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Cover Story

Male Grooming

Imran H. Khan and Mustafa Zaman

“Venus as a boy, he believes in beauty.” so goes a popular melody of the late 1990s by the Icelander diva Björk. Her vision of a boy having the qualities of Venus -- the Greek goddess of beauty -- could not have been the inspirational icon for the increasing number of males who frequently visit parlours to make sure that their grooming is taken care of; but it certainly sees male beauty in a completely different light. Today's men, like the boy in Björk's song, believe in beauty. To enhance their looks and maintain a certain image more and more men are heading towards the parlours that specialise in men's grooming.
Caring for one's looks used to be considered the prerogative of women. That perception has taken a beating today. In the last five years or so, educated, affluent men or men with well-paid jobs have emerged as a group that seeks to nurture what nature has endowed them with in the looks department. A number of exclusive salons for men that dot the city of Dhaka testify that in the race for beauty men are not lagging far behind. Though the trend is a recent one, the number of men resorting to the expert and caring hands of beauticians is certainly on the increase.

Trendy males make it a rule to visit a salon at least once a week

On a busy Sunday evening, MA Jafar and Mushfiqur Rashid, wait in the queue at Face Wash (FW), a beauty salon exclusively for men in Dhanmondi,. They are here for a facial, which is light work compared to what FW, one of the busiest male salons in Dhaka, has on offer. Rashid is lucky to have the chance to occupy a barber's chair after a few minutes of arrival. As the attendant beautician, referred plainly as the 'barber' at FW, massages the white paste on Mushfiqur's face, he speaks of his fixation on his look. He proudly announces that he belongs to that group of beauty conscious men who are willing to spend some time at the care of the beautician once or twice a week.

Both Mushfiqur and Jafar are teachers at a local private university and are determined to look their best while at work. “I teach fashion design, and I feel that as a teacher of a subject that has to do with glamour, I cannot look like a nerd. Looking one's best is important. I must look my best while I'm facing my students,” says Mushfiqur whose emphasis is on looking revitalised and well-groomed.

“Men's look has little to do with the colour of the skin. It is not about fairness but about 'freshness',” adds Mushfiqur who visits FW twice a week to do the facial. “It is cheap, and it yields results,” ensures Mushfiqur.

For Jafar, who is a colleague of Mushfiqur, it is a maiden visit to a parlour. “I've my own personal kit at home. I did a short course on grooming and I take care of myself on a weekly basis,” says Jafar who was inspired by Mushfiqur to visit FW on the ground that the beauticians here are caring.

For Jafar and Mushfiqur, maintaining the look is a serious pursuit. “We never consider it a superficial aim. In a globalised culture looks are a serious matter. Apply for a job at any multinational company, and you'd realise that good looks is one of the criteria landing a good job,” says Jafar. However, the rationale behind taking care of one's look is not only to be found in social acceptance. The question of self-esteem is also deeply attached to it. How one wants to project oneself in the society is something that is very important and it is eternally tied to the ability to take care of one's appearance. A well-groomed look certainly goes to bolster one's confidence.

The lavish and inviting interior of Face Wash

Abu Naeem, a frequent visitor to FW, feels that it is the media that has created this awareness of taking care of oneself. “I always go for a facial, as it cleanses the skin and makes one look fresh and shiny,” says Naeem who feels that looking good is an important part of one's personality.

“I've seen many of my friends transform into confident men after going through treatments at beauty salons. It had a positive effect on their personalities,” opines Naeem who has recently completed his BBM from Bangalore, India.

Mahboob Majid, the in-charge at FW feels that the number of customers resorting to various beauty treatments is increasing. “It is not only the young who are coming to the parlour, older men want to look their best too and are coming to us for various treatments. The 14 barbers that work here are sometimes hard put to tackle the influx of customers, which is certainly on the rise,” says Mahboob.

FW specialises in many things, from waxing to manicure, pedicure, from ear piercing to ear wash, from face wash to bleach, from massage to body piercing and tattoos, everything is available here. “We specialise in a bleach treatment where a mixed fruit pack is used. And body piercing -- ear, tongue, naval and nipple piercing is our specialisation, and tattoo is the hottest item in our list,” says Mahboob. He also points out that it is a haircut for which most men come to the parlour. Besides catering to the regular customer FW offers a three-hour-long package for the groom. “We prepare the bridegroom exclusively so that one can go straight to the community centre from the parlour,” says Mahboob.

