Prateik – all muscles, dimples and smooth chest – has been taking his V-necked T-shirts lower and lower and a whole nation of ladies is probably waiting to one day see his belly button. Imran Khan steps out in funky socks. And those boys from Student Of The Year, they’re so clean shaven, so wholesomely hairless, that they may well have been manufactured in the Mattel factory.
What’s happening to our men? What happened to good old-fashioned stubble, unkempt hair, scowls and the ability to get dressed in under two minutes? And why are so many regular dudes going from cowboy to Ken?
Karan Ahuja, 27, a business manager with a luxury brands company, was getting a trim one day when his hairstylist suggested manicures and pedicures. The next thing you know, Ahuja was enjoying the pleasant ministrations that his hands and feet were being subjected to. “In our kind of job, you need to look well-groomed,” Ahuja says. “This is an unwritten rule regarding the way you ought to look, since we interact with international clients regularly.”
More men are waking up to the fact that there’s more to being a man than shaving and smelling good. They’re accessorising, coordinating colours, investing in statement jewellery, differentiating between corporate and cocktail looks – in short, they’re doing everything that was once considered girl behaviour.
Spending: It’s a guy thing
Imaging: Monica Gupta
“With larger disposable incomes, men are becoming more discerning and indulgent. They are beginning to look at innovative grooming products created specifically for them,” says Nilanjan Mukherjee, who heads marketing for the personal care products business at ITC, which makes facewashes, shower gels and moisturisers for men. He adds that the segment is poised to grow faster than many other personal-care categories.
Last year, global management firm KSA-Technopak estimated that India’s market for personal grooming products focused at men stood at Rs. 2,950 crore (for shaving products, deodorants, skincare, haircare, bath and shower products and perfumes). But the male consumer’s actual spends could be as much as three times higher, since many Indian men rely on (or secrely borrow) unisex or female-specific personal care products.
Grooming isn’t just for the rich or the young, claim marketers. “Almost one fifth of our customers are male,” says Suvodeep Das, marketing head at Kaya Skin Clinic. “These are men who realise they need to look good not just when they are in their 20s and are starting out in a relationship, but also men in their 40s who want to look good in the boardroom.”
The first step to getting there seems to be getting rid of body hair. Not content with a smooth jaw, men have been shaving, waxing and even attempting laser removal for the hair on their arms, chests, legs and backs. Nikhil Sood, a 22-year-old front-office executive at a five-star hotel in Delhi, says de-fuzzing has become de rigueur. “After joining the hospitality sector, I felt conscious about hair on my arms, especially on days when I wanted to dress down. I decided to try waxing. I can’t say that it was a very pleasant experience in the beginning, but the results have been good,” he says. It explains why Philips decided to launch a range of body shavers in August. According to a market study conducted before the launch, 80 per cent of women surveyed said they found excessive male body hair a huge turn-off and preferred smooth and groomed partners. Philips India MD Aarushi Agarwal confirms that the hirsute male population in New Delhi, Chandigarh, Amritsar and Ludhiana now forms their biggest market.
And once all that smooth skin is showing, it had better look its best. Informal estimates by popular salons in Mumbai and Delhi suggest that urban men are spending close to Rs. 5,000 a month, a three-fold increase from their grooming budgets only a few years ago. Anurag Tyagi, brand manager for skincare brand Kiehl’s, claims that Indian men aged 28 to 60 have taken well to the cleanse-shave-moisturise ritual the brand propagates. “They just need a little bit of help from an expert in understanding what will work best for their skin,” he says.
Arpan Taneja, a model, has had plenty of help it seems. His cleansing regime includes regular facials and the application of sunscreens, moisturisers and facewashes for men. “As a model, I need to be careful about how my skin looks,” says the 23-year-old. “For that, I need to take extra care of it right from using a moisturiser and sunscreen to a good scrub to exfoliate my skin. It is mandatory for models to have a neat chest, clean arms and legs.”
Is the Indian man going where no man has gone before? Is his bedroom turning into a powder room? Why? Aggressive marketing is making men feel inferior to the fairer sex, claims Dr Ranjana Kumari, director at the Centre for Social Research. “There is some beauty present in every individual, but in today’s competitive world, where social relations are undergoing a massive change, too much pressure is being put on men,” she believes.
