American TV series “Gossip Girl” is famous for the characteristic fashion and style of the main characters. The way male characters style has especially attracted attention from both men and women all around the world. Korea, where men’s urge to be beautiful is just awakening, is not an exception.
Men who “groom” themselves
On March, 2009, the National Statistics office selected ten consumer types under the title “2009 Bluesumer 10 (Blue Ocean Consumer)” that enterprises, marketers and government facing current economic recession should keep an eye on. Among those ten types is “mirror- friendly man,” which refers to man who cares about how he looks. This is noteworthy because conventionally the word mirror was associated with women. Mirror-friendly man category shows how much men come to care about their outward look as far as to become influential consumers in the market. Men used to be thought to loaf around in shopping malls while waiting for their female companions to finish shopping. However, now they are spontaneous shoppers themselves.
There are industries that target men and they are making good profit. Internet shopping spots only for men are increasing. Internet websites such as http://www.ganzinara.com sell men’s apparel exclusively, and flourishing on-line shopping sites such as www.adamsapple.kr, which sells aesthetic products for men, boasts more than 14,000 members. Countless books, guides and magazines about men’s grooming that are in a good demand reflect this phenomenon as well. We can now see signboards of aesthetic shops and cosmetic lines that specialize in products for men on the main streets of fashion districts such as Gangnam and Myeongdong. Moreover, a recent statistic shows that the number of male patients who has done aesthetical surgery has tripled, and out of 100 operations, about 22 have been practiced on males. It is not “queer” anymore to see men promoting beauty products and clothes that are not related to masculinity.
Perception change on men’s beauty
The National Statistics office conducted a social survey with the title “adolescents’ worries,” during the years 2006 to 2008. According to this survey, 9.9 % of worries of men who are 15 to 24 years old was about was appearance, whereas it took up only 6.3% in 2006. “Appearance” was ranked on 3rd place after “studying (41.4%)” and “job (22.9%).” Experts say that as the time passes, the ratio that “appearance” accounts for is steadily increasing.
This phenomenon of which men show vast interest in their appearance is in part due to the changed perception in the society. Men’s grooming is no longer thought to be an awkward issue anymore, but rather as a factor which consists men’s competitiveness. Men’s changing self perception is another important cause of this phenomenon, as men now see their own body and outward image as a means of self presentation.
Now people think their appearance reflects one’s inner contentment. “After I got into university last year, after seeing a lot of men who adorn themselves well, I realized that appearance is an important factor in forming and expressing one’s self-contentment,” said Junho Song (Economics, ’08). This changed perception that is spreading throughout the society is now slowly but surely creating the environment where grooming men are not always considered homosexual like they used to. As a consequence, it is now relatively easier for men to show interest in good-looking.
However, social affirmation of men’s self grooming becomes a huge burden for men who are not so interested in adorning themselves. Junho said, “Before, there was an unspoken social agreement that it was enough for men to be a good breadwinner and that qualified for competent men. However, nowadays, most competent men have to qualify in both sectors: beauty and ability.” Evidently, this phenomenon is two-faced. For men who are enthusiastic about caring for their looks, this change of social atmosphere is a huge relief. For those who are not eager to adorn themselves, social demand asking men to be beautiful as well is merely a new source of stress.
It cannot be denied that what looks good on the outside seems good on the inside. The phenomenon where “looking good is a virtue” even for men is a tide one cannot easily go against. Now beauty no more is an exclusive possession to women. Whether it is a result of sexual equality or a prevailing lookism remains a doubt, but from the 21century and on, men can be the symbol of beauty as well.
written by: Kim Yo-Eun