Saturday, January 28, 2006

Tough looks last

The macho man, a toughie who has gentle ways and is not unduly concerned about his looks, is again the rage now, says Ritusmita Biswas

Women have finally got their men back. Metrosexual grooming is passé. Of course, cleanliness is still prized but not the overtly made-up manicured look as far as men are concerned. This has led to the shutdown of several unisexual parlours across the country. Says Kakoli Sengupta of Kolkata, whose parlour shut down its men’s wing sometime back: "There were other reasons too but the predominant fact was that the takers were becoming few. In fact, for the last two-three months, there were hardly any men approaching us for facial or other skin or hair-care solutions."

"All of them came just for routine shave or haircut. Hence it made no sense for us to stock expensive ingredients of gold and pearl facials for them or to keep regular employees to cater to the male clients. Therefore we were forced to shut down our mendivision," she says. A spokesperson for another parlour for men that has been around for the last 15 years agrees that as far as grooming is concerned, metrosexual look is clearly passé. "The last five years had seen a surge in beauty treatment for men. But not any more. Men now mostly come here for routine care and that does not involve facial, foot massage, manicure or pedicure like earlier. Occasionally for a special party, some men do indulge in a facial but for sure they are not a part of the regular skincare regime," he adds.

Most of their clientele, who follow a regular regime of manicure, pedicure, facial, etc, are people who are in the show business, says Ajay Chakraborty, spokesperson of a herbal parlour for men in Kolkata. "For the others, it’s just regular shaving or massage. But yes, we do have clients who do facials once in a while as they need to chill out or relax," he says. For instance, Arindam Basu, who works in one of the hi-flying firms in the IT hub of the Salt Lake, like to indulge in a galvanic facial. "For me nothing is more relaxing than having a facial on a Sunday after a hectic week," he says. "It is more for a de-stressing factor than for any cosmetic reason," he adds.

However, recent trends seem to point out that the makeover-guy crowd is not so hot any more. A recent global survey reveals that more than 61 per cent of the women would rather see a man’s hands rough and working hard than well-manicured, while nearly half (47 per cent) say that their ideal man spent his money on electrical gadgets rather than cosmetics. Ninetytwo per cent of the women said dependability is the most desirable characteristic in an ideal mate. Around 16 per cent chose "fashionable" and 62 per cent chose "strong" as a desirable characteristic. And only 9 per cent believed that their men should spend their money on designer clothes.

Things are not so cut and dried though. A multinational company has launched "Fair and Handsome" cream in the country targeting the male and countering the (in)famous "Fair and Lovely" for women which has irked feminists and sociologists alike.

A recent issue of the Time magazine had also run a cover story on how males across Asia (read South East Asia) are preening before the mirror for hours and spending thousands of bucks " to look good," because the ‘girls like them that way.’

Back home, however, women are singing a different tune. Reshmi Megrotra, working with a top IT firm in Jalandhar, says: "Of course, I want my man to be loving, caring and taking part in the household chores. If that would mean a metrosexual man, I would be okay with it. But if being metrosexual would mean spending hours over a manicure, pedicure or facial massage or being unduly bothered about what moisturiser is right for the skin then that would turn me off. Yes, my man should be neat and presentable but not made up."

Agrees Saon Bhattacharjee of ICICI, Mumbai. "I frankly cannot believe that in my kind of profession men have the time to ponder for hours over what sunscreen to use or sit half the day for an orange peel facial. I would rather utilise that time to earn money," he says, adding, "Yes, my job requires that I am always presentable but that can be achieved at home simply by bathing, shaving, and wearing clean clothes."

So what made the metrosexual man fade out? "Masculine vigour, verve and fortitude, and may be even a little endearing fashion cluelessness — these have always been traits that women have liked to see in their men. I believe that metrosexual was a concept that had to fade inevitably. It is quite difficult to refute traditional roles that have been in vogue since ages and establish new role models. That maybe the reason why today’s generation is agreeing to concepts of sensitivity and domesticity in men but doing away with unnecessary attributes like love for cosmetics, over grooming and maintaining oneself, etc," says psychologist Sanjay Ray.

Macho is definitely in. And who is the ideal macho man? "A tough guy who is kind and funny within. A man is macho only if he is gentle too. Insensitive and boorish is not macho at all," says 28-year-old Saloni Sen, who will be tying the knot with her fiancé Abhishek next month.