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Presenting: Men minus the hair

Men of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your hair. Because being fuzz-free (all over) and ‘manscaped’ is the new grooming mantra. (Blame it on movie stars and models – once again!)

entertainment Updated: May 21, 2012 12:16 IST
Prachi Raturi Misra

Many moons ago, a sultry Parveen Babi lay back against Amitabh Bachchan’s bare chest in the movie Deewar and many a smitten woman swooned at the sight of the angry young man’s hairy chest.

Cut to today (or at least, a couple of years ago). John Abraham, wearing a pair of bright yellow swimming trunks, walks down a beach in the movie Dostana. There isn’t a strand of hair on (the visible portions of) his body.

The Big B did his Deewar scene all natural – he was as he was. But heroes today don’t have that option. They have to wax, shave, depilate, laser – do whatever it takes to ensure they show satin smooth skin on screen. Just like the heroines.

John AbrahamAnd it isn’t only the big screen we’re talking about. Actors in TV shows have to de-fuzz. Models have to de-fuzz. And have you noticed lately, that the guy next door doesn’t look quite as much of a bear as he used to?

Freeze! it’s the fuzz!
Welcome to a new world. Where men discuss the advantages (or otherwise) of waxing over depilatory creams over shaving, and the awful problem of ingrown hairs on sensitive portions of the anatomy (ouch!). Where women cackle with glee at the image of a knife dripping with gleaming, golden, burning hot wax hovering over their men’s skin (oooh, sweet revenge). Where fathers wonder where they went wrong – didn’t they bring up their sons to drink rotgut whisky in the hope that it would put hairs on their chests? And where the chatterati are divided into almost equal portions of people who believe that it’s perfectly all right for men to de-fuzz all over, not just the face (what’s sauce for the goose), and people who believe that this is it, EVERYone’s going gay.

“Every one in two men I know is getting rid of body hair,” says Yatan Ahluwalia, image consultant, author and men’s grooming and fashion specialist. “Today it’s not just Katrina [Kaif] who wants satin smooth legs. I know of men of all ages and in various professions who have got rid of their body hair and a lot of them talk of the comfort of sweating less, feeling neater. It’s high time a company launched a hair removing cream for men.”

All-over de-fuzzing is a trend that started some time ago, primarily among actors and models – men in the profession of looking good. It began with the banishment of chest and back hair, as seen on actor Salman Khan who many people accuse of being the perpetrator of shaved pecs. But soon, male de-fuzzing began to go all the way and, like all showbiz-inspired trends, it moved to the streets – and all over the country.

In Mumbai, Dr Apratim Goel, cosmetic dermatologist and laser surgeon who runs Cutis Skin Studio, has seen the trend grow apace. “Till a few years ago, men usually came in to get rid of their chest and back hair,” he says. “Today there are about four or five men every month who want a complete body laser. What’s interesting is that these are men of all ages and from various professions.”

The scene is much the same in Delhi, where Dr Rohit Batra, consultant dermatologist at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, often gets queries from men who want to be permanently smooth. “But first I tell them to try something temporary, like a hair removal cream or waxing, to see if they like the no-body hair look,” says Dr Batra. “Laser means permanent removal, so it’s essential that they are sure about what they want. Quite a few come back.”

And this is not just an urban phenomenon. In tier two cities and smaller towns, says Suvodeep Das, marketing manager of Kaya Skin Clinic, which launched Kaya Men about 18 months ago, getting rid of body hair today has become as much a part of grooming as a facial or a manicure. “A full body laser might be more of a metro trend,” he says. “But chest and back hair removal has caught on big time in places like Surat and Coimbatore as well.”

Square roots
What’s going on? When did body hair – once one of the most favoured symbols of masculinity – become something that men think they can do without completely?

That’s a hard question to answer, but it’s interesting to know that the Kamasutra – yes, that 1,800-year-old manual of much more than sex positions – states that the ideal man should shave his face every fourth day, and shave his whole body every fifth or 10th day.

With that kind of history (which takes the pressure off Salman Khan), what’s surprising is that body hair became a symbol of masculinity at all! Still, fashions change and after a long period when being hirsute was the equivalent of being a man, the trend has gone full circle and it’s back to being smooth all over for men.

There are many reasons for this. Sportsmen, particularly swimmers, cyclists and athletes, have been shaving their body hair for decades. A smooth body is a more streamlined body, eliminating even the smallest factors of water and wind resistance.

Then there’s the sweat factor. Though sweat is the body’s way of cooling off in an over-heated atmosphere, body hair, particularly if it is thick and furry, traps the sweat (and bacteria), so not only is there a mini sauna on the skin surface, but the bacteria also creates an odour.

Finally, though, it’s aesthetics that seems to have prompted the no-body hair trend of today (back to you, Salman!). Says Sam, a dance and aerobics teacher in Delhi, “When you are on stage, the lights fall on you. Hair looks really unruly peeping from under your ganji. I prefer a neater look.”

