World Watch: Why South Korean Men Wear Makeup

Jang Keun suk Ad World Watch: Why South Korean Men Wear Makeup For a male-dominated culture like South Korea’s, power is a cherished commodity. But it may surprise you to learn that the face of male success often has its foundation in, well, foundation. In fact, South Korea is currently the world leader in makeup sales for men. According to a recent article by the Associated Press, South Korea spent $495.5 million on skincare last year alone – that’s 21% of sales around the world!

Like most things these days, economics is driving this trend. Fierce competition for jobs has upped the emphasis on appearance – and perfect skin is now a highly valued sign of success. The idea is so prevalent that the cultural catchphrase has become “Appearance Is Power,” the AP reports.

Will More Guys Go for Makeup in the U.S.?

Could the male makeup trend come to America? It might not be as far-fetched as it sounds. The AP article notes that male makeup sales are up in the U.S. these days – but you probably wouldn’t guess that just by walking around your neighborhood.

Still, the concept of more makeup use for men here isn’t too far-fetched. Flipping through magazines and browsing online lately, I’ve seen quite a few ads featuring androgynous models with a unisex look designed to appeal to everybody. Mostly, the models are women sporting a masculine look, like this model for Joe Jeans, for example. joesjeans World Watch: Why South Korean Men Wear Makeup But sometimes, you see guys pictured, too. Our resident fashion guru, Andrea Mills, recently found this awesome photo of a man wearing a handsome wool turtleneck dress (no Scottish tartan required) in a recent issue of Flaunt magazine. Stunning, don’t you think? Flaunt Dress World Watch: Why South Korean Men Wear Makeup Ads like this certainly get MY attention. So, as the media starts to play with blurring gender lines, it seems like men wearing makeup could be the next logical step. If girls can rock the boyfriend shirt, why can’t guys pick up a girlfriend’s makeup brush? After all, men wearing makeup is a concept as old as cosmetics themselves.

Men in Makeup: A Throwback?

More than 3,000 years ago, the ancient Egyptians were equal-opportunity makeup wearers. Regardless of sex or class, everyone was entitled to moisturizer – a group of workers even went on strike once to demand makeup from their employers, according to a documentary by Monty Python alum Terry Jones.

Moisturizing oils protected skin from the punishing heat of the sun, while the Egyptians’ famous dramatic dark eye makeup helped shield the eyes from glare and even warded off certain eye diseases (and the evil eye of the gods, too, of course).

KingTut ReconstructedImage 241x300 World Watch: Why South Korean Men Wear Makeup

This 2005 reconstructed image of King Tut shows us what he might have looked like -
note the flawless skin and well-defined eyes!

The protection angle just might be the key that opens the door to more American men wearing makeup. As the hole in the O-zone gets bigger and our awareness of skin cancer causes grows, it won’t surprise me a bit if more men reach for skin-care products to protect their health. After all, men need to protect their skin as much as women do.

How Important Is Perfection?

Interestingly, in Korea, the key factor is flawlessness – the AP article notes that Korean men are bombarded with ads that connect perfect skin to success. (These ads usually feature famous “flower men,” the term for male Korean celebrities who wear makeup.)

We all know that healthy skin indicates a healthy body, and it gives us a youthful glow, too. It’s possible that with enough aggressive marketing, American men could make a similar connection between flawlessness and success. And we already have celebrities like Johnny Depp who are known for their unique makeup and could be poised to make it a popular trend, if the momentum builds.

Still, it’s not going to be an overnight sensation. My guess is that men’s mainstream makeup wear would build up sloooowly (if at all) here in the U.S. of A., where blurring gender lines is still often frowned upon – but anything is possible, right? Maybe a tinted moisturizer here, a tattoo concealer there – and voila! American men could one day be as well-versed at the makeup counter as women.

Psy 300x165 World Watch: Why South Korean Men Wear Makeup

Korean rapper Psy has made a fashion statement on both sides of the Pacific
with his viral “Gangnam Style” video.

Korea has already brought us BB cream and rapper Psy’s “Gangnam Style” – maybe makeup for men will be the next big thing to hit our shores! What do you think, beauties? Are we ready for our guys to bust out the foundation? Tell us below!

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2 thoughts on “World Watch: Why South Korean Men Wear Makeup

  • October 22, 2012 at 11:10 am

    I welcome the idea and say bring it on. I can't wait. There is nothing saying that both men and women can't enjoy makeup and painted nails. I just recently started wearing nail polish in public. It brings me a sense of freedom from the guy stereotype. So far i have worn mostly frosts and holos. i have not dared to go full color yet. I want to paint my toes to start and go from there.

    The main point is don't care what society says you should be or do, do what makes you happy!!

    Till next time…

    • October 22, 2012 at 8:08 pm

      You go, coloredwheels! Beautifully put.


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