Shane Warne, the Australian cricket great, has a new look these days, courtesy of a new girlfriend, Elizabeth Hurley. Gemma Champ wonders whether the the restructuring of Warne is entirely appropriate.
Elizabeth Hurley engineers a new look for cricket great Shane Warne
They say you shouldn't try to change your man, but Elizabeth Hurley is certainly having a good try with her new boyfriend. Thus far, her choice of mate has been nothing if not urbane - starting with Hugh Grant (in the foppy, floppy-haired era, rather than the raddled bachelor Grant of today) and ending with the handsome Indian businessman Arun Nayar. Who'd change that?
That makes her current choice of consort, Shane Warne, Aussie champion cricketer and archetypal hunk of beefy blokeyness, more than a little surprising. Surely Warne, a notorious lover of pies and wooer of women, isn't the dapper chap she needs to decorate her arm at the endless round of chic film, boutique and envelope openings that currently consumes so much of Liz's time.
Yet gradually, something has changed: Warne has, in recent weeks, been photographed out and about in London sporting a more, let's say, metrosexual look. The 41-year-old, until recently a genuine Bruce if ever there was one, has ditched the rough-and-ready appearance that gained him so many fans - weatherbeaten tan, messy bleached hair and the air of a guy who enjoys life to the fullest - in favour of what one might kindly call a more television-friendly look, befitting the job of chat show host to which he now aspires.
Not that there's anything wrong with taking a bit more care of yourself once you reach your forties. A month or so back, he began appearing in public showing off a svelte new figure and defined jaw-line, with fashionably body-hugging T-shirts replacing his regular-guy's wardrobe of convenience (sludgy colours, baggy shapes). And while he might have come in for a bit of friendly joshing on the subject of his conversion to a Hurley-instigated diet of wheatgrass juice and grains - rather less hunter than gatherer - no one would have denied that her influence was positive at this point. His two Tweets on June 8 told the tale: "Feel like a hot pie with copious amounts of sauce with crinkle cut chips!! What's the best pie?" came first, followed by an act of willpower: "NO Shane!! 78kg is target currently 82.5. Settle on a protein shake with an apple and banana - sob." It was a man's man approach to dieting.
Last weekend, though, a tipping point had clearly been reached: on his way to Elton John's white tie and tiaras ball, with a groomed and glamorous Hurley on his arm, Warne was almost unrecognisable. Slender in his tuxedo and gigantic bow tie, having lost 22lb, his tan was suspiciously even, he appeared to have lost the laughter lines (or deep wrinkles as beauty experts like to call them) that had lent his face so much character, his hair was neatly smoothed down and was a shade of auburn, his eyebrows were plucked to a Vulcan-like slant and, most disturbingly, he appeared to be wearing guyliner and mascara. He says he has not used Botox, but has admitted to finding the Estée Lauder range of moisturisers particularly helpful. "New Estée Lauder moisturisers for my skin have made a big difference. Yes, I am still a man," he tweeted. Luckily he has a ready supply, as coincidentally Hurley is the face of Estée Lauder. Even more helpfully, she revealed the very product he'd been using on her own Twitter feed, saying: "So glad the Estée Lauder Resilience Lift moisturiser is working & everyone thinks you've had a face lift."
The effect this sort of transformation will have on Warne's manly reputation could be devastating: in the public perception, he will have changed, in the flash of a paparazzo's camera, from a straight-talking sporting hero in control of his life to a vain and henpecked peacock; a man who spends as much time in front of a mirror as his other half, and who is willing to subsume his natural instincts and allow her to play dress-up with him. Like the male catwalk models of the recent menswear fashion weeks being made to don pink dungarees and pompadour hair, he wears that obscurely humiliated expression of a three-year-old boy who has been dressed up and paraded round the local park by his mischievous older sister.
Thing is, Liz won't be doing this as a joke: it behoves her not to be seen out and about with what the Daily Mail described as a "spooky waxwork", and one can presume that what attracted her to him in the first place was his macho demeanour. It just reveals that what begins as a little grooming advice and some gentle pressure exerted in the shopping arena can easily go too far and turn into a full-on makeover that plasters pan-stick all over the cracks and contours that identify a person.
It doesn't always have to be like that - there are plenty of examples of men who are in touch with their fashionable side yet manage to retain their masculinity. George Clooney, for example, has been linked with many beauties, most recently ending his relationship with Elisabetta Canali, but ever since the days of Dr Doug Ross his style has remained distinctively his own. At the other end of the scale, the footballer David Beckham started out as a callow youth, but since his wife Victoria first took him shopping he has succeeded in walking the line between being an acknowledged clothes horse and the sort of man other men aspire to look like. Another sportsman who could go either way is the NFL star Tom Brady, who cites his supermodel wife Gisele as the reason he grew his hair into a sort of slicked-back bob, amid rumours of hair plugs (his car was spotted outside a hair transplant clinic), but has yet to slip completely under the thumb in terms of fashion.
It's a mistake we women so often make in our ongoing quest for eternal youth and beauty - an injection here, a filler there, an eyebrow threading too far, and suddenly we look like someone else, irreversibly changed. That's a problem that has become inherent in modern womanhood, for many reasons, and the result is not pretty - physically or metaphorically.
Warne's metamorphosis adds to the body of evidence that men are finding themselves under almost as much pressure as women to retain their attractiveness. And, like women, while some seem to be effortlessly cool, others simply try too hard. Ultimately, though, the winner, as so often before, will be the multibillion-dollar beauty industry.