Behold Manpris. Or shall we refer to it as Cparis for men. How about Manscara? Mandals (Sandals for men), mantyhose and man-bags are not merely new words. They are new fashion trends that have entered in India, only to receive mixed responses ranging from mild appreciation to severe mortification.
By Shahida Khan
Heard of Spanx? It’s a core precision undershirt (CPU); an evolution of the corset or girdle designed to hold in the belly, flatten love-handles and give its erstwhile women wearers a slimmer, shapelier silhouette. Hollywood actresses and Indian socialites are fans. Then last year, Aussie company Equmen launched “Spanx for men” causing mortified “What is the world coming to!” expressions. Tagged as male shapewear, Spanx boasts of design using the helix-mapping technique. Sounds technical. But is it manly?
You’ve seen the “boyfriend” jeans, the “boyfriend” shirts, women’s power suits and girls in tuxedoes. But every day, men’s fashion is borrowing more and more from women’s. And Spanx won’t be the first item to cross the gender divide.
Johnny Depp’s smudged layers of kohl in Pirates of the Caribbean, and Adam Lambert’s mounting success on American Idol boosted sales of guy-liner and manscara. Metrosexual icons David Beckham and Brad Pitt tote man-bags. Rafael Nadal’s colored manpris (Capri pants) unleashed a rash of bare ankles. John Abraham’s “mandals,” skinny jeans, muggs (uggs for men), mirdles (male girdles), mantyhose, man-bra, gladiator sandals, complexion enhancers, bloke’s bronzer… Do guys just look woman-ward for evolution in style?
Decried as pure foppery at first, jewelry, fairness creams, pedicures and aromatic massages for men all eventually became ubiquitous and acceptable. But how much is too much for the macho, mustachioed Indian man? The jury’s still out.
A famous Indian fashion designer is not so sure about Spanx, “I think for younger men it’s a great option. I don’t see it as a breakthrough because men don’t suffer to look good. They can’t wear anything that’s not comfortable.”
But another designer says boys have been doing this for a long while, albeit Indian style. “In India men do wear tight vests to look slimmer which is almost like a girdle. So they’d definitely be looking for something like a wonder shirt.” Another trend guru believes that Spanx will catch on in a big way in India because, “most men are flabby around the middle and suck in their stomach when they see attractive women.”
Young women asked about their opinion on Spanx and mantyhose giggle, “Will the Indian male answer to Victoria’s Secret be Vikram’s Secret?” Mantyhose may sound borderline kinky, but western truckers and cowboys wear them under normal clothing for warmth and to avoid chafing. Now, ActivSkin pantyhose for men boasts of healing effects on the body by stimulating blood circulation. Unlike women’s pantyhose, it is matte and looks like plain socks around the ankles. “It’s hard to believe a guy would willingly opt to wear a mantyhose. But its benefits do sound relevant in today’s sedentary working style where backache and joint pains are common problems.” says an HR consultant, who remembers wearing leggings as a kid growing up in Himachal Pradesh.
As for knights in shining ornaments, a healthcare executive, says it’s all been done before, “Using accessories is not new for Indian men. A lot of guys in small town India wear nail polish, kajal, earrings and sandals. These have never been associated with sexual preferences. The character of Langda Tyagi in Omkara looked fantastic with all the bling on. Men always wore more jewelry than women. It’s just that we’ve got Victorian notions from the West that men don’t wear jewelry. There are no limits to fashion as long as you can carry it off well.”
Speaking of carrying stuff, backpacks are out. The man-bag slung across one shoulder is classy and functional. What’s more, girls approve. “Guys overstuffing their pockets is seriously uncool. A man-bag is trendier than the briefcases our dads carried to work. To me a man-bag says the guy likes to be tidy and organized,” says a female financial analyst.
But choose carefully, think messenger bag. “My bag is a thing of utility and has to have enough sections and pockets. Its color, material and shoulder strap should look masculine. Most importantly, I’d never refer to it as a man-bag,” says a man whose wife picked his very first man-bag. Gucci, Prada and Louis Vuitton have the expensive best, while Diesel’s man-bags are easy on the wallet.
Make-up is the final frontier. While male celebrities, including sportsmen and politicians, don makeup for photo shoots and public appearances, daily wear is still frowned upon. But now, brands like Clinique and The Men Pen have introduced natural-looking concealers to cover shaving nicks, scars and even dark circles. A basic Metrosexual cosmetikit would comprise of an exfoliator, toner, moisturizer, concealer or foundation, matte powder and a transparent lip balm.
Most women, while ambiguous about who should wear the pants in the house, are clear about who should not wear control-pants. “It’s just too disgusting,” groans a female photographer, “My boyfriend has a paunch. But if he wore a corset I’d be so reminded of my mum. A big turn-off!”
Designer Julius Macwan’s men-skirts worn by beefy models were certifiably hot, designer Ravi Bajaj maintains that his clients ask him to cut their jackets to make them look slimmer and shorter-statured Bollywood actors wear subtle lifts in their shoes to match their taller heroines.
So women, who have just gotten used to sharing the mirror with their guy, may need to prepare to share the makeup palette and lingerie laundry bags as well. Vive le lack of difference! n