In Pakistan, as militant Islamists wage war on anything smacking of Western culture, “metrosexual” man is quietly on the rise, with male grooming salons springing up in the main cities.
Despite Pakistan’s widespread poverty, rich urbanites have more disposable cash than ever and are now spending it on their image, said Hassan Kilde Bajwa, 30, an associate creative director at Synergy advertising agency.
“Now people have a much greater disposable income because of all the banking reforms we’ve had over the past 10, 15 years where all of a sudden we have people being able to take loans, which was not a possibility in Pakistan before,” he said.
“And the other major influence is the fact that we now have a flourishing media industry,” he said, adding that: “When you’re bombarded with all these new ideas, your consumption increases.”
“Now you see more and more products, personal hygiene products, being targeted at men, which is something quite new. Metrosexuality is definitely on the up in Pakistan,” he said.
Hair transplants are one sign of the trend. In Lahore, surgeon Ahmad Chaudhry says his hair transplant business is booming.
The past five years has seen a trebling of profits, said the 40-year-old doctor, speaking as he performs one of his daily surgeries while his client watches television.
“It’s due to awareness we have created by advertising and good references,” Chaudhry said.
“Business is growing more and more but when there’s political instability or some explosions then there’s a down. People are afraid to travel to Lahore or even to Pakistan,” he said.
Chaudhry’s client, Azhar Amin, 43, is sitting in the surgery chair as the surgeon cuts away a section of his scalp under local anesthetic.
“I wanted it for cosmetic reasons and to improve my confidence,” said Amin, who paid US$1,350 for each of two five-hour procedures.
“Baldness is a weakness so after the hair transplant I will be more cosmetically acceptable and confident,” Amin said.
Facials and manicures are also increasingly popular among Pakistani men.
Michael Kanaan, a Lebanese salon owner in Islamabad, has watched the trend grow.
“They’re catching up with the [Western] fashion. Everyone wants to look good, everyone wants to feel good about themselves when it comes to their hair and nails,” Kanaan said.
Provincial politician Yousuf Ayub Khan goes to Michael K salon every three months for a facial.
His voter base is in the conservative province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but Khan says male pampering is surprisingly socially acceptable.
“It’s a very traditional conservative society in Pakistan, but traditionally it’s not a problem over here if you tell someone you’ve been to a salon, and had a facial or pedicure, no one will laugh at you,” he said.