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Alan by Dafy Hagai

Exploring the beauty of local young men in Tel Aviv


TextDafy Hagai

Dafy Hagai's portraits of youthfulness and young manhood from the Israeli city

As a female photographer, I mostly think about beauty from a female point of view, and rarely stop to consider boy's routines. I grew up in Tel Aviv and for this series, I wanted to focus on photographing the beauty of local young manhood. As masculinity and male beauty standards have shifted on a global scale, I was curious about how that would translate locally. Tel Aviv has always been the liberal, open-minded and gay-friendly, coastal city of Israel – but it is also a melting pot. Living in very warm weather has always made beauty minimalistic for the people I know, and I wondered if this applied to the guys I would talk to, what kind of beauty routines local guys have created for themselves, and how it’s connected to their individual identity.

Ben 

What do you do?
Ben:
I am 19 years old, from Tel Aviv. I just finished a year of volunteering for social services. During which, I worked in a few different places like a community coffee house, which employs people with disabilities, social services kindergarten, the local kennel and a high school.

Do you have a beauty routine?
Ben:
I wash my face, moisturise and put on night cream. I stopped washing my hair. Now I use baking soda to clean it, and some oils for the smell. I put on some make-up when I go out sometimes, black eye pencil, and lipstick. I would like to get more involved with drag actually – it’s something I’m interested in. I pluck my eyebrows in the middle, and that’s it, they’re pretty full and easy to style.

How would you define local beauty?
Ben:
Colourful and optimistic. I think beauty is actually something that comes from within, so I think for me it’s also work I need to do with myself.

Do you think Israeli masculine beauty standards have changed in the last few years?
Ben:
When I think about old beauty standards, what comes to my mind is the vintage pics of my uncle wearing short shorts: the Kibbutz 1970’s look, beach-surfer type. I think things in Tel Aviv have moved on from that look to something a bit more fashion forward, more genderfluid. I actually try and mix between the two looks, I think it’s a cool mix.

Didi 

What do you do?
Didi:
I am a 21-year-old waiter. I consider myself a double agent living outside of the city but still being a part of the Tel Aviv nightlife scene. I’m thinking about getting back into modelling.

How important is beauty in your daily routine?
Didi:
 I mostly invest in my body. I started going to the gym in the last year. I believe beauty is usually something that makes you feel comfortable so I try and dress as comfortably as I can but still look fit. Shoes are always my main accessory. I put on a chain sometimes and I’m always wearing a belt.

How would you define local beauty?
Didi:
Very simple, people who don’t put in a lot of effort but look amazing, also people wear brands but mostly bootleg brands. There’s not one beauty standard, everyone here is very mixed, it’s a melting pot.

Do you think Israeli masculine beauty standards have changed in the last few years?
Didi:
 I think men (even cis-straight ones) are allowing themselves to be more experimental with their looks; wearing pink, crop tops and grooming themselves. Even young kids are changing their outlook. They are influenced by all the body positivity and diversity that's going on in the world of global masculine beauty standards. They’re not influenced as much from the old Israeli macho manhood prototype. I think it’s about bringing something different. There’s local mainstream beauty teenage stars, who are gay guys that wear a lot of make-up.

How is your identity expressed through your appearance?
Didi:
 My grandparents are from Poland and Russia. I think in Tel Aviv, being an Ashkenazi Jew is still in a way about having beauty privileges, which it shouldn’t. I think a lot of our culture is influenced by western culture, so we were all growing up idolising western beauty standards. I also have my freckles, which were my biggest insecurity when I was younger but now I’ve come to like them, I used to be a redhead and unfortunately, I’m not so much anymore. I love natural beauty and imperfections.

Amitay

What do you do?
Amitay:
I’m 19, I recently moved to Jerusalem to study art, mainly performance. I’m gay and I’m from Tel Aviv, a city which was always very accepting for me.

How important is beauty in your daily routine?
Amitay:
I use coconut oil on my face. I use conditioner for curls which makes my hair nice. I shave my face with a razor – I shave a lot of times a day. I carry around my small set of clippers and shave throughout the day. I like to be in this genderfluid place, a bit masculine and a bit feminine. My look is a lot about this feminine fantasy so it’s important to me to always have smooth skin. I’m very comfortable in this feminine place and it’s really important for me to look good all the time. If I’m out, I wear concealer. I like to dress nice. I also use black eye pencil and smear it.

