Tall and muscular with a beard supporting his scruffy look: this man represents the ‘alpha-male’ — the type we imagine to be the first to rush into a burning building. But the era of the so-called macho man is under threat from a recent, but better-groomed, rival — the metro man. Can these two coexist peacefully or will they battle it out to the end? Who decides which makes the better male? Advertising agency Euro RSCG’s strategy planning director sums up the conflict: “The definition of what it means to be male is changing.”
As the global phenomenon of the ‘metro man’ grips the urban classes of Pakistan’s major cities, a man’s grooming kit expands from razor and toothbrush, to form a pouch containing shower gels, moisturisers and the ever essential, hair wax. The demand for such products is evinced by the fact that the global market for male beauty products is worth £16 billion each year, according to The Daily Mail.
The Pakistani market of such products has also developed with the surge in outlets which cater to these demands by introducing various services ranging from facials to manicures and pedicures, and from hair straightening to hair streaking. When asked if local men avail these services, Nadeem Ahmad from The Men’s Salon by Peng answered: “Yes. It’s not like these men come here before weddings or special occasions. They visit regularly.” According to Ahmed, the most commonly availed services are facials, followed by manicures and pedicures.
Well-known stylist Tariq Amin supports the concept of metro-sexuality, as long as men don’t compete with women. He maintains that men should “stay within the realm of men” when grooming, and urges them to “look presentable while keeping their identity of being a ‘man’”. When asked why it was acceptable for celebrities to groom themselves extensively if normal men shouldn’t, Amin is quick to reply: “If a guy wears make-up for his professional duties, there’s no harm in it, but one shouldn’t turn up to an audition wearing make-up.”
Stylist Ruqayya Adamjee encourages men to look after themselves: “It’s high time men started to groom themselves.” She, too, believes that men seeking to groom themselves should stay within certain limits, though not defining exactly what these are.
When asked if men should go beyond a simple haircut, actor Adnan Siddiqui didn’t hesitate: “Why not?” Siddiqui, who is also the owner of men’s salon Get Smart added, “There is a thin line between being a sissy and remaining a man.” He claims that today’s rising trends owe credit to his previously owned salon, Clippers: “People always wanted these services. Clippers provided them with an outlet.” The increase in numbers has “not only been due to European influence but also because of increasing awareness among men.” Combating the notion that personal grooming lessens ones ‘masculinity’, Siddiqui says that some of his clients have been sportsmen. And indeed, renowned sportsmen, such as Fernando Torres, Christiano Ronaldo and even some of our local sports stars, have advertised grooming services, while remaining symbols of masculinity.
The wave of metro-sexuality is not limited to the posh areas, but spreading all over Karachi. When asked whether men avail grooming services, the man in charge of a small barber shop in Gulshan-e- Iqbal, responded with a firm, “Yes”. However, the prices at this shop are much lower than those in salons of posh localities, with about Rs500 for a facial, instead of Rs2,000. The barber maintains that men of all ages come to get facials and hair straightening. When asked if he thinks utilising these services coincide with the general concept of being a ‘man’, he smiles and diplomatically states, “I am not against it; primarily because it’s my sole way of earning a living.”
Saad Ahmed, a student at Canada’s McGill University, accepts the change: “Grooming doesn’t involve becoming a girl or sacrificing one’s manliness. It’s about keeping clean.” Another college student, Mujtaba Shahbazker, disagrees vehemently: “Grooming is fragile. Men should be tough.”
Times may be changing but conflicts between the two types remain, with perhaps the more diplomatic among us asking whether ‘macho’ and ‘metro’ are really even diametrically opposed.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 17th, 2011.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