Indian men have had some history of being able to put up with that pressure, says social analyst Syed Mubin Zehra, author of Sexual and Gender Representations in Mughal India. Back then, she says, men did it to “enhance their masculinity”. Today’s need to look well-groomed, “is majorly market-driven with emphasis on vanities such as removing hair”.
So is it time to mourn the death of machismo? “Not really. They are just turning into better-looking men,” believes Jamal Shaikh, editor of the magazine Men’s Health. “Earlier, being groomed was not an option for men. It was something to be done in the closet using products bought by women. But now, it’s kosher to be well-groomed as people are more open towards men taking care of themselves and being comfortable about it.”
VLCC, which launched a separate line of products for men in 2010, has witnessed almost double-digit growth since. “Men are coming in not just for pedicures. Like women, they are showing concern about tanning, pigmentation and are even asking about anti-ageing treatments now,” says Sandeep Ahuja, MD, VLCC Healthcare. Though hair-removal creams are meant for women, a lot of men are also using them, says Yatan Ahluwalia, image consultant and corporate trainer who holds grooming workshops for men.
Still, how far should a man go in the name of grooming? Jagpreet Singh Chhabra, a 25-year-old entrepreneur from Chandigarh who waxes his arms and legs, colours his hair and gets a professional cleanse once a week, insists his girlfriend is happy with his groomed look. “All this doesn’t make me feel effeminate in any way.” Television actor Karan Wahi, who recently featured in Sony’s Kuch To Log Kahenge, swears by good grooming. “I have no qualms calling myself very metrosexual. There’s nothing wrong with pampering yourself. If you have a good body, there’s no harm in flaunting it,” says the 26-year-old actor who has women fans swooning over his hairless chest every time he takes off his shirt.
The key to good grooming, says actor and model Angad Bedi, lies in striking a balance between the essentials and marketing-driven vanities. “For me, being groomed means paying more attention to things that create the first impression about you rather than spending time on spa sessions and plucking your eyebrows.” But he adds that a non-negotiable part of being well-groomed is hygiene. “Nothing can be worse than a man who looks unkempt and smells bad. They definitely are a big turn-off for anyone, not just women.”
What Women Want
Former beauty queen, actress and grooming expert Diana Hayden says women don’t have a problem with men taking care of themselves. “But just as men prefer their women to retain their femininity, women love for men to take care of themselves but retain their masculinity,” she says. Hayden doesn’t think that men are turning into women by being conscientious in taking care of themselves. “I would draw the line before it reaches men buffing their nails to a glowing sheen and plucking their eyebrows till each one is a perfectly drawn arch.”
Actor-producer John Abraham, he of the biceps and glowing skin, admits to loving pedicures. “Men today want to look their best even when bare bodied,” he says. He also admits that increased consciousness about personal grooming and hygiene has much to do with celebrities who have taken the lead. As men have followed, the women are sighing in relief. Software consultant Shivani Chopra, 23, believes male grooming to be only a good thing: “It is allowing men to lower their barriers and not be afraid of facing, acknowledging and discussing their emotions, and not thinking that it was meant just for girls and sissies. It’s good that men are ready to walk that extra mile.”
THE MURSE CODE
In a world where it’s becoming increasingly tough to tell the men from the boys, a stand-up comic wonders how manly the man-purse actually is.
Men around the world have been spotted with a stylish yet strange accessory: it’s been dangling from heavyset shoulders; it’s even slung cross-body across some questionably lean figures. I’m talking about the man-purse, the bag generations of men have done without, but now seems to be everywhere. It’s confusing legions of handbag holding women. It’s puzzling me too.
A couple of decades ago, the battle of the sexes could be summed up with: “What men can do, women can too.” Now, it seems, the equation has been overturned. Now, it’s “What women can wear, men can carry off too... though a bit awkwardly and often with disastrous results.”
Wrap it like Beckham
Blame David ‘Goldenballs’ Beckham. Men were weirded out enough when he began waxing his legs and tweezing his eyebrows. But he had to push things further and wear his wife’s sarongs. Suddenly, no one seemed to know what it took to look like a man. Out came the face creams, skinny jeans and looks of disappointment from ‘macho’ men. And just when it seemed that your neighbourhood salon was earning more from male walk-ins than female, someone invented the man-purse.
