Quirky hairdos are now a norm among young men

Twenty-year-old Akhin Dev assists his father in their studio often. But whenever he is around clients tend to be more interested in the photographer than getting themselves clicked. Their curiosity is Akhin’s hairdo, the big hair popularly called the Afro, which the boy shows off with pride. “Customers are instantly intrigued by my hair. Some would want to touch it, others want to know if it is real,” says Akhin.

Those like Akhin, whose hairdos are their statement, are a growing number in the city. For these young men, the hairdo is personal style and a mark of individuality. It draws attention and is also self-expression. Be it the ones barely out of school or into new jobs, boys are increasingly seen in hairstyles that are a far cry from the conventional. Clean, classic hairdos are not worth their attention. Instead flashy is in; be it the loud spikes with its bouquet of variants or simply big hair of incorrigible curls to knots, buns, braids and tails on the head.

History has had its brush with hairdos. In popular culture, from The Beatles to Lady Gaga, all have let hairdos do the talking. Spikes, at their pronounced best, were reserved for warriors in the Celtic tradition, says Wikipedia. The Mohawk too were the sign of fighters. Hairstyle was politics during the hippie and counter culture movements in the West. But for the young in Kerala, it is about being themselves. There are no overt symbols of protest and rebellion, this is their cool, individual style, they say. ‘Different’ is a term they love and take seriously.

Setting a trend

“The inspiration is in being different,” says 21-year-old Alok Atmaprakash, a management student, whose neat bun can flourish into a cascade of shoulder–length hair at the flip of the pin. For 22-year-old Advait, his long hair is his intensely individual stamp, one that he wanted for long. “I always wanted to wear my hair long. I could not do it when I was in school, but have done so over the past one and a half years. This adds to my individuality and it may also have something to do with my love of music,” says Advait, an engineering graduate now studying music. “Long hair is a great conversation starter in music circles,” he adds.

“Cool” and “trendy” is how Ambika Pillai, make-up artist and hair-stylist, describes the trend “Boys are now experimenting. They suddenly realise that they have so much to choose from. The tails are particularly rampant,” she says.

Influences are varied, says Vidyadharan A.V., senior hair dresser at Ole Beauty Clinic in Kozhikode. “Boys come with pictures of the look they want,” he says. The snaps mostly range from cricket and soccer stars to Hollywood and Bollywood actors. “Spikes are the popular choice and there are varieties to it — centre spike, full spike, front spike and even one with a tail at the back,” he says.

While David Beckham is a popular reference point, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s recent Mohawk hairdo has takers too, say the hair dressers at Ole. “We mostly have boys in the age-group of 16-25 coming in for these styles,” says Vidyadharan.

However, those like Alok and his friends — Aslam with his centre spike and Aju who carries his natural big hair with pride — assert imitation is not for them. “It must be the younger kids who go to salons with pictures,” they say. “For us it is about finding what suits us. It is our style. We want others to follow us not the other way around,” says Aslam. They assert their popularity has grown ever since their hair grew character. Facebook followers are swelling and youngsters look at them in awe, they insist. “May be older people have reservations. But among smaller kids we are celebrities,” adds Aslam. They mostly love the attention. “You may feel a bit weird when you are alone and stared at, but if we are together we enjoy the attention,” adds Aslam.

Ambika says exposure has closed the gap between a boy in the metro and in a small town. “These boys show they are with it. It shows their level of confidence. Most parents are open to their experiments.”

However, the attention these young men garner come at a price. Most invest considerable time and care on their hair. “I devote about an hour to my hair every day. Just consider the time to dry it,” says Akhin. Seventeen-year-old student Shyam who shows off his emo hairdo on Facebook says, “I apply egg white and scrub my hair to set it the right way,” says Shyam.

Worth the effort

Hip hairdo is a failed idea without a trusted hairdresser. “We go to the same place to get our hair cut,” adds Alok. There are nitty-gritties to be handled. Aslam points out, “The hair always has to be of certain length, not an inch long or short.”

“Most of them visit us twice a month. A normal spike lasts only for 15 days,” pitches in hairdresser Vidyadharan. He points out that quirky hairdo come in the way in schools that do not encourage fashion. The boys apparently have worked their way around the problem. “They cut it in such a way that it appears like a normal cut in school and they get the spike on when out of campus,” says Vidyadharan. Aslam’s draws a blank when questioned on the possibility of a job environment that does not allow fancy hair-cuts. Some young companies are lenient on hairdos, he says. Alok pitches in, “I want to be an entrepreneur so that I can be myself.”

However, from all the fluff, T. Muraleedharan, an English teacher who works at a college in Thrissur and who has published papers on masculinity, draws important observations.

“What I see is a re-definition of the masculine appearance in Kerala. Trends like low-waist jeans would have been unthinkable some time ago. It is the men who are experimenting. Exposure is such that international fashion is reflected here,” he says.

He also adds while hair trends of the 1960s and 70s were accompanied by radical thinking, nothing of that sort is visible now. “It is flashy and a fad,” he says. Alok sums it up. “We are not doing anybody any harm. We are well-educated, well-behaved boys.”