There’s also a desire to show off, says Manoj Dawar, owner of Attraction, a men’s salon and unisex fitness centre in Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar. “Today more and more men are getting fitter bodies,” he explains. “To show them off, they prefer smoother bodies. So some go in for waxing, some get their body hair clipped and some make do with bleaching their arms.”

And there’s the wedding day imperative, adds Vijay Kanth, celebrity stylist of Telugu stars and owner of Hyderabad’s popular chain of men’s salons, Alexander. “A lot of men want to look and feel smooth before they get married,” says Kanth. So his salons offer full body hair removal in their grooms’ package.

Lock kiya jaaye
Women have argued over the best hair removal techniques for centuries. Now men are adding their two-pice bits.

To wax or not to wax? It can leave you smooth, but it’s so painful. Ask actor Akshay Kumar. “What makes you think I wax? Are you mad?” he said in an interview to People magazine in 2008. “It takes a real man to wax. I cheat – I shave.”

To shave? Well, the old shaving kit is right there in the bathroom cabinet, so no fuss. But the hair grows back really fast.
To filch the wife’s / sister’s / mother’s depilatory cream? But…There are no buts. Hair removal creams are the most popular, says Ahluwalia, followed by waxing, trimming and shaving, in that order.

“Some men actually bring their own creams from their travels abroad and ask us to use them,” says Kanth.

Of course, not every man wants full body hair removal, so shaving is a good choice for businessman and model Vikkas Salgotra who just wants smooth legs. “Thankfully, I’m not very hairy, so I shave my legs just once a month,” he says.

And because waxing is not only painful, but can also cause rashes, clipping makes sense, adds Ashok Sharma who runs Big Boss, a men’s salon in Delhi’s Mayur Vihar. “A lot of men want a complete body wax, but we don’t provide the service because men’s hair is tougher than women’s and waxing can cause allergies,” he says.

‘Waxing is unbearable’
At 23, Ankit Gupta has it all. Good looks, a good job, a second career that is a big passion (and which also brings him money and recognition) and – don’t forget – a good looking girlfriend.

But every two months this handsome model who works as an assistant manager at a BPO goes through a very painful experience. It’s called waxing.

“I so feel for women who have had to do it for so long,” says Gupta, in heartfelt tones.

Gupta says he is naturally blessed with an almost smooth chest so that has never been a problem. But his arms and legs are the cause of lots of pain when it’s time to get them smoothened.

The Meerut boy is singleminded about modelling, so he doesn’t really mind the agony. “It’s part of the profession,” he shrugs.
But he still can’t forget the first time he got waxed about six months ago, for a TV commercial for an undergarments brand. “I dealt with the pain of waxing when it came to my arms. But my legs... it was unbearable,” groans Gupta.

There is a bright side though, he grins. “It feels good and well-groomed to have your body hair off. And the best part is, my girl friend finds it a big turn on.”

Go Brazil!
How far would a man go for a completely clean look? Very far, says Yatan Ahluwalia, men’s grooming specialist. “One in every five men these days have a Boyzilian,” says Ahluwalia.

What’s a Boyzilian? Well… Women call it a Brazilian. Meaning, a wax that either removes every last strand of hair down under, or shapes it into any form you desire (a triangle, a heart).

Footballers like David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo and Frank Lampard are known to have Boyzilians. And in Mumbai, Dr Apratim Goel of Cutis Skin Studio says they get quite a few enquiries as well.

Fur and lovely
Of course, many men are horrified at the thought that other men would rip their body hair out by the roots. While the ’80s hero Jackie Shroff who usually played a man’s man, tries not to be judgmental, he’s cautious about this new trend.

“I love it that the younger actors are really fit, but getting rid of body hair is something I don’t understand,” he says. “I once refused a movie called Tehelka because I was asked to shave my legs. But to each his own is all I will say.”

That’s a point of view endorsed by photographer Jagdish Mali, known for his photos of Bollywood’s original macho man, Dharmendra. “Men should look like men,” says Mali. “Also, for stars, the attention should be on their faces and expressions, not necessarily their bodies. Some stars of yesterday were as fit as those of today, but they didn’t believe in showing it off.”

If this makes you feel old-fashioned, don’t worry. As Bollywood photographer Subi Samuel says, “Body hair could well make a comeback soon.”

Till then, however, feel free to do as the Kamasutra suggests.

Three ways to make the fur fly
Waxing: Apply hot wax on the skin, press a disposable strip on it and rip off.
Pain quotient: Tears-in-eyes
Shaving: Nice and easy, huh? But if you shave your chest, back, arms and legs, all of you will bristle. Your partner might mistake you for a toothbrush
Depilatory creams: Apply hair removal cream on the skin and wipe off. Painless. But it’s time you got a depilatory cream of your own. How long can you borrow your sister/girlfriend’s Anne French?

- FromHT Brunch, March 13

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