Kavita Bajeli Datt
If you are an Indian male in your 20s and living in a metro, chances are you want to flaunt a firm, unshaven chest like Bollywood's Shah Rukh Khan, Akshay Kumar or Aamir Khan, and don't mind being operated upon for it.
Cosmetic and aesthetic surgeons say they are seeing a surge in men who come to them for breast reduction and permanent hair removal from their chests in the hope of showing off their cleavage.
"Ten years ago, about 10 percent of my clients used to be men. Now it is 40 per cent. Most young men want to flaunt a firm, unshaven chest," Anup Dhir, a senior consultant in the department of cosmetic surgery at Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, told IANS.
Inspired by Bollywood actors and models who strut around shirtless, these men - mostly in their 20s - are ready to shell out money to show off cleavage.
"Appearance has taken precedence among both men and women. Earlier it was considered a woman's department, now more men are going under the knife than ever before," he said.
According to the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, surgery is becoming increasingly popular with men as a way to deal with image maintenance and change. "BBC news has reported that breast reduction surgery is gaining popularity amongst men with gynaecomastia, generally known as man boobs or moobs," Dhir said.
Dhir said gynaecomastia is linked to hormonal changes and some diseases. In some cases, it is due to being overweight and thus caused by an accumulation of fat.
He said apart from breast reduction, many men also want permanent cure for their hairy chests. "We use the laser technique for hair removal. This is a permanent way to remove hair from the chest. It means one sitting a month for four or five months," he said.
Breast reduction can cost anything between Rs.40,000-60,000 and laser surgery for hair removal can burn a Rs.60,000 hole in the pocket.
Charu Sharma, who runs two clinics called Gorgeous Looks in Greater Kailash and Patel Nagar and also works as a consultant in Fortis and Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute, said 50 percent of her total clientele comprises men. And the figure is on the rise.
"Men are becoming very conscious about body flab, particularly younger ones. They want to have a body shape that they want to show off, especially a perfect chest. Trends are changing. More men come to us for male breast reduction and nose surgery," she said.
While most younger men come for breast reduction and a nose job, older men in their 40s want to remove flab from their abdomen and get hair transplants, she said.
Agreeing with her, Dhir said men are also becoming image conscious. "It is common to see men wearing clothes that highlight their male cleavage."
He said most men come for breast reduction because they have to take off their shirts when they go swimming or to the gym.
Rahul Kumar (name changed) went to a cosmetic surgeon as he was conscious of his sagging breasts. He had no idea that many men face the same problem. It was by sheer chance that he met a cosmetic surgeon at a party. He underwent the surgery and is now more sure of himself.
"I am more confident now. I am no longer hesitant in taking off my shirt. My friends now tease me and call me Salman Khan as he also takes off his shirt at the drop of a hat," said the 28-year-old executive.
M.S. Bhatia, the head of the department of psychiatry at Guru Tegh Bahadur Hospital, said media projections on good looks make youngsters vulnerable. "It is sometimes due to sheer peer pressure that they want to follow current styles," he added.
But looking sure good has its advantages.
Like Dhir told IANS: "Looking good improves your self-image and confidence and can play a part in being successful at home and at work."