You may have sighted a well-dressed man holding on to something that looked like a bulkier version of his wife’s handbag. It’s not big enough to hold real stuff like a laptop, a crate of beer or adult movie DVDs (ok, maybe the DVDs fit). But that’s not stopped men from toting one. Now here’s the million-dollar question (and we’re talking the almost-touching R60 dollar here): Does the man-purse, increasingly (and embarrassingly) known as the ‘murse’, make a guy look effeminate?
“Man purses are like pink tee shirts for men. Some men can really carry them off, and when they do, it looks pretty dashing,” says actress Sonali Bendre. TV actor Kavi Shastri, who played the lead in Rishta.com, finds them most useful in today’s iPad and tablet age. “It’s so much more convenient to read scripts on. And a sling bag holds my tablet, plus other essentials like papers and my wallet. It makes travelling easier too.” Can’t argue that. Or can you?
When I asked my pal Rocky Chaddha his opinion about man-purses, he said, “What man-purse, bro? Check out my man biceps, bro.” Rocky then proceeded to OD on his protein shake. Stylist Yesha Dedhia says the trick is to be able to differentiate between types of murses. Types? Wasn’t this complicated enough? “If you want to carry a bag that does not make you feel effeminate, your best bet is the sling bag” Dedhia says. So to recap: Celebs (even the women) love the man-purse. It’s actually pretty useful. So you have no excuse to not get one. Just make sure you’re not wearing it with mint-green jeggings.
(by Amogh Ranadive)
WHY THE FUSS ABOUT MALE SKINCARE?
*Compared to a man's skin, a woman's skin is slightly more acidic and ages faster.
*Researchers have found that differing hormone levels, including the naturally higher levels of androgens in men’s bodies, can cause male skin to be oilier than female skin.
*Men’s skin has larger pores, acne and other skin imperfections than women’s skin. They are more prone to getting
blackheads and whiteheads.
*Men are likely to have more collagen tissues in their skin, due to which they have a thicker and harder
epidermis. So men need to exfoliate more often than women.
fewer hormonal fluctuations than women. Therefore, their skin may not be as prone to hyper-pigmentation and the development of dark spots.
(Courtesy: Dr Varun Katyal, dermatologist)
TOP 5 SALON SERVICES THAT ARE POPULAR WITH MEN
*Laser hair removal
*Pigmentation and tan removal
*Botox and fillers
*Hair spa and hair rejuvenation
(Information courtesy: VLCC and KAYA SKIN CLINIC)
WHY MEN’S-ONLY SECTIONS ARE A HIT
*They offer men an exclusive space for themselves.
*Men like to pick up products that are labelled ‘for men’ only.
*Men prefer products that offer them multipurpose solutions.
*They prefer products with simple and straight packaging in masculine colours.
DUDE, WHERE'S YOUR TROUSER
Spot the dude: Model Andrej Pejic (right) bags female (Photo: Ali Mahdavi)
Glossy lips, winged eyeliner and skinny jeans – men are trying it all and aren’t even averse to putting on a skirt. Make way for a new kind of gender bending.
Men wearing feathered headgear is a bit much, I think,” says Nishant Oswal. But Oswal, 31, an executive producer with a TV channel, thinks nothing of pairing super skinny jeans with the deep V-neck T-shirt he pinched from his girlfriend’s cupboard. “There is a trend of men getting into women’s clothing,” he says. “It’s still new in India but in the West, it’s really popular. There, you wouldn’t be called queer for doing so.”
By deliberately rejecting the notion of the macho male, Oswal and other avant-garde dressers in India’s big cities are revising what constitutes male dressing today. “I read a great line somewhere that truly defines what I and many like me are doing: ‘tweaking codes, upending conventions and making hash of ancient norms’, or something to this effect,” he says.
