The new tech battlefield is in the home, but can manufacturers really make vacuum cleaners and irons appeal to men? Hell yeah!
What do you think of when someone mentions home tech? Drudgery, boring design, best left to the girls? Well, first up, that’s awfully sexist of you, old bean. And secondly, you’re way behind the times on the tech, too. Modern homewares conjure up images not of a cleaning lady wearing rollers, smoking a fag while moving dirt around on a vinyl-tiled floor with a filth-encrusted mop. Nope, they conjure up a much more manly image: think Freddie Mercury in the I Want to Break Free video. What could be more macho than that?
Smartphones are now in every pocket. Tablets are in every larger pocket. Nobody’s buying laptops. Furthermore, updates to what used to be a chap’s core tech are now so incremental as to make upgrading all but pointless. That’s why the new battleground for the bloke-pound is his home turf.
Perusing the new wave of testosteronefuelled domestic tech, we see the way to a man’s heart and wallet remains the same as ever: more features (whether needed or not); more steel and black; more high-end-ness; more expense. Because we’re worth it.
The Guardian recently asked, “Have kitchen gadgets become status symbols?” citing 51% more bean-to-cup machine sales, 46% more stand mixers and 30% more bread makers at Christmas than in 2012. To which the answer is, “Yes: that’s why we’ve been banging on about such things in our Tech Life Home and Test sections for the last three years.”
It’s not just kitchen kit, either, though the coffee maker remains the man appliance par excellence. It’s all the lovely toys a gent can buy for his house. Where once our office buzzed with chat about the latest phone innovations, now the editor and I while away the hours gassing on the merits of handheld over cylinder vacuums and the “correct” way to use a Dyson, while the guys in the features department argue about who has the iron most able to destroy creases just by so much as looking at them. Then talk turns to the way Oral-B’s toothbrushes use a Bluetooth-linked display to “game-ify” cleaning your teeth. We’re through the looking-glass here, guys.
Both the language used to describe this kit and its design are being hyper-masculinised. Vacuum cleaners have headlamps and blatantly sportscar-styled motors. Soon, men will be elbowing their girlfriends away from the Hoover and insisting, “I’ll drive, darling.” And that’s before we even get on to sentient robot vacs, surely destined to replace coffee machines as the ultimate man-gadge, once they actually, y’know, work.
First, technology liberated women from a life of domestic drudgery. Now, fired by a capitalistic hunger for new markets to conquer, it’s going to help men enter one. Now that’s progress, right fellas?