“There’s nothing worse than walking into Nirvana spa and seeing some guy sitting there getting a pedicure; his huge, hideous feet sticking out. It’s revolting,” says one woman, on the condition of anonymity.
The world of male grooming is a treacherous and confusing space, full of grey areas, uncertainties and dangerous labels. Too little and he’s a slob; too much and he’s metrosexual and effeminate. Since the practice of grooming is still new and outlandish, many Pakistani men underscore the lack of established criteria, that is, the treatments that are acceptable versus those deemed strictly unacceptable.
Cardinal rule number 1
Our hairy homeboys must never disrupt the balance of nature (or risk terrible consequences). Let’s bring in a gendered perspective: it’s traditionally accepted that ‘beauty’ falls within the province of the fairer sex. As noted above, the man who encroaches upon this territory will be met with shock, dismay and revulsion from his female counterparts. While nail care is encouraged (a simple nail cutter will suffice), the man with the overt French manicure will go home alone.
Cardinal rule number 2
Subtlety is key. For a man, it’s important to look kempt and trim but beyond that, it shouldn’t look like he’s had something done. This is when hair and skin treatments become largely acceptable: the smartest men know that well kept hair and even, healthy and toned skin are some of his most fashionable accessories.
“Manicures and pedicures for a man are silly and can damage his skin, but hair and skin treatments are very important for males,” says Robin, hair stylist at Yas Salon for Men. He explains that hair fall is a serious problem and that many men remain unaware of the type of scalp they have (oily versus dry). “Some men start using oil when their hair falls or gets dry,” explains Robin. “The problem is that when they already have an oily scalp, the added oil gets clogged in the roots; it makes the hair fall even more.” To remedy this, Robin suggests high frequency treatments that enliven hair by administering mild shocks to the roots. In terms of skincare, he recommends mud masks that absorb the skin’s impurities, leaving healthy and glowing skin behind.
Cardinal rule number 3
Male grooming should accentuate masculinity instead of taking away from it. Male waxing is another controversial topic. Even the slightest mention sends most guys into paroxysms of anxiety. Pakistani men are genetically wired to possess a certain amount of hair — from bits of fuzz to full-blown chest rugs. If the growth is overwhelming or too problematic, it’s nothing a simple trimmer or careful tweezing can’t fix. “It’s fine to work on the beard and unibrow if you’ve got one,” says film-maker Shahbaz Shigri. “However, beyond that, I think threading and sculpting eyebrows or even getting them waxed is unacceptable for a guy.”
Michael K, who runs the sartorial Michael K Salon, has some strong views of his own regarding male grooming. “Waxing is unacceptable,” says Michael Similarly, who has seen a lot of Pakistani men wearing mascara, especially on television.
“There’s just too much make-up on men who do talk shows.” He recommends skin cleansing, facials (mani-pedis are also permissible, provided they’re toned down), deep conditioning treatments and hair colouring. “But not more than that,” he adds.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 21st, 2011.
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