Pakistani Men Turn Metrosexual

by VR Sreeraman on Sep 25 2007 5:02 PM

Hair implants have become commonplace in Pakistan in the past few years thanks to wealthier urban males embracing cosmetic treatments that were once regarded as effeminate and even unIslamic, reports The Times.

From facials to manicures, back waxes to eyebrow threading, a host of services are now on offer at a growing number of spas, salons and clinics catering to the male market.

“I never bothered with this before. I guess there’s just more pressure on men to look good these days,” says Humayun, 28, after a facial at the Islamabad branch of Depilex Men, part of the biggest chain of beauty parlours in Pakistan.

The trend may be confined to the upper and middle classes, estimated at 20-30 million people, but it illustrates how Western-style media, marketing and celebrity culture are changing Pakistani society.

Five years ago most Pakistani men wore only the traditional salwar kameez. The standard hairstyle was a short back and sides. Deodorant was considered unmanly. Moisturiser? Forget it.

The same is still largely the case in rural Pakistan. The country’s population of 165 million is 97 per cent Muslim and tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan have become even more conservative as the Taleban force men to grow beards and reject Western fashions.

However, in the big cities of Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar, where dozens of television channels are now available, men are becoming ever more conscious about their clothes, coiffures and complexions.

“It has definitely come up in the past five years – and not just in the upper classes,” Tahir Mohammed, a leading cosmetic surgeon, said.

He said that 25 per cent of his clients were now men and a growing number asked for surgeries such as nose jobs or liposuction on their bellies.

Sales of men’s grooming products rose 15 per cent last year to 3.4 billion rupees (28 million pounds), according to a recent report by Euromonitor, a market research company.

Among the best selling products is a skin-whitening cream called Fair and Lovely. Depilex, which has run women’s beauty parlours for 25 years, now has four branches for men only.

Last year Pakistan’s first Western-style spa, called Nirvana, opened in Islamabad. It shut down briefly this year when mullahs at the radical Red Mosque began a campaign to cleanse Islamabad of “unIslamic vices” such as beauty parlours and music.

It has reopened with extra security and its male clients now outnumber females and include several top politicians, government officials and celebrities. They also choose a wide range of treatments, from waxing and threading to Balinese massage.