So, the beauty business certainly has gone through a change in the last five years to accommodate a new category of clientele -- the metrosexual males, as beauty conscious men are called in current jargon. Catering to this category of men is now a thriving business. Majid is confident that in the future more men will find their way into the salons to have their looks improved.
Biotique Herbal male salon is a popular dig for the metrosexual for its elegant and quiet setting

The beauty business is thriving because of metrosexual males like Golam Murtoza Bhuiyan, who is 29, and is willing to spend time and money to look better. On Sunday at around 7 in the evening he is peacefully having a 'biotique facial' in Men's Planet. Thirty minutes ago, he and his wife had decided to go to watch a movie in Bashundhara City, and his wife had quickly retired to their bedroom to get ready. Bhuiyan immediately dropped by the salon to get a quick shave and to trim his side burns. It was after the hairdresser's comments about his black-heads that he decided to do a facial. Everyone was doing facials nowadays so why shouldn't he? And it would also revitalise his skin. Times have changed and with it, the age-old notion that men need to look rugged and macho has become passé. Men are now a more conscious gender, caring about their looks and posture. So Bhuiyan sits, wearing a blissful look on his face, contemplating the night ahead.

For years, it was taken for granted that it is women who had the right to spend hours dressing up for a date while the typical man is allowed only a few minutes. While this ritual of making oneself up still remains an integral part of all women, the men of today also have suddenly taken a bold step forward and are resorting to beauty treatment. The men are now more conscious about their looks and their attire. More and more men, especially the younger generation can be seen mulling over the choices of facials they have, the options that they have with various types of haircuts.

Male salons are a new pampering and entertaining concept that cater to men's haircuts -from the conventional to ultra funky, massages, manicures and all other grooming treatments. Why simply look good when one can feel good inside as well? These hair and facial treatments also help the gents to take better care of their hair and skin to combat the effects of the pollution and dust of Dhaka. Whatever the reason, men have started caring more about their personal hygiene and looks and the salons have come up with treatments to help them.

Male parlours such as Sicily, Biotique, Total Care Salon, Habibs at Persona, Face Wash, etc. have all mushroomed over the last decade and they all offer something different for an individual's hair and facial needs. Every now and then different salons are sprouting up and popular magazines and newspapers are advertising the necessity for men to go there and look good. Everything is about the image. According to guys, if women can go and make their appearances worth a second look why should the men just sit back? A little attention can go a long way and the males of today know that nothing is to be taken for granted. Today, men can be seen going around with blonde, brunette or red hair. Ranging from teens to males in their early twenties, both prefer to add a little of what they feel to be an amount of zing to their dark manes.

Many men are also resorting to a potentially harmful process of beautification bleaching to lighten the skin tine. But according to the experts, this is not as harmful as it used to be. The main ingredients used are herbal and though there are some bleaching contents, the harm done to the skin is minimal, or so they claim.

It is a common trend in teens to keep changing their hair colour. Getting a few blond streaks or going for a total colour change has become a norm for many youngsters who are heavily influenced by the fashion and styles they see on cable TV or in magazines.

Some of the popular salons have their own brand of products

Persona for Men's offer distinctive hair cutting and styling in a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere that carries an air of elegance. One can see men of all ages come but there are more executives that are interested in their image and appearance, a major part of which is healthy, styled hair.

Biotique Herbals exclusive Men's Salon is the pioneer for men's hair, skin and body care in Bangladesh. Located in House 5, Road 32, Gulshan Avenue, Biotique is synonymous with skin and hair care developed from the Ancient Ayurveda. One of their specialty is the Groom Package at Tk.3,000. The groom gets to indulge in a hair cut complete with shampoo, oil massage and setting. Included in this package are a manicure, a facial, a bleaching therapy and a body massage. The environment is clean and the staff friendly.

Md. Saiful Moula, Manager of Habibs at Persona says that there is a membership policy here that most of the clients can avail. If one avails Tk 300 service or more, he is automatically asked to become a member, free of cost. They receive a 10 % special service discount. “Piercing is quite a popular activity nowadays,” says Moula. “The latest gimmick is piercing one's chin and eyebrow. There are even some guys who pierce their navel but that's just once in a while. The piercing has one cost and the ring, which we put in after piercing is an additional cost, depending upon the make of the ring. We get the rings from Bangkok. We sterilise them and apply all sorts of medicine to prevent infection.

