For Indian men, the COVID-19 quarantine has resulted in two realities: being forced to step into the kitchen and shaving their heads. The latter is obviously a crowded category because patriarchy and years of conditioning are no hindrance.
Social media platforms are abuzz with men sporting their quarantine-induced buzz cuts. Even mid-aged Indians, who are yet to figure out the intricacies of the world wide web, have taken up the tonsorial challenge, quite literally, head on.
It will be wrong to believe that men are trimming their hair down to the last inch due to a heightened sense of hygiene or self-care. Merely a month of quarantine cannot do what years of requests and reprimands haven't been able to.
Also, the raging phenomenon is not just a passing trend. It has its roots in psychology. Or else, it would have been very difficult to explain how the hairdressing experiment slipped through India's non-porous filters of caste, class and region that otherwise ensure men behave differently.
News18 spoke to several psychologists to understand why this is not exactly herd mentality and how the lockdown has triggered such behaviour.
For 43-year-old Subhash Das, it was something he wanted to do for long. However, he works in a multinational information technology firm in Kolkata and showing up "presentable" to work is a compulsion.
"I could not have buzz-cut my hair to work. But now that I don't have to show up anywhere, I decided to go for it. I did it only because I wanted a change. It will be back by the time I need to be in office again," he said.
Das's logic behind the act forms the foundation of why so many men are collectively involved in doing the same thing at the same time: sense of control.
A perfect setting for experiments, where individuals may not see their colleagues, friends and families face to face for the foreseeable future prompts the act. Added to this is the amount of free time people have that they generally spend to surf and scroll social media websites. Here, they find a virtual coterie where more and more men are joining the bandwagon by getting rid of their 'manes.'
Sharing pictures of their newly shaven crown provides a feeling of community that is highly important to the human brain while being indoors for extended periods of time, away from human interaction.
Also, humans generally tend to take up tasks that sound adventurous in their minds, more so, when it comes with the security of no consequences. Shaving the head during a quarantine perfectly fits the bill.
The act is so common that it is global. Data compiled by hair tool brand Remington indicates that since the beginning of isolation, there has been 234 per cent growth in sales of hair clippers.
Manoj Kumar, 30, working as an engineer in a Delhi-based firm said that he shaved his head on the first day of quarantine itself. He blamed it on thinning hair.
"My hair from the temple area was thinning, so I shaved my hair. I've read that it re-grows thicker," he said.
Psychologists explained that there will always be a surrogate reason. If the stated cause was strong enough, the individual would not have waited for a lockdown.
Same is the case with Kumar. Hair thinning is a genuine reason but it needed to be complemented with the security of not showing up or facing colleagues and others. The sense of control acted as a confidence booster.
Similarly, few others News18 spoke to, stated summers as the reasons behind the buzz cut. However, they had not sported a clean noggin last summer when there was no lockdown.
Moreover, being quarantined for long may lead to impulsivity in certain individuals. One needs to understand that being away from people is not generally how humans—social animals—behave.
Being indoors can lead to extreme boredom and sometimes depression along with pent up energy. Anything to break the cycle is welcome for the human mind.
The logic behind a haircut during quarantine may be compared to why shopping uplifts the mood of certain people. Attention to self and indulging in acts that can bring about change in physical appearance can provide a temporary dose of oxytocin.
Global hairstylists have time and again stated that they have seen their fair share of clients who come up in a highly emotional state wanting drastic changes in their appearances.
Meanwhile, Rahul Krishnan, resident of Trivandrum said he did it just to save money. "I will be saving on shampoo so I shaved my hair off. I do it every 2-3 months," he added.
Dr. Prem Lata, psychotherapist based out of New Delhi, summed up Krishnan's case in a line. She said, "some people do it only because they want to."