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From Karachi to Lahore, how do men prefer to wear their hair?

Christiano Ronaldo or Imran Khan — who’s Karachi’s biggest hair inspiration?

After a series of disappointments due to my curly hair, I started dodging hair stylists the same way Donald Trump evades the taxman. My friends, on the other hand, have gone to great lengths to cultivate meaningful relationships with their hair stylists.

Back in my teens we had the ‘burger cut’, named after the so-called ‘burgers’ (slang for Westernised elite). There were other hairdos that were considered trendy. In 1991, the movie Terminator 2 was released and every boy wanted a hair style like John Connor’s (played by Edward Walter Furlong) — a side part with a long fringe on the other side. A similar thing happened when Titanic was released in 1997 and Leonardo DiCaprio made us believe that long locks will make you a hit with the ladies. It didn’t.

It wasn’t just Hollywood movie stars that inspired hair style trends. Haircuts of Indian movie stars, local musicians, cricketers and even popular wrestlers of the WWF (now WWE) were all copied — much to the exasperation of our parents. But we weren’t doing anything new.

Back in my teens we had the ‘burger cut’, named after the so-called ‘burgers’ (slang for Westernised elite). There were other hairdos that were considered trendy. When Titanic was released in 1997, Leonardo DiCaprio made us believe that long locks will make you a hit with the ladies. It didn’t.

Hair has always been a prized possession and whether it was Waheed Murad’s side part or Dev Anand’s slicked quiff, men have tried their hand at various hair styles. The fibrous follicles on top of our head are the crowning glory for many gents and the foundation of a 20 billion dollar industry.

Nature intended hair as insulation from heat and cold, and enhancing our sense of touch. For centuries, however, tresses have reflected whatever their owner thinks is going to make him popular with the opposite sex. Love is truly in the hair.

There is no denying that a good haircut is a sheer delight and Karachi’s men go to great lengths for it. In the olden days, even among the fashionable crowd, there was a lingering social stigma towards a man who gave too much attention to his hair. Most people had the notion that this is something a ‘real’ man shouldn’t do.

Grooming was what horses used to get but the modern male wants to maintain good hair and visits the barber every week even though his hair only grows 0.44 mm per day — indicative of a paradigm shift in men’s approach towards hair.

There are a growing number of people who not only take pride in maintaining expensive hairdos but also consider it a pleasurable activity. Since the city’s humidity is bad for a carefully coiffed head it’s an uphill battle but those with hair are more than ready to cough up whatever their barbers feel like charging for their services.

Tony, the barber at Super Cuts in Saddar, says, “We used to have one person coming every month or six weeks. Now they are here every 15 days and even after we have raised prices to 150 rupees for a simple cut and 250 rupees for a proper hairdo.”

Portuguese footballer Christiano Ronaldo remains one of the top hair inspirations in Lahore
Portuguese footballer Christiano Ronaldo remains one of the top hair inspirations in Lahore

According to Tony, the most popular hairstyle is the ‘Ronaldo’ cut, named after the footballer Cristiano Ronaldo and derived from the Pompadour Haircut that was worn by Madame de Pompadour, the mistress of King Louis XV. The current version has hair shorn on the sides and kept luxuriously voluminous on top to be slicked back in a quiff. It’s easy to cut and maintain but requires frequent visits to the barber.

Hairstyles are fairly egalitarian: men from different socio-economic strata can all go for the same hairstyle and pay different rates. At Maskan Chowrangi in Gulshan-i-Iqbal, you can get the ‘Ronaldo’ for 110 rupees at a ‘salon’ under a lemon tree. For a bit more, barber Omar Rahi will be happy to give a head massage to calm any nerves.

He has competition from Axe Saloon which opened up close by just a few months back. It attracts a much younger crowd of 20-somethings who line up to pay 300 rupees for another popular style: a side part with very close trim on the other side. Majid Khan, a frequent customer, waited for over three hours last Eid to get his turn in the seat.

Mushtaq at Victory Saloon, Teen Talwar, is always in great demand for his way around a comb and scissor. His customers are mostly PTI fans and in 2013 many asked for Imran Khan’s bouffant. For 150 rupees he can fashion a hairstyle for any political hopeful who has a dream of tabdeeli through a good haircut. But fashion, it seems, trumps politics.

Imran Khan's hair is decidedly more attractive than most people in his cohort
Imran Khan’s hair is decidedly more attractive than most people in his cohort

Overhearing our conversation a rakish customer smiled and said, “Forget everything yaar, gorgeous hair is the best revenge.”

Victory does brisk business and so does its rival Balis, opposite Uzma’s Shopping Plaza in Clifton, where Fawwad Nomani charges 50 rupees more. Fawwad has calloused hands from holding scissors for years and keeps his customers happy by copying whatever they come up with.

“In the past, they would bring magazines and photos but now they just download anything from the internet and show it to me. I do my best and mashallah no complaints yet,” he said.

It seems no matter which way you cut it, hair saloons are all in the black and their customers are ever-growing. A good barber is now among the close coterie of associates for any male no matter what the economic conditions are. An unemployed guy getting a fade cut says it is the best: “Sure my life isn’t perfect but my hair is.”