Do you think Israeli masculine beauty standards have changed in the last few years?
Amitay:
The gay community has influenced the cis straight male beauty standards, for sure. Allowing yourself to be more open to new looks, colours, and wanting to look good – bringing to mainstream men the option to wear things like crop tops and be more fashionable generally.

Yohai

What do you do and how do you define yourself? 
Yohai:
I am 20 years old. I live in Afula at the moment. I define myself as non-binary; sometimes I wear heels, sometimes tracksuits. My routine is minimal. I cut my own hair once a week, I wash my face in the morning and at night and I shave. I manage a social teen centre and I work at IGY (Israeli Gay Youth Organization). I live in a commune, the first of it’s kind for IGY. We decided as a group to move to Afula (North of Israel) and live there after we started asking ourselves about what kind of lives and what kind of society we want to live in.

How would you define local beauty?
Yohai:
 Very colourful, for me personally I think about authentic Mizrachi Jewish beauty: thick brows, big lips, something very natural but still groomed, and gender fluid. That’s very beautiful to me.

Do you think Israeli masculine beauty standards have changed in the last few years?
Yohai:
 The standards have changed a bit thanks to, mainly social media, but also TV, mostly around topics of gender fluidity. There’s much more visibility for queerness. I think men control the world, and more and more strong women have started to work for gender equality. Which has created some change in the fashion world and the way men are perceiving beauty. 

Muhammad

What do you do?
Muhammad:
I'm 19. I grew up in Jaffa and Tel Aviv. Now I study art at Haifa. I define myself as Palestinian that lives in Israel, as opposed to an Israeli Arab.

What's your beauty regime like?
Muhammad: Mostly nothing, pretty raw. An “I woke up like this” look. I have a moustache that I try to groom. I shave the rest of my face. I have a hoop earring I wear all the time.

Do you think Israeli masculine beauty standards have changed in the last few years?
Muhammad: 
It’s very inspired by Europe, in terms of style, but I think it would be more interesting to have local things here that could develop organically.

How is your background expressed through your beauty?
Muhammad:
 I think my appearance is very Arabic. For me, it’s even more than my identity, it’s what I think is beautiful. My grandfather was an artist, and their house was designed in the Palestinian aesthetic: the carpets, and blinds, the furniture. I remember thinking about it a lot as a child. On the other hand, my mom always decorated our house in the modern white Ikea aesthetic, and I have to say that's not really "me".

German

What do you do?
German:
I am 20 years old and a make up artist and I'm very into fashion.

What's your beauty regime like?
German:
I use skin care (cream, serum, exfoliator), foundation, concealer and some highlighter. If I’m asked to be extra, for like a party or an event, then I go all out with my looks. Not trying too hard.

How is your identity expressed through your beauty and appearance?
German:
 My family moved from Russia to Israel. My mom always wore make-up and dressed nice, so I was inspired by her. The local attitude is my main inspiration. I think it’s fierce and sassy, it’s very Middle Eastern. I’m also inspired by the weather and landscapes.

Alan 

What do you do?
Alan: I am 18 years old, originally from Sudan, and moved to Israel at five years old. I play basketball and I started modelling two years ago. I’d like to continue modelling professionally and maybe act abroad.

What's your routine like when it comes to beauty?
Alan: I cut my hair every two weeks. I don’t shave, because I don’t have any facial hair. I only put on some lotion. I like to be and feel clean. I play a lot of basketball, yoga, running... so that’s my work out routine.

Koren

What do you do?
Koren:
I am 17 years old, in high school, and model. I play football, basketball and I used to be a professional dancer.

What's your beauty regime like?
Koren:
I go to the barbershop once a month. I shave every day. I put on some cream, serum, and then mousse on my hair, to keep the shape of my curls. I spend a lot of time shaping my hair. I shower, I make sure I’m shaved and my brows are on fleek. I try to dress as nicely as I can. I like to wear earrings, mostly small diamond earrings. I also have a tattoo of a rose on my hand. I always liked rose tattoos, I think roses are beautiful.

How is your identity expressed through your beauty and appearance?
Koren:
 My family is from Britain, Bulgaria, Yemen, and Iraq. My curls are symbols of my Mizrachi Jewish side.

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