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Journalist, Author, Columnist. My Twitter handle: @seemagoswami

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Vanity fair

There is something wrong with a world in which your man has more beauty products than you do

So, what is it going to be? Go grey with dignity? Or dye unto death? I am, for a change, talking about men here. Should the male of the species allow nature to take its course or should he fall back on the marvels of artifice and hair colour?

I can see the arguments on both sides of the dye divide. Grey hair on men can be both distinguished and sexy in a slightly rakish George Clooney/Richard Gere sort of way. It shows that you have grown up and – with a bit of luck – grown out of childish things. You are ready to be taken seriously. And, more importantly, you have more weighty things to think about than the greying of your locks.

On the other hand, there is no denying the fact that greying hair only suits a few people like Kapil Sibal or my former boss Aveek Sarkar. On most others, well, it just makes them look old – sometimes much older than they really are. So, the temptation to reach out for a bit of hair colour is quite understandable.

And in today’s age, when people are judged by appearances more than ever, it is only to be expected that everyone from David Cameron and Barack Obama to Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan is hitting the bottle (of hair dye, I hasten to add) with a vengeance.

These days, it’s all about looking youthful and seeming virile. And frankly, what’s wrong with that?

If we don’t judge women for booking themselves in for fortnightly root touch-ups interspersed with the odd session of highlights, then why should we treat men who dabble in dye with derision?

But while I am willing to grant men a dispensation when it comes to hair colour, I must confess that I have a problem with some of the more outré expressions of male vanity you see on display of late.

Call me sexist – and I am sure you will – but I can’t help but feel that there is something faintly ludicrous about men signing up for a ‘pampering facial’ complete with steaming open of pores, removal of blackheads and a little gentle massage. Whatever happened to the days when men just had an extra-close shave when they were looking for smoother skin? When did all these exfoliating scrubs, deep-cleansing creams and hydrating moisturisers (with an SPF count of no less than 30) find their way into the male grooming routine?

I am guessing it was about the time that the word metrosexual first crept into our dictionary. But even allowing for the fact that men have as much of a right to smell nice and have silky smooth skin as women, don’t you think that things are getting a tad out of hand now?

Now be honest here, ladies. Don’t you feel that there is something wrong with a world in which he has more skincare products than you do? Doesn’t it annoy you that he spends more time than you in front of the mirror worrying about his complexion (and wondering if it’s worth giving Fair and Handsome a whirl)? Isn’t it plain wrong that he has more clothes than you do and spends far longer in front of his wardrobe agonising about what to wear? Or that he takes much longer than you to get dressed for an evening out? (I mean, seriously, what is that about? Keeping a man waiting while you fussed over your make-up was just about the last honest pleasure left to us!)

And don’t even get me started on this new-fangled craze for male depilation. There is something faintly ridiculous about all that waxing of chest hair, so that those man boobs built up so carefully at the gym can be displayed to their best advantage. You know the kind of guys who do this kind of stuff, don’t you? The kind who model themselves on Salman Khan, spend all their free time in the gym, admiring their own muscles in the mirror as they work out their glutes/pecs/or whatever the hell they are called. And then, it’s off for a steam and sauna, until they finally shower with their lime-scented gels and moisturise, moisturise, moisturise.

In keeping with the Salman Khan image, hair is a big obsession as well. And it’s not just aspiring models and film stars who are signing up for hair weaves, hair extensions or even, the Holy Grail of them all, hair transplants. These days everyone wants thick lustrous hair, from your Average Joe in middle management to the foul-mouthed macho chef Gordon Ramsay (who was recently pictured with that tell-tale bandage at the back of his head). In India, rumour has it, even young male stars sign on for the procedure – not because they are balding (far from it) but simply because it would give them a thicker head of hair.

I’m sorry, but what exactly is sexy about a man who is so insecure about his looks that he has to have a surgical procedure to boost his own confidence? I’ll take the insouciant charm of a bald Sean Connery or a shaven Bruce Willis over this kind of self-consciousness any day. And so, I suspect, would most women.

Truth be told, there is something faintly repellent about this new-found, over-the-top vanity of men. And it makes me long for the days when a dash of Old Spice was all they needed to work their magic.


O P Tandon said...

The class of men you described abd the procedures they follow are victims of loss of self confidence. No unnatural application can enhance or conceal the originality. Most of the men using dyes can be viewed with black smudges on their scalps invoking humiliating comments.Similar is the case with other applications like gels and spirits.

Milind said...

Seema, I agree completely. Greying actually imparts a grace and nobility to men that is worth much more than any artificial looks crafted by vanity. You are right

Milind said...

For men, letting the gray remain is much more elegant and graceful than any artificial looks crafted by vanity.

Seema, you are absolutely right!

Santhosh K Ramachandran said...

I was wondering about the choice of labels you have applied for the post.

Shah rukh khan for one mention in the post. Hmmm..

RadhaKrishna said...

I agree totally.

If only, the same rules applied to greying women too - Sheila Diit, Mayawati, Mamta, Sonia....

One wonders about these power women and where they get these sustaining powers from...

KrRahul said...

People in many ancient cultures did a lot of things which can be called grooming today. I find hair dying a healthy necessity. And for face massages, etc, I find it feminine. Males enjoy a right amount of some sort of wildness and savageness – it doesn’t harm but adds to their looks. I see SRK and so many other actors now a days wax and clean all the body hair, SRK looks much like a woman now (sorry for saying this, but I have been his fan too), and the likes. Too much of it is very bad…