- Taxes on some wealthy French top 100 pct of income: paper
- North Korea fires short-range missiles for two days in a row |
- Israel warns against Russian arms supply to Syria
- Shooting death of gay man rocks New York's cradle of gay rights
- Female hostage died from police bullet in New York standoff: official
FEATURE-Japanese turn to cosmetics for 'pretty, manly' look
By Emi Foulk
TOKYO Aug 6 (Reuters) - Yoshitomo Sango treats his complexion to a face scrub, toner and face cream every morning before strolling to a nearby salon to get his hair done.
By the time the 23-year-old is ready for breakfast, his skin is soft and shimmery, his hair trimmed, pomaded and bobby-pinned into an elaborate pompadour.
The daily regimen takes an hour and costs more than 10,000 yen ($84), but Sango says it's essential to maintain his style.
Sango may spend more cash on his looks than most, but he is far from unusual among Japanese men his age.
In a society that in many ways remains sharply defined by traditional gender roles and expectations, fashion-conscious young men are one-upping their metrosexual counterparts in the West -- it is not only acceptable for them to obsess over their hair, face and clothes, it's sexy too.
Japan's latest heartthrobs are a far cry from the American masculine ideal of stoic, stubble-cheeked muscle men. Slender, smooth-faced and androgynous stars such as singer-actor Takuya Kimura, or Kimutaku as he's affectionately known, routinely top popularity polls among women, and men in Japan are taking note.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in male grooming.
"I shave the tops and bottoms of my eyebrows to make them look cleaner," said Shinya Abe, 21, a wispy third-year student at Kobe University in western Japan.
Abe, who also uses a men's eyebrow kit of brow comb, brow scissors and tweezers to keep his brows in line, says many of his classmates go further, shaving off their eyebrows and pencilling in new ones. Some go to aesthetic salons, or "esute", to get facials, manicures and pedicures.
"Girls like guys to be kawaii," he says with a shrug.
An obsession with kawaii, or "cute", has dominated Japanese popular culture for 40 years. But it is only in recent years that kawaii has been applied to men, emphasising pretty, youthful looks -- with the help of cosmetics. "The numbers are still relatively few, but those men who see fashion and make-up as a part of self-expression are growing," said Sakae Nonomura, director of the Beauty Research Institute at Kanebo Cosmetics Inc.
"There are more and more men's cosmetics brands and the most interesting right now is in men's skin care," Nonomura said.
Japan's $3 billion male cosmetics market is one of the biggest in the world, accounting for nearly one-fifth of men's cosmetics sales globally, according to market research firm Euromonitor International. It estimates the global market will reach $25 billion by 2011.
Sales of men's skincare products in Japan have surged in the past few years, growing an average 13 percent per year, despite a lacklustre overall cosmetics market, according to Mandom Co., Japan's No.2 men's cosmetics maker after Shiseido Co.
Domestic sales of Mandom's popular young men's cosmetics line, Gatsby, grew 12.8 percent in the business year ended in March, but its women's cosmetics fell 7.7 percent.
Mandom, whose name combines "man" and "freedom", sells products ranging from eyebrow kits to hair dye to powdered facial paper. Its best-seller is oil-removing tissue for men.
WHEN MASCULINITY SEEMS OUTDATED
"Right now, the emphasis is on 'pretty', and nice, delicate men are in style," said Mayu Shimokawa, chief manager of product promotions at Mandom.
"Masculine men don't seem as young. Men who fight, men who try really hard and exert themselves seem old and outdated."
Mandom re-designed the Gatsby line last year to stay attractive to its primary customer base, males aged 15 to 25, contracting Kimutaku as the new face of the line.
In one TV ad he wears frilled silk pajamas and twirls wavy shoulder-length hair while making faces in a vanity mirror.
The ad is a world away from Mandom's commercials in the 1970s, Shimokawa admits, which featured mustachioed American actor Charles Bronson riding through the desert and gun-fighting his way to Mandom cologne.
"Men's tastes are changing and we are changing to keep up with their tastes," said Shimokawa.
Mandom is far from alone. Shiseido's Web site describes its concept as centred on the ideas of "toughness and tenderness".
Catering to the prestige market, London-based men's cosmetics firm the Refinery opened a store in Tokyo Midtown, an upscale mall in the Roppongi entertainment area, in March.
The Refinery offers pricier versions of men's cosmetic mainstays like shaving oil and face scrubs as well as more non-traditional products like foundation and eyelash tinting. From August, the store is offering a body waxing service.
"Many men are just as concerned with their appearance as women," said Noriko Nagano, manager of the Tokyo Refinery store.
But the changes are only skin deep, says Genaro Castro-Vazquez, a lecturer at Tokyo's Keio University specialising in gender studies.
"It is misleading to think that because men are changing their physical appearance they are also changing their gender roles," he said, adding that attitudes towards contraception and child-rearing remain largely the same as a decade ago.
"You can look as feminine as you want, but you must speak like a man. What is important to remember is that, in Japan, manly and pretty are not opposites."
((Editing by David Fox; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; +81 3 3432-8971)) Keywords: JAPAN COSMETICS
(C) Reuters 2007. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution ofReuters content, including by caching, framing or similar means, is expresslyprohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters and the Reuterssphere logo are registered trademarks and trademarks of the Reuters group ofcompanies around the world.nSP17096
- Tweet this
- Share this
- Digg this