There was a time when the only people on special diets or with wide-ranging allergies (yeah, right!) as you sat down to eat at the table were the ladies. Some were ‘gluten-intolerant’ and could not eat wheat or rice – or, in fact, pretty much anything else. Others were ‘lactose-intolerant’ and steered clear of anything which had even a whiff of dairy about it. There were those who were vegetarian or, in extreme cases, vegan. Others were on a high-protein diet. Some insisted they could not mix their carbohydrates with their proteins. And yet others stuck to soup because they could not eat solids after 7 pm. In fact, there seemed to be as many diet regimens (and, of course, allergies) as there were women at the table.
But now, men are muscling in on what was earlier a female preserve. These days, it is almost a given that the men will also be on some sort of special diet. Of course they take care to give it a suitable macho name to differentiate themselves from the ladies. But even if you call it a ‘caveman diet’ (what cavemen would eat, as in meat, fruit, etc., rather than the cereals that came with civilisation) or ‘dude food’ (the kind that the boys take so much pride in rustling up at a barbecue) there is no getting away from the fact that men are now intruding on what was once an exclusively female territory: fad diets.
Whereas earlier men restricted themselves to dreaming up whacky diet regimens for the ladies – meet Messrs Montignac, Atkins, Dukan – now the lads are also subjecting themselves to everything from deprivation to starvation to lose those pesky extra pounds.
Ditto, with the exercise regimes. There was a time when the only men you saw pounding away on the treadmill or pumping iron at the gym were putative models/actors who wanted to develop a body like Salman Khan or Hrithik Roshan. No longer. Now the middle-aged are also huffing and puffing through cardio workouts to get rid of their much-too-prosperous middles. They go for early morning walks, jog every evening, get personal trainers in to build up their physiques, and take as much pride in every pound lost as they do on every zero added to their bank accounts.
And if Pilates is on the plate, then can pedicures be far behind? Perish the thought. Beauty treatments are pretty much de rigueur for the men these days. They want their facials and face masks as much as the ladies. They too want their nails buffed to perfection with weekly manicures. And their bathroom shelves are heaving with as many face care products – exfoliating scrubs, moisturising creams, anti-ageing serums, revitalising night creams – as the women in their lives.
Fashion, too, is as much a preoccupation with men these days as it is with women. Gone are the days when they were happy to have a couple of suits in the wardrobe for office wear, and grimy jeans and sweatshirts for their days off. Now, they follow trends closely, keeping an eye out for the latest styles in tailoring.
It is not a coincidence that FTV shows as many men’s fashion shows on prime time as it does women’s collections. Or, that such magazines as GQ have found a ready niche in the marketplace, providing style tips for men who want to look trendy. International menswear brands like Canali and Armani are doing great business in India, even in the uber-expensive, made-to-measure segment. And designer jeans like 7 For All Mankind and Diesel sell as much to men as they do to women.
This new interest in fashion is not restricted to clothes either. Men have become as obsessed with shoes as women have been down the decades. Two pairs each of brown and black shoes will no longer do. Nor will one tatty pair of Keds which can be pressed into duty at the family picnic. Now, the man of taste and style wants British brogues to go with his formals, Italian loafers for casual dressing, designer sneakers for the gym, patent leather to play dress up, open-toed sandals for the Indian summer. In short, he needs as many shoes as his wife (okay, I exaggerate, but only a little).
If you want to take a good look at just how much the unreconstructed man has changed, just get a load of the poster boy for the New Man: Shane Warne. Yes, good old Warnie. Remember him, the cheerfully podgy spinner on the Australian cricket team, with a weather-beaten complexion and straw-like hair that flopped down untidily every time he came in to bowl?
Well, if you do, you certainly won’t recognise him in his new incarnation. His forehead looks Botox-smooth, though he insists (as you do) that it is all down to his anti-wrinkle cream. His hair is subtly highlighted, conditioned to within an inch of its life, and perfectly styled to frame his suspiciously-taut face. His whitened teeth gleam maniacally as he gives a rictus grin to the camera. And his toned abs and pert bum are shown off to perfection in his new designer togs.
Shane Warne, they tell us, is the New Man, for whom the term ‘metrosexual’ was minted. But if you ask me, he is representative of a new breed: Men who are the New Women.
Earlier the only men who pounded away on the treadmill or pumped iron were models/actors who wanted a body like Hrithik Roshan
Follow Seema on Twitter at twitter.com/seemagoswami
From HT Brunch, December 9
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