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December 03, 2017

The Unapologetic Vanity Of The Modern Indian Man

Text by Riaan Jacob George

We dissect the urban Indian male through the lens of his fashionable appearance, discerning taste and evolving sensibilities

Of Him and His Hair Iron
The unabashed and unapologetic vanity of the modern Indian man dawned upon me recently, during a night out with friends. I was at home, pressed and dressed, waiting for an uber-glamorous married couple to come fetch me for our crazy night out on the town. After a significant delay, I called the wife to ask where they were. To this, I received a sincere and heartfelt apology: “I’m so sorry we’re late, I’m ready, I am just waiting for my husband to finish blow-drying and ironing his hair”. “Blow-drying and ironing?” I ask myself, non-judgementally! Only a few years ago, I hung out with guys who threw on a crumpled tee, slipped into a pair of sneakers and were good to step out. Times, they are a-changing! Gone are the days when a man’s understated elegance merely complemented his woman’s glitzy ensemble. Men today want to stand out as much as the ladies. And this incident was a case in point!

Cut to 15 minutes later, the couple in question showed up in their swanky car below my apartment. As nattily dressed as I thought I was, my buddy in the driver’s seat made me look like a plain frump. His shoulder-length mane, coiffed to perfection, was glimmering with hair products. I spotted impeccably-manicured hands steering the wheel of his BMW 7 Series, as his IWC Portugieser clanked discreetly on his wrist. Since such overt expressions of vanity don’t particularly appeal to my rather understated sensibilities, I seem to be in the minority these days. I am hardly what one would call a frump; however, I tend to keep the preening in check! Lots of my brothers, however, are not of the same opinion.

Positively Preened
With my glamorous couple in tow, I walked into the party at one of Mumbai’s hippest nightspots. I looked around to do a quick grooming-and-style recce of the city’s boys. Everywhere I looked, I saw men with gym-toned bodies, under perfectly tailored clothes, and accessorised to perfection. As for the brands on display, I spotted a healthy dose of Rolex and IWC, dozens of Tod’s Gomminos, and lots of Boss and Balenciaga! A far cry from the average Indian guy, a few years ago, whose idea of style was checked shirts and chinos!

One night on the town is enough to prove how the modern Indian male has evolved. He loves to preen, flips unapologetically through the pages of men’s fashion magazines, scours for inspiration from his favourite Instagram style bloggers and stocks up on clothes, accessories and grooming products like never before.

Hirsute or not to be hirsute
One huge step in the evolution of the modern Indian male is his approach to body hair. I see this every evening at the gym during my workout. There are hordes of strapping young lads, flexing their biceps in the floor-to-ceiling mirrors, with absolutely no body hair in sight. Spotting a hirsute chest or arms au naturel with a bit of that charming, masculine fuzz, is almost a rarity! All I see are silky waxed chests, armpits smooth as silk, legs and arms free of fuzz! Could this, perhaps, be a sign of our times?

While our fathers expressed virility through body hair, today’s metrosexual is waging a full-fledged war against any sort of stubble! Going by the number of smooth chests I’ve seen at the gym, at clubs and on the big screen, it seems to be that the sensibilities of Indian males have evolved. That said, male body hair grooming is a largely debatable subject and has men and women divided in opinion.

Part of my job as a journalist is to interact with everyday guys to figure out their consumption patterns and how society is evolving. One thing I can safely say: Indian men know what they want and are going all out to invest in their looks. From made-to-measure shirts, to bespoke suits and even customised shoes, there is a host of homegrown labels catering to this increasing demand. Not happy with just buying a shirt, they want to buy made-to-measure shirt. They ask for monograms on their suits and shoes. Their collection of socks, cufflinks and even boxers are their pride and joy. They horde shoes just like their wives or girlfriends do and painstakingly groom their footwear. They love anything in limited edition. In short, the modern male is more discerning than ever, and we aren’t complaining!

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