The gender bending isn’t exactly pathbreaking – a beefed-up John Abraham has been peddling whitening creams on TV, David Beckham’s hairbands made everyone add ‘metrosexual’ to their vocabulary, and everyone has that one friend whose pants are a little too tight. So what exactly are the dapper dressers upending? “Metrosexual men are big on personal grooming and appearance. But, they don’t pinch clothes from women's wardrobes,” says fashion designer Gautam Raka. He draws a clear line between spruced-up and androgynous citizen. If Beckham and Abraham personify metrosexuality, androgyny is best epitomised by Andrej Pejic, the Bosnian model whose delicate features, flowing locks and lanky body have landed him in ads for designer dresses, push-up bras and menswear.
Pejic’s unconfirmed sexual orientation actually makes him a bad example – androgyny is not a queer expression. And neither is it about passing yourself off as a woman (which is what cross-dressers do). Sartorially, male androgyny is all about collaborating women’s clothes and accessories with men’s clothes to get the best of both worlds. So you can pair your girlfriend’s leggings with army boots, a ganji and an unbuttoned shirt for a look that’s not quite male, not quite female, but quite fashionable.
“Times have changed and gender neutrality is in.” Robin Raju, a management consultant for social entrepreneurs, sees nothing outrageous about matching a belted kurta with really skinny pants. Namrata, a freelance stylist, agrees: “I see so many couples at parties or on the street who dress alike: skinny jeans, long T-shirt, pinhole sunglasses and a sling bag. Their look is androgynous. The woman knows it; the guy knows it. But it’s a very subtle androgyny."
Dressing it up
Shape shifter: Long hair, nose ring, kohl - Kallol Dutta is still all male (Photo: Bikramjit Bose)
The look is big internationally. Designers like Rick Owens and Alexander Wang have sent men down the runway in draped T-shirts and high heels, and fashion blog The Sartorialist regularly features street photos of men in skirts. But locally, even daring androgynous dressers shy away from heels and skirts. “Out of the question!” declares Raju. “That borders on cross-dressing.”
Mumbai artist Julius Macwan, however, has no such reservations. He’s been spotted at public gatherings in floor-length skirts and believes that our mindset should be “free of conditioning”. Kolkata designer Kallol Datta has made kohl-rimmed eyes, a nose ring and beard seem as much part of his look as flowy kurtas, nail polish and bangles.
Designers admit that not everyone can work the look. “If you’re beefy then this is not for you,” says fashion designer Charu Parasher. “You have to have a lean frame to pull off androgyny.” Riddhi of designer label Riddhi-Siddhi mapxencaRS also believes that it works best on angular bodies. “It’s a great look, especially if you’re going out with friends for a casual evening,” she says. “A pair of well-fitted pants with draped T-shirt can look fabulous. Maybe a polka dotted jacket on top?”
Vibha Keswani, a fashion designer and stylist doesn’t see why a man shouldn’t be able to choose between multi-pocket baggy shorts one day and skinny shorts the next. She often bends the sartorial rules herself and produces a line of unisex clothing that includes ganjis, shirts and pyjamas. “A good piece of clothing is a good piece of clothing!” she states. “Does it matter who was supposed to wear it in the first place?”
Parasher however warns that ultimately the trick is not what’s on the body, but what’s in the mind. “You need to be young and daring to dress androgynous. Mostly young guys in creative fields like advertising and fashion designing can pull it off. I don’t think it will ever be mainstream. But who knows, fashion is highly unpredictable.”
Boy, do we love their style…
Sushant Divgikar, model: We love his unabashed androgynous style – feathered headgear, winged eyeliner, deep V-neck T-shirts, bright yellow pants and mostly his attitude.
Julius Macwan, artist: Oh, those beautiful skirts and the way he carries them!
Lenny Kravitz, rockstar: Only because he dares to wear heeled boots.
Adam Lambert, singer: So flamboyant and so fierce with his skinny leather pants and kohl-rimmed eyes.
Pinch these, now
Girlfriend stole your favourite tee? Raid her accessories for sweet revenge:
Brooches: Use them as belt buckles or jacket badge.
Rings: Wear on your fingers or dangling off a chain.
Bracelets: Men love bracelets – they just call them wristbands. Pair an ornate silver bracelet with your leather wristbands.
Sling bags: It’s better than going around with a fat wallet that gives you a lopsided butt.
Socks: Aim for a hint of colour to breathe freshness into your look.
(By Amrah Ashraf)
From HT Brunch, September 30
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