A model is wearing light foundation, black eye liner, lip balm for a light night out. Estee Lauder executive makeup artist Cho Woo-hyun says a little bit of make-up could boost self-esteem. / Korea Times Photo by Shim Hyun-chul
By Bae Ji-sook
When British columnist Mark Simpson coined the term "metrosexual," he had a clear concept in his head: he is a "a young man with money to spend, living in or within easy reach of a metropolis. Particular professions, such as modeling, waiting tables, media, pop music and, nowadays, sport, seem to attract them but, truth be told, like male vanity products and herpes, they're pretty much everywhere. He is much more interested in being looked at."
His vision became realized by British football powerhouse David Beckham.
Here, in the far eastern country from Britain, men are actively transforming themselves to metrosexuals and have stepped a bit further- they are now called the "grooming tribes" here, who even wear slight make up to their workplaces or social gatherings. Cracking the old idea that fashion and beauty are for gays only, straight men are also gearing up to look nicer and fancier every morning.
One thing to reflect the trend is the increasing consumption of "men cosmetic goods."
Lee Nam-hun, 29 year-old self-employed man, said he wears "color lotion" to work every day. The product is a combination of foundation, lotion and sun screen. "I have used it since I served for the military six years ago. Many of the colleagues were using it, even my superiors," he said.
He said more friends near him are interested in applying lotions or sunscreens for the skin's sake and more people are talking about nice looking shirts or glasses. "Don't you think men aren't interested in grooming themselves," he added.
Indeed, the cosmetic market for males is expanding every year. According to Amore Pacific, the nation's largest perfume maker, the market marked around 580 billion won last year and is expected grow by 3 to 5 percent every year.
The company has recently opened a men's cosmetic shop "MEN STUDIO" in northern Seoul and is enjoying great success.
"We focused on men aged between 26 and 32: who have graduated from college and has a job, which enables them to understand that grooming is a necessity. About 60 percent of the visitors are men and the rest are women trying to buy something for their boyfriends," Lim Jung-shik, the store brand manager, said.
"In the past, most men bought items online, in order to avoid embarrassment of entering 'girly' places. However, they are more straightforward and do not mind talking or enquiring about it," Lim said, explaining his main target.
It's not just the basic items such as aftershave lotions or moisturizer but more sophisticated ones like eye cream or night cream that also are marking high sales rate. Some even turn to BB cream, something that women turn up to make face look as if they have applied nothing. It still covers spots and scars. Amore Pacific as well as several other makers have joined the race to attract men who are willing to look flawless at work.
In the night time, the clubbing and other pop culture have influenced many men to try "smoky eye makeup" and leave strong impression on others.
"I sometimes like this kind of strong make up. Why shouldn't I? I look more attractive under the lighting at parties," 29-year-old Chung Sang-gyo said. He said when wearing makeup, he felt more attention from girls, mostly in a positive way.
Prof. Jung Jin-woong of Hanyang University said, "As the social status of women have increased in the past several decades, men started to realize that they need another asset- appearance- to compete with the women. I think more men will be indulged into grooming."