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What’s with the beards boys?

LiveMint logoLiveMint 20-07-2017 Sapna Agarwal

Today, every second boy I see sports a beard. In fact beards, stubbles, or what have you on your face—chops, bristles, and whiskers—have become so commonplace that they are the norm rather than the exception. More so if you are below 30.

The beard in its current cool avatar started to make an appearance about four years ago. By 2015-2016, it had become mainstream. Everyone from trendy hipsters to rugged men to actors, models and almost every player on the Indian cricket team sported one.

A trend, at its peak, usually lasts for a year. But this is not the case with the beard. It has stubbornly stuck on. Even now, every major men’s apparel and watch brand—Raymond, Celio, Rado, Tissot and Carrera—are endorsed by men with beards.

What’s fueling this trend? We know that wearing a beard is about manliness. It’s about a cultural requirement; angling for a partner; looking older; hiding the blemishes; it’s about identity. Increasingly though, it’s about pampering oneself. It’s about indulgence. It’s about experimenting.

A beard is no longer just a beard. It has evolved to encompass facial hair trends. It’s growing a handlebar; sporting a Fu Manchu; choosing between the heavier ducktail or a sleeker Van Dyke; it’s teasing with a goatee or then wearing a designer soul patch.

How else do you explain the craze for waxed moustaches and shiny beards? On e-tailer amazon.in’s portal there are 9,300 results for beard oil and 1,340 results for beard wax.

Or let’s look at the rapid growth of the overall male grooming segment, even as the sales growth of razors and blades has slowed. According to data from research firm Euromonitor International, the male grooming segment which includes pre- and post-shave creams, lotions, oils, waxes, deodorants, face scrubs, blades and razors has been growing at a rate of 15-16% for the past two years. In contrast, the growth in sales of razors and blades had slowed to 6% in the years 2015 and 2016 from 18% in 2012.

A whole new industry has come up in the last 2-3 years to cater to men’s vanity. Companies like Zed Lifestyle Pvt. Ltd which markets Beardo; Happily Unmarried Marketing Pvt. Ltd, maker of Ustraa; Bombay Shaving Co. and The Man Company are coming up with products like beard softeners and fragrant beard oils. For instance, Ustraa sells close to 40,000 units of beard oil per month. It is the highest selling item for the company, says founder Rajat Tuli.

What’s fuelling the trend is also social media and e-commerce. A search for beard styles on YouTube has about 775,000 results.

A popular video, 7 Grooming Mistakes Men Make—Man’s Guide To Better Facial Hair Care-Facial Hair Tips For Man has gained over three million views.

Start-ups are building their brands online, leveraging these new-age platforms to create awareness and also sell to their customers.

Then there are the beard clubs and associations like Movember—an entire month of growing moustaches to raise awareness for prostate cancer in November.

The beard care industry includes beard stylists and hair growth specialists. At salons, the traditional barber has now been transformed into a beard stylist who trims and fusses over the facial garden—tweezing, plucking and threading the unruly mess into place. At upmarket men’s salon chain Truefitt and Hill, there is a styling manual which guides men on which facial beard style goes with a certain hairstyle.

Men looking at beard maintenance and style frequent the salon at least four times a month and sometimes every three days, says Istayak Ansari, director, Lloyds Luxurious Ltd, the master franchise for Truefitt and Hill in India.

Men are also not shying away from visiting hair restoration specialists for a beard transplant if the growth is not up to their expectations. In fact, India is emerging as a global hub for facial hair transplants.

A telling sign that beards are not a passing fad is the interest they have evoked from large companies. Some of our biggest marketers are now taking these trends mainstream. Earlier this year, Marico Ltd acquired a substantial stake in Beardo. Last year, Unilever Plc. acquired Dollar Shaving Club, a start-up, for a handsome $1 billion as it offered men an alternative to pricey blades from Gillette and Schick.

Perhaps what this trend also tells us is that men, in spite of all our technological advances and evolution, are just men after all. Albeit smelling of lime, lavender and rosemary.

Shop Talk will take a weekly look at consumer trends, behaviour and insights.

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