LAHORE: The modern day Pakistani seems to have adopted ‘the look good feel good’ mantra to its fullest potential. But looking good is no longer just the prerogative of women; lately many men have begun to focus on themselves and the gradual and steady increase in male salons is a very strong indication of this burgeoning trend.
While previously a small ram shackle joint was where most men would go for their regular shave and an occasional hair dye and oil massage, the shoddy outlets have been transformed into gleaming salons offering facials, manicures and even waxing! As Redah Misbah of Depilex confides, “The most popular treatments at Depilex Men are the whitening and peeling facials and believe it or not, waxing of the chest and the back.” The very establishment of a male Depilex, an institution with over three decades of beauty experience in the country, is a potent statement in itself.
If mainstream beauty brands such as Garnier, Nivea and even Body Shop have dedicated lines for men, then surely the demand exists for these mega corporations to be manufacturing and then marketing them so heavily. In India, Bollywood actors such as John Abraham and Shah Rukh Khan endorse Garnier and Fair and Handsome respectively, while in Pakistan, Luscious cosmetics creator, Meherbano Sethi revealed that her real clientele for her whitening foundation is not the retailers or women’s salons, “It’s these small little barber shops at the nook of every community who buy boxes and boxes of my foundation,” she said.
Taking the beauty angle to a whole new level are the cosmetic surgery centres promising a life transforming experience via hair transplants and nip tucks. Veteran actors like Shakeel, television stars like Faisal Qureishi and even cricketers and politicians endorse pamphlets and billboards promoting hair transplants for a younger and more confident man. Ahmed Choudhry, a 40 year old cosmetic surgeon in Lahore, has witnessed a triple growth in profits in the last five years from this blossoming trend. Choudhry’s client, Azhar Amin, 43, paid $1,350 for each of two five-hour procedures. “I wanted it for cosmetic reasons and to improve my confidence. Baldness is a weakness so after the hair transplant, I will be more cosmetically acceptable and confident,” said Amin.
With many young men taking up jobs in Pakistan’s booming media and tertiary industries where public relations is an important angle of the job, looking good becomes inextricably linked to feeling good and performing well. “My self esteem is greater when I am looking good. You need to dress the part for your job,” says Saad Irfan, a banker.
Despite Pakistan’s dire economy and widespread poverty, rich urbanites have more disposable cash than ever and are now spending it on their image, says Hassan Kilde Bajwa of Synergy, the advertising agency. Bajwa says the rise of the metro sexual, or “metropolitan heterosexual” man, is a result of a liberalised banking sector and a massive explosion of media in a country that 15 years ago had just two television channels and no FM radio. “Now people have a much greater disposable income because of all the banking reforms we’ve had over the past 10 to 15 years where all of a sudden we have people being able to take loans, which was not a possibility in Pakistan before.”
“And the other major influence is the fact that we now have a flourishing media industry,” says the 30-year-old associate creative director. “Your consumption increases when you’re bombarded with all these new ideas.” Bajwa says advertising campaigns have rushed in to play to the desire for an improved image, pushing Western beauty trends among men. “Now you see more and more products, personal hygiene products, being targeted at men which is something quite new. Metro sexuality is definitely on the up in Pakistan,” he concluded.
With additional information from AFP.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 9th, 2011.