Originally published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, October 23rd, 2016


What’s the most popular haircut for men in Lahore?

By Shehreyar Rizwan

Celebrity hairstyles are always the rage at barbershops
Celebrity hairstyles are always the rage at barbershops

What exactly are some of the latest trends in men’s hair in Lahore? Is it short? Is it long? Are spikes still in? The mutual answer every salon in the city offered was: the undercut.

Quite the rage for a few years now, this haircut entails longer hair on the top of the head and the sides and uber-short at the back. You lose some hair, but gain many more style points. And this isn’t even something developed just recently; it goes way back to the ’20s after which it kept appearing in different eras in different forms.

“The undercut has been the most in demand for over four years now and is still going strong,” says Zeeshan Ahmed, who runs Zeeshan’s Hair Salon on main Ferozepur Road. “Earlier the demand was for spikes. Mostly youngsters demand undercut but slightly altered with short sides and a little longer at the top.”

Attique, style director at the M.M. Alam Road branch of Toni&Guy salon, concurs. “The good thing is all age groups can adopt this cut since it can be styled in many ways,” he says. “One can look decent, rough, adventurous. Give the top hair a bounce and it’ll look funky, if it’s slicked back it looks gentlemanly, if it just rests on the head it’s decent.”

Celebrities are and have always been an inspiration for boys vis-a-vis haircuts. From David Beckham to Cristiano Ronaldo to Salman and Shahrukh Khan, hairstyle icons have had a major impact.

For 25-year-old Imtiaz, a rickshaw driver from Nishtar Colony, Bollywood has inspired him many a time. “I have copied John Abraham’s look from Dhoomand Arjun Rampal’s from Deewanapan,” he admits. “But since I can’t grow my hair because of my job, I recently copied Aftab Shivdasani’s hairstyle from his film Muskaan. I go to my barber and show him pictures on my mobile phone of the look I want.”

“Locally, Fawad Khan’s hairstyle has been appreciated, but he brought it with him from Bollywood,” says Attique. “That’s the pattern: the West introduces a style, then Bollywood copies it and finally it reaches us. International model Jon Kortajarena’s hairstyle is also popular these days. Though he sports an undercut, it’s the styling that stands out.”

Attique feels that most boys haven’t moved on from David Beckham yet and he’s still a style icon for many. “Whatever style he has made over the years, it’s been copied. Even the undercut was initially sported by him.” What about our local celebrities? “Locally, Fawad Khan’s hairstyle has been appreciated, but he brought it with him from Bollywood,” says Attique. “That’s the pattern: the West introduces a style, then Bollywood copies it and finally it reaches us. International model Jon Kortajarena’s hairstyle is also popular these days. Though he sports an undercut, it’s the styling that stands out.”

Zeeshan Ahmed says his clients usually bring random pictures from the net, not particularly celebs. “A few weeks ago Faisal Qureshi’s hairstyle looked good and was copied by a couple of boys. Then one brought Akshay Kumar’s picture the other day sporting a new style, which was an undercut but with thin lines cut with razor on the sides. A slightly older person would never have this done.”

Saeed says “We do what the client asks us to do. Copying haircuts isn’t rocket science.” When sought advice, he suggests according to face cut or height or hair volume. “If you’re short, we’d suggest you comb back to look tall. A tall person should part hair. In these 40 years of handling this business, there’s much more awareness through the media about hairstyles.”

Faysal Qureshi and Akshay Kumar's hairstyles have been popular in the past
Faysal Qureshi and Akshay Kumar’s hairstyles have been popular in the past

There are ‘boys’ out there, of course, who don’t care about the latest trends and just want a comfortable, neat, simple haircut that’s not a hassle either. “I just want a neat haircut, nothing funky or modern for me,” says Ahsan, a 30-something computer engineer. “I don’t follow latest trends because I can’t be bothered. I used to use a lot of gel while I was in 8th and 9th grade and suffered hair fall, which scared me. The maximum I’ve used since then is hair oil.”

Older and balding people often prefer cuts that give volume to their hair. Saeed discloses that an older person can look young by dyeing their hair or getting a hair transplant, something which is becoming increasingly common these days. He adds that there’s a new trend in hair dying also. He cites the example of a doctor from the UK who wanted his hair dyed grey-silver. “The all black look is out. In fact, some older people prefer grey hair. They want to age gracefully.”

Some styles never fade and always remain trendy. One of them is long hair. Summer or winter, some boys barely have their hair cut short. “Long hair never goes out of fashion and never will,” say Ahmed. “It can be maintained in a lot of ways: three steps, two steps, straight, depending on your face cut and hair type.”

So what does the future hold in terms of hair trends? Can boys look forward to something more adventurous? Something that will make them stand out? The experts have spoken and the verdict is in. “I foresee the man bun making waves in Pakistan, even though it’s been done to death abroad,” predicts Attique.

“Another style coming up is somewhat similar to what boys in the UK sport — sides completely shaved off and hair on the top just an inch long. But it remains to be seen who will adopt such styles because people are conscious of their double chin also, which is why such people demand voluminous hair. Longer hair in the front and short sides make your face appear longer, which hides the double chin. We want people to change their styles, but they don’t want to take risks,” he says.

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