On the Surface: Part 2

At Bacchus, we don't care about your masculinity. We want you to be who you are. Join us today for 2-4-1 cocktails and DJ Takai at 10PM. No cover. Always fun!

First off, let's preface today's post with an expression of our appreciation for sexy men of all races and body types and hair coverage. :-)

In last Wednesday's blog post we pondered the trend in makeup for Asian men, stereotypes, and the rise in popularity of feminine-looking Japanese and South Korean men.

South Korea accounts for about 20% of the world market for men’s cosmetics (trivia q). This means annual sales of more than $1 billion courtesy of a mere 25 million men, and this figure will inflate by 50% over the next five years. On a per capita level, Korean men have everyone beat. Why? Because “appearance is power” and “youth equals ability.”

We’re not just talking skin lotions or aftershave here. Korean urbanites are also smitten with BB Cream, brow pencils and guyliner. Girlfriends and spouses not only shop cosmetics for their male partners in Seoul, but also casually apply lipstick to their faces in public without anyone sharpening the proverbial pitchforks.

That said, shouldn’t gender-bending be a complete no-no in the deeply Confucian culture of Korea? Also, befitting its two years of mandatory military service for young men, shouldn’t Korea’s benchmark for masculine beauty be the hardy, rugged type? Like Clark Gable? Even Bruce Lee? While that was once true, South Koreans now prize the puckish, Peter Pan look over Gerard Butler-esque alpha male chic.

What could cause the disruption of masculinity, a strong foundation to these patriarchal cultures?

Our surprising answer: KPop (and JPop).

  • Maybe because they wear makeup for their profession and many equate that with femininity?
  • Maybe because they look ‘gentler’, ‘smaller’ and ‘softer’ compared to the image of Western males?
  • Maybe it’s the lack of facial hair that is the most prominent identifier of being masculine?
  • Or maybe because the profession centers around looks so much and requires these singers to be presentable, attractive and pleasant to the eyes. In other words, ‘marketable’.

Also, it just so happens that in society, females are more commonly associated with being and pressured to be ‘presentable, attractive and pleasant to the eyes’.

As an aside, most JPop and KPop male idols aren’t hyper-feminine at all; most have six packs and biceps and muscly thighs. But it’s just a little pop of muscle. By Western standards, they're 'twinks.'

Selling androgyny for sex appeal is not new to mainstream music. Everyone from Bowie to Boy George to hair-metal did so. Even Justin Bieber and One Direction get dolled up in girly ways, though nothing remotely as radical as G-Dragon (below left) or Seventeen (below right). Still, most makeup-wearing western acts came, shocked and left without greatly changing the status quo. Many had a feral component to their sexiness, a kind of danger by association.

These are all men:

Ultimately, it may be quite misguided and pointless to seek out explicit confirmations of the shift to femininization. Particular events can certainly make people more receptive to new things though, so long as those are available and/or fashionable already.

To reiterate: at Bacchus, we don't care about your masculinity. We want you to be who you are. Join us today for 2-4-1 cocktails and DJ Takai at 10PM. No cover. Always fun!