Historically, we have been fed depictions all over popular media where the gender roles for men and women are stated and defined. Most such instances established gender norms and standards for both the masculine side of the coin as well as the feminine one. The man, or the breadwinner, has to earn money to support his wife and their children (however many of them there may be). The woman, or the caregiver, has to manage the household by cooking and cleaning it. Moreover, she has to take care of the kids for the most part in regards to every concern other than the monetary one which is taken care of by the paternal figure. Oh, and they have to do all of that while looking the part. More precisely, while ‘looking good’. But with time, there comes change. This requirement of looking presentable at all times while doing one’s work has now also permeated throughout the male segment of the population.
The changing of the times has made it a necessity for all men and women to do their utmost to appear as close to the impossible standards constantly projected across the media forms that frequent our lives. One cannot turn on the television (yeah, people are still doing that) without coming across the new commercial for Gillette’s new products. Tellingly, one of the more popular items from their range is the beard trimmer. Beard grooming has existed in a niche segment for the longest time. But it has gained immense popularity around the world in recent times. In Bangladesh, beard grooming has become a way of life for a generation of male young adults who grew up on trends such as #NoShaveNovember and lived through the era where a bearded Chris Evans inexplicably became even more of a hunk in Avengers: Infinity War than the clean shaven version of his Captain America portrayal in the other films (especially in the eyes of the women watching these adaptations). It can be said that the female gaze has become highly influential in the last decade even though it still trails the constant male gaze that women have to deal with.
Not only are beard trimmers extremely popular, but other accessories that accentuate the attractiveness of a beard are also commonplace now. Beard shampoos and beard oils have found a market where there previously was none. We found such a project that dealt with the introduction of a unique product into the shampoo market and it came up with Adam’s Beard Shampoo. The market was segmented based on usage of beard grooming products and tried to formulate a detailed marketing plan to entice the beard oil users to give the beard shampoo a try. Back in 2017, it seemed like a feasible solution to meet the demands of a niche market – the beard groomers of Bangladesh – especially since the industry had a lot of future growth potential. That potential has seemingly been realized as that audience interested in beard grooming products has grown quite a lot in the past two years.
Studio X, a concern of Marico Bangladesh, recently began its journey in the country. With a full range of products, the multinational company introduced this product line (the first of their international male grooming variety) and will seek to dominate the growing market of men who are style conscious and care deeply about their appearance. Back in 2017, during the research conducted for the project, researchers found that the needs of the beard groomers were primarily being met through online platforms like Amazon where international branded products such as Professor Fuzzworthy’s Beard Shampoo by Beauty and the Bees, Beard Shampoo and Wash by Cave, and Beard Wash by Life Bearded etc. were purchased. But the rising demand has led to first movers such as the aforementioned Studio X attempting to gain a foothold in the market and a dominant position.
Another reality that must be acknowledged is the massive increase in the number of male grooming salons which specialize in a number of areas including beard grooming and skincare. From the age of the roadside haircuts and the multitude of small-time hairdressers to the time of premium men’s salons such as Adonis or Hairbox truly shows the change in how men perceive and take care of their appearance. Truefitt & Hill, the world’s oldest (read: most expensive) barbershop is also offering its barber services in Dhaka now and if that is not a sign of the lucrative men’s grooming market, we don’t know what is.
Other than beard grooming, men have also become cautious about skincare. Skincare products have traditionally been the most essential items on the checklist of the fairer sex but now the men require their own differentiated line of such products. From renowned brands like Garnier to Pond’s to Nivea to everything in between, it is impossible to come across any of them in supermarket like Agora or Shwapno without feasting one’s eyes upon the Garnier Men, Pond’s Men and Nivea Men product lines alongside the traditional range of products. The times have surely changed and soon it will be undeniable that men have started to care about their appearance (almost) as much as women. It is no longer enough to be a breadwinner anymore; actually, it’s not even a necessity – the traditional roles have been reversed in a number of cases where the woman of the family earns and the man takes care of the home (even though society at large still has a lot of catching up to do with their views about this situation). But women will always care about their appearance (more or less) whether they are a successful entrepreneur or a successful housewife. The thing that has surprisingly changed is that it may now be the same for the men as well, when it comes to caring about theirs.