some lines will make them look energetic, there are some men who will take steps to be strategically perceived one way."

Michael Sands, a 56-year-old publicist in Los Angeles, has had his eyes done, his brow lifted and has received Botox injections for the past two years.

"My upper eyelid was getting heavy looking and starting to fall down, and it's all about the eyes," Sands said. "Your eyes are the first thing people look at. I thought I was starting to look older and I work in a very youth-oriented market; it's just a highly competitive world."

But keeping men's expectations in check is essential, said Miller. "If they walk in and say, 'I really want a promotion and if I get a facelift I think I'll get it,' it's then the surgeon's job to address the motivations and expectations realistically."

A youthful glow may be more influential in certain professions like sales, where there is a lot of meet and greet, said Franzoi. And the first impressions people rely on in those jobs are largely shaped by physical appearance. But a nip and tuck doesn't assure job security.

"Men should recognize these changes they are seeking are for these initial impressions," Franzoi said. "This edge will be short-lived and won't have a big impact as to how far they advance in their particular company."

Men look younger, but aren't all these cosmetic concerns a little ... feminine? Not according to experts, who say men have become more attuned to their looks in the last 20 years.

"Cosmetic surgery has become more accepted overall in society," Miller said. "With men, it's become more popular for various reasons: fashions are more tailored towards men now, there are more men's magazines, men are more interested in looking and feeling fit, and there is more competition in the workplace."

Men may feel unsure venturing into what's been a women's world, but Miller said surgeons have to make them comfortable, to equate procedures with other things they've done for themselves like buying a new car or a new suit.

And looking good isn't just important for corporate status -- women are getting choosier about their mates.

"Women are less economically dependent on men than they used to be," said Franzoi. "[They are] looking at men more as aesthetic objects than economic providers."

Sands, a single parent, is playing the dating game, but thinks his self-preservation skills have now made the scales uneven. "It's very hard for me to date women in my age category," he said. "Many men are taking better care of themselves than women now."