Korean Men Jump Onto the Well-Groomed Bandwagon


It seems like the word metrosexual has been around forever–or at least since 2002, when a Salon.com article suggested we “Meet the Metrosexual.” Metro-man hating ensued (though we don’t understand that development, considering David Beckham was the metrosexual poster boy, and uh, I’m pretty sure he’s married to a Spice Girl and was the sexiest soccer player of his time), male cosmetics lines launched, and the word became passé. Men, at least in the U.S., are comfortable with grooming products. We’ve dragged many a male companion to Kiehl’s for their Pineapple Papaya Facial Scrub and lip balm that “doesn’t look gay,” or gently directed our brothers toward Jack Black products. And while most Western men don’t attempt makeup–that’s taking it a little far unless he’s appearing on television– we’ve always had a soft spot for dudes who are unafraid to rock eyeliner (ahem…Jack Sparrow?).

Our male counterparts in the Far East, however, while stereotypically ahead of us stylistically and technologically (two things: asymmetrical haircuts and mobile devices), are just getting hip to the fact that men might benefit from paying attention to their pores– and their body odor. Sales of grooming products for men are surging in Korea, thanks in no small part to two actors many Korean men wish to emulate.

The Chosun Ilbo reported in February that sales of male grooming products at Lotte Department Store in Korea increased 26 percent in 2008, despite the recession. And yesterday the Korea Times reported that more than 80% of Korean men surveyed by cosmetics company Iope think looking extra-presentable improves their “performance” so they’ll get ahead (presumably in work, but we’re saying in life).

We’re sure this is in part because of some heavy-hitting endorsers. Resident sex symbol Jung Woo-sung, a 36-year-old Korean actor, launched a high-design men’s skin and haircare line called Monsieur J in December. And 26-year-old hysteria-inducing Lee Jun-ki is the face of VOV Homme, another line geared towards men. Last month VOV Homme launched their own BB cream (stands for, yes, Blemish Balm cream) that is a cult product amongst Koreans-in-the-know.

We’ve heard, though, that Korean men have yet to be turned on to deodorant, mostly because it’s considered a luxury good, but also because they believe womenfolk prefer their natural odeur. Maybe Korean marketers need to take a cue from the Land of the Rising Sun– we’ll leave you with this commercial for Gatsby, a Japanese deodorant, courtesy of The Grand Narrative. You might just have your own Bill Murray/Lost in Translation moment.

And once again: If it’s wrong to love the likes of David Beckham, Jung Woo-sung, and Lee Jun-ki, then we don’t want to be right.