Saiful Moula, the general manager of Habibs at Persona, is an appearance conscious male
Persona Adams is located at House 405, Road 27, First Floor (opposite to HSBC Bank), Dhanmondi while Habibs at Persona is located at House 121 D, Road 44.

Habibs at Persona caters to a wider range of male needs. Starting from haircuts, to shampoo to shaves, one can even change one's hair colour, be it a few strands of hair or the whole head. Habibs at Persona also have specialists who look at the client's hair and suggest a specific treatment, for example for hair loss. Facials are the most popular. All facials are a twelve-step process.

At Persona, there are other exclusive treatments such as the thermoherb, a wrinkle lift treatment for ageing, sagging and dry skin; vegetable peel for treating spots and blemishes and the 'Galvanic Facial' that uses electrodes to correct flaws in the skin while a 'lonosmeter' helps to pick out dirt embedded pigment and provides necessary nourishment to the skin.

Another popular place for grooming is Men's Planet. Even though the place may be a little small, the people are very friendly and the service good. Hair is definitely given top priority. Hair Cutting costs about Tk.80 while Hair dyeing costs Tk.500 (for Bigen and Just for Men), Tk.450 (for Revlon / Hi-speedy / Loreal) and Tk.800 for colouring one's hair. Brown and golden are quite popular choices. They have a nice selection of Hot Oil Treatment at Tk.300. They also have a Cream Treatment that costs Tk.500 to Tk.800. There are also the regulars Hair Shampooing, Hair Curl and Hair Straightening at Tk.800 each. A popular treatment is the Fair Polish Treatment at Tk.400 to lighten skin tone. The regular Face Bleaching Treatment at Tk.200.

Manicure and pedicure (facing page) are now major parts of grooming which is available in almost all salons

Among Face Masks, the Shehnaz Facial and the Biotique Facial are among the favourite brands. They each cost Tk.500. The other parts of the body will also get some treatment here, as we move on to the hands and legs. There is a Manicure for Tk.200s to Tk.300 (French manicure at Tk. 50 and pedicure are Tk.450 plus. Another common problem that finds it's solution at Men's Planet is waxing. For Tk.200 one wax one's underarms. Ear piercing can be done for Tk.400 per ear.

Mir Enamul Karim Aman, Film Producer and Distributor was seen silently having a shave. “I love this place because it is so quiet and peaceful,” says Aman. “I come once every month for a hair cut and a shave, but I see a lot of youngsters do all types of facials and what not.”

With greater purchasing power and the overwhelming influence of the global media, not to mention the whole concept of male grooming, the urge to go to a place that promises to improve one's looks has reached the Bangladeshi urban male. It's not just about plain male vanity; it is about creating an image for oneself that boosts self-confidence and makes him more acceptable to the world around him. Most of all, this trend has given men the opportunity to take some time out for a little bit of pampering, a privilege that had once been exclusively bagged by women.

Kaniz Almas Khan is a renowned beautician and the CEO of Persona. “When there is a demand, there will always be a supply,” she says, talking about the changing trend in male grooming. “First of all, we are all humans. The senses that are working are that we have to present ourselves in the best manner possible. This presentation varies from men to women. The male trend has been changing in the recent past.” While most people used to simply go for a hair cut, today there are a lot of styles in haircutting. “Apart from hair cut, there is also manicure, pedicure, facials and skin care treatments but the basic concept has changed. Now, men are taking care of their body,” continues Khan.

Kaniz Almas Khan

There are, of course, categories of the clientele at these salons. “A large group of the clientele includes elderly people who come in mostly for massages. It helps them relax, and also gets the blood circulating in their body", says Khan. “As people get older, they start to take better care of their body and so, male salons are the best form of retreat.”

“In the hair section, the main clientele are of the age bracket 17 to 30. They are the daring group, as they tend to do a wide range of things starting from hair straightening to perming,” she continues. In the name of experimentation, a lot of youngsters also go for piercing.” Those people who are in their thirties and have to go to office are a little more conscious about their look and the colouring they use. White and blondish colours are usually favoured by this mature crowd”.

Asked about the increasing popularity of the Fair Polishing (herbal bleach), Khan says that it is so popular because of its instant result. If someone gets a sunburn or in the case of a dark skinned groom, the results are immediate and as technology upgrades, the harmful contents are a bare minimum.

“One thing that is rather apparent, whatever new items we offer to our clients, they are more than willing to avail them. Our strongest point is our service. We work to keep clients, not just to serve them for one time,” concluded Khan. At the end of the day, a little service goes a long way.

Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2006