Friday, December 5, 2008

Men and (the business of ) beauty

Cosmopolitan india, fast developing india, young india, is seeing a new side to the beauty business…. Not just is it a multi million dollar industry just waiting to be tapped, it is seeing increasingly, the presence of men….. I am not referring to the metrosexual or any other type of man, who takes time out to groom himself….i am talking of men delivering beauty services…..

A couple of years ago, at the neighbourhood beauty parlour which is the branch of a very famous chain, I asked for a pedicure and in response I was asked “do you want ladies or gents ma’am?” not knowing if I heard right, I begged her pardon, to be told again like I was the biggest moron around, that she was asking if I preferred to have a man give me the pedicure… not knowing really if I wanted some random man to be touching and feeling up my leg, I said no. so there I sat, getting my pedicure done, by a girl who huffed and puffed and there sat next to me a lady, engrossed reading a glossy, getting her’s done by a man….both were so matter of fact and went about their business so normally, that I looked like the only village yokel who seemed to notice….

So the next time I was asked, I said either, and a man turned up to do my pedicure… except for the fact that they have more strength and therefore can give you a longer and more forceful foot massage, I didn’t see any difference…..

Increasingly, there are no more “parlour girls”….atleast at the places that are a little swank or wannabe swank and most of them are unisex….infact walk into a unisex parlour, and most often, except for more intimate services such as waxing, there are men and women to attend to you….the transition has happened…..i don’t know for good or bad…but it has….walking into a salon for a hair wash, cut and blow-dry, I am greeted by a “stylist”…yes, they’re not barbers any more…. Or hair dressers….. but stylists….they greet you in smart jeans and tees…. With something that resembles a holster at their hips….with a tonne of stuff they’re going to use on your hair….clips, combs, brushes and scissors….

Firstly, it seems funny, to be sitting next to a man who’s getting a little tuft of hair at the top of his head coloured blonde….he’s chatting away on the cell phone, while two women apply colour and brush and a bit of aluminium foil to his hair…..i feel extremely self conscious…. Then I relax… I am making a big deal of nothing I feel….infact I begin to feel rather silly….. if this is the way things are, then so be it…..

I am ushered into a “shampoo chair” a smartly dressed young man….with a dozen charms on his wrist, hair all spiked up with gel, and chewing gum, runs his hands through my hair…. I almost froze…. He shampoos it, conditions it and then wraps it in a towel…..i am ushered to the “cutting chair” …. There’s something about the way he went about his business….i changed my salon after 13 long years….it just got too difficult to drive half over town for a very expensive haircut… I turned to this one, a few kms from home…asked for their best person, told him to just trim what I already was styled in and he followed my instructions to the T… I do recognize deftness when I see it….

I mention it to a friend, the second time I went in for a hair cut…. She just rolled her eyes and said, “the best haircuts are given by men anyway….and I have been getting my hair done by a guy for the last 3 yrs now…..”

A year and 4 haircuts later, I ask for the guy with the charms on his wrist by name…..not because of anything other than the fact that he knows his job very well….. I finally don’t think of him as some random guy snipping and blow-drying my hair… but as my stylist…. Its taken a while…but hey!! If this is the way things are, then so be it…..!!

what next? I don’t know… J a facial perhaps?? Thank god I don’t do those….. that would be a little too much for my old fashioned self!! 

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