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Gray Is the Color of Our Anxiety

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The Grooming Routine of a Food Critic

The following is an excerpt from Racked's new menswear newsletter, launching later today. Want to see what else is in there? Sign up right now.

I wake up around 10:30 a.m. with moderate-to-severe hat head, which is inevitable because I sleep with a hat on. I haven't yet invested in drapes for my Midtown studio (the $1,200 Wahoo Kickr Bike was a apparently a bigger priority), so I pull a wool cap over my eyes when the sun starts peeing on my face. But this, of course, means I need a sturdy shampooing every day.

I start with Head and Shoulders Green Apple 2-in-1 Dandruff Shampoo + Conditioner ($8). I've always found green apple to be among the most enticing "fake" fruit flavors; its crisp, tangy overtones translate better to non-edible consumer goods than, say, the noxious fumes of fake papaya or passion fruit. I spend most of the shower massaging my arthritic bones with hot water (I sometimes run my hands under a scalding faucet when things get really bad), but to get the cleaning job done on my dry skin, I use Olay Age Defying Body Wash ($5.35) sans loofah. Immediately post-shower, I use prescription-strength steroidal cream or Aquaphor Healing Skin Ointment ($14.99) on any aggressively dry patches.

Once I'm fully moisturized, I use a fluffy towel to remove about 50 percent of the dampness from my hair. I then apply product — American Crew Fiber ($8) or Paul Mitchell ($17.99) hair wax — for maximum hold and low shine. I use a brush to form a distinct part to the right. At this point I'm looking very 1950s greaser, which is not necessarily what I want, so this is when we bring in the high-heat, high-power hair dryer for volume and suppleness. The goal is to evoke something along the lines of James Spader from Oliver Stone's Wall Street (he was the lawyer!), but I also want the coiffure to look good when it relaxes throughout the day.

After my daily five-mile Citibike commute, I'm looking more Dead Poet's Society. That's what we're going for (though my personal style isn't so much 1980s prep as it is well-dressed bike messenger). One more note: When possible, I only style my hair in natural light, never powder room/bathroom lighting. Too many people give themselves false confidence with soft, warm Hollywood bulbs; it's like they're trying to knock down pins with the pros after a perfect game of bumper bowling. I want the real unvarnished Sutton throughout the grooming process. This way, I know what I'm up against when I go out into the world. No tricks, no cheating, no head starts. That's the Sutton routine; that's the Sutton machine! —Ryan Sutton, Eater's Chief Food Critic

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Racked Deal of the Day

What's better than a regular sale? A MYSTERY SALE. One of our favorite T-shirt brands — Jungmaven — is offering a $150 grab-bag-style promo on its classic hemp T-shirts. $150 gets you 10 tees in an assortment of colors; just pick from the men's or women's category and then add your size. If you haven't tried them yet, take our word for it: Hemp is crazy comfortable. 

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The Grays of Our Lives

Story by Kyle Chayka. Illustrations by Leah Goren

Looking back, I should have realized it sooner, this problem that I have. The only excuse I can give is that introspection often takes time, and it’s only slowly that one recognizes an obsession, though signs of it may appear everywhere.

I had an important meeting to go to and needed to look professional — a rare occasion for me, since being a writer usually means wearing a uniform of whatever’s on the bedroom floor, under the assumption that no one will be looking anyway. Nothing makes me feel professional like buying clothes for the sole purpose of being professional, and so I went in search of a new collared shirt.

I wandered around Soho one weekday afternoon — another luxury of non-office life — when the cobblestone side streets are quiet save for shop-attendant smokers swanning on loading docks Instagramming themselves. Eventually, I walked into Club Monaco. Not the most aspirational brand, but it’s a store where I can always find something to take home without paying a percentage of my rent (the gap other guys seem to fill with J.Crew). In the store, I paced the shelves and pulled down various button-down shirts in subdued red, camel, green heather, and several shades of gray, then began trying them on.

I quickly threw out the non-gray shirts. For the next half-hour, I tried to divine which gray cloth set off by buttons of a slightly different gray would communicate the best version of myself. Some grays were too plummy, saturated with some hidden color. Others were too brittle and metallic, with no depth at all. I narrowed it down to two shirts and then, feeling ridiculous for my indecision — it was all the same color, more or less — picked one and paid for it.

When I got back home and unwrapped the shirt, I looked in my closet and discovered that I had already bought a shirt just like it, perhaps one shade of gray darker, for my last Serious Meeting. Laid next to each other, they looked like a colorblind rainbow; each gray echoed off the next in a monotone chorus. Despite the sameness, I didn’t even think to return my new shirt. It was perfect.

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Just One Thing
This Korean Beauty Balm Is the Best Makeup Remover
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Banila Co. Clean It Zero Purity, $22.25

I’ve always hated washing my face. I got a bottle of Cetaphil when I turned 13, decided it wasn’t doing anything, and swapped it out for some Clean & Clear, figuring — as we all did — that the tube with the beads would scrub “impurities” away the best. When I learned those little plastic balls had been destroying the environment, I started hunting for an alternative.

I found something fancy and organic at Sephora and used it religiously, applauding myself for buying a product that stripped dirt away so well it made my skin tight. And then I learned that tightness was actually a blaring alarm: I don’t typically have dry skin, per se, but I’d been dehydrating it each time I cleaned it off. The tight feeling was a signal that yeah, I’d removed the grime and concealer from my face at the end of a long day, but I was also potentially damaging the protective barrier of my skin.

There’s a way to take makeup, sunscreen, and that film of sweat off your face without taking — via beads or shells or foam — that barrier with it: cleansing balms. Made of solidified moisturizing oils, balms melt even the most waterproof mascara. 

Banila Co.’s Clean It Zero Purity is the holy grail of cleansing balms. Made predominantly of argan and evening primrose oils (whereas most balms are full of acne-inducing coconut or mineral oils), it’s great for sensitive skin. It responds quickly to heat, turning to a creamy liquid on contact, but doesn’t get so oily it drips down your chin. I like to massage it into my lips and the backs of my hands, too, letting the oils moisturize those delicate areas while it lifts all the makeup — that I’ve worked so hard to keep in place, layering primer and foundation and concealer and powder and setting spray — off my face.

Just rub the balm into your skin, watch an episode of It’s Always Sunny, rinse it off, and you’re ready for step two of the double-cleansing method: a liquid-y (and properly pH-balanced) cleanser of your choice. —Ellen Duffer, contributing writer

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