I’ve never bothered much about my face. I was, thankfully, born with acne-free skin and don’t care too much about growing a beard (no, it’s not because I can’t grow one). Pampering my face — other than a fortnightly scruff trim — always felt too time-consuming a chore, and bordering on narcissistic. But Indian men, suddenly, seem to have a lot of time on their hands. Around the country, men have begun buying a huge array of grooming services and products which were unheard of till about a year ago. Most of our fathers only had shaving creams, aftershave and cologne.
The millennial generation brought in the obsession of styling gels and deodorants. In the last couple of years, Indian men have been craving rampready looks for their Friday night shenanigans, so pompadours stiffened with hairspray and immaculately shaped beards are increasingly becoming a common sight. While we might be in the midst of “keeping it casual and hipster”, the hipster look (with its undercuts, man buns, handlebar moustaches and hefty beards) actually requires a lot of maintenance and pampering. A bunch of new brands, such as Bombay Shaving Co., The Man Company, Beardo and Ustraa have popped up to cater to these growing requirements. Across product lines, both premium and luxury, men’s grooming products have become a burgeoning market, growing far beyond just face washes and hair gels.
Men suddenly seem to not mind spending time (and a lot of money) on their appearances, a characteristic that was sniggered at earlier. Salons have introduced a variety of grooming services and are now treating a simple shave like an elaborate experience. The Truefitt and Hill salons have been a very successful venture, something quite unthinkable a few years back. “People’s lives have become so hectic that they have begun trying to find immersive experiences in everyday chores,” says Shantanu Deshpande, CEO and Co-Founder of Bombay Shaving Company. Set up a year ago, BSC retails a specially curated shaving kit which includes a safety razor (engineered in-house, and the core element of the kit) a preshave scrub, shaving cream, brush, Japanese-made safety blades, post-shave balm and face towel. “Look at Nespresso drinkers or Mont Blanc pen users. Brewing coffee or writing are mundane tasks, but both can be immersive if done right. We believe shaving is similar. It can be a very meditative and pampering experience that will set you up for a great day,” Deshpande quips. And a lot of people agree. Their customer base is growing at a rate of 25 per cent every month, and they heavily engage with women too.
Ustraa has been one of the frontrunners in the men’s grooming category. The website sells straight razors (also called cut-throat razors, thanks to Sweeney Todd), which have surprisingly sold very well, given that they cost Rs 10,000 a piece. Other brands like Beardo, The Man Company and Let’s Shave are enjoying success too, with products catering to shaving, beard care and grooming and body care.
While salons have always catered to both men and women, the likes of Truefitt and Hill, directed only towards men who desire immaculate pampering, are going strong. What encourages men to spend so much money on themselves? “Jobs require men to look well groomed. Also, with this increasing obsession for selfies, lifecasting on Snapchat and Instagram and the popularity of apps like Tinder, men have become extremely conscious of how they look,” says Deshpande. He does have a point.While the BSC mostly caters to upper middle-class working professionals in metros, Ustraa has been enjoying a steady demand even from smaller towns. “We have received money orders from men from remote parts of the country, waiting for our products. That came as a happy surprise to us,” say owners Rajat Tuli and Rahul Anand.
Hot or not?
Do these fine gentlemen look better with or without a scruff? Take your pick.
How To Use A Straight Razor
Avinash Sharma, a 30 year old advertising professional from Delhi, recently took to using straight razors. After a couple of bad cuts and bruises, he has mastered the art of a smooth cut-throat shave, he says. We ask him to guide us.
- Hone your razor well so that the teeth are sharp. Use a grit whetstone or a ceramic barber hone.
- You have to strop your razor on a leather strop after honing it to smooth the razor edge and align the teeth.
- How do you hold the damn thing so as to not slice your throat? Rest the first three fingers on the back of the blade, your pinkie on the blade’s tang and your thumb on the side of the blade near the middle.
- Use slow, even strokes in the direction of the growth.
- Hold the blade in a 30 degree angle and apply little pressure.
- Pull at the skin of your face and keep it taut.
- Prep well before a shave.
- Oil and moisturise well.
- Work up a good lather.
- Always shave in the direction of the grain.
- Too much pressure is never a good thing.
- Make slow, short and mindful strokes.
Have you heard of the Bangalore Beard Club?
Yes, there is a beard club in Bengaluru, where like-bearded men meet and discuss matters of beard and so on. Just kidding. These fine gentlemen are so much more than that. We have a quick chat with Vishal Singh, the founder of BBC.
I wanted to create an offline community to unite bearded men from different religions, caste and creed. I started the club on 17th May, 2016. We presently have 8 members. The membership is selective. All bearded men are prospects, but only a few are chosen to become members.
We meet once a month apart from regular monthly events. We discuss short term and long terms goals for the coming events over a drink of whisky. A couple of us do yoga, so we meet during the yoga classes as well. We are always trying to make it better. Very soon we will be launching chapters in Mumbai and Delhi. I see it becoming a National Brotherhood of Bearded Men.
How long and how much?
It takes me an hour to get ready before I leave the house. I apply beard oil after my shower. Good beard care requires oiling, shampoo and conditioner and I wash my face every day and blow dry my beard. I use beard washes, oil, wax and beard combs. I also wear clothes, shoes and accessories to match my beard. My monthly expenditure is around 5,000 to 8,000 rupees including salon services.
Location courtesy: Truefitt & Hill, Bengaluru