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Older Guys Are Taking an Interest in Style (July 25, 2005)

Mikitani Hiroshi, president of Internet Firm Rakuten, won the Best Dressed Man award. (Jiji)
Middle-aged men tend to be stereotyped as wearing dull business suits, but a new breed is on the rise: the stylish middle-aged man. Fueling this trend is a growing number of men's fashion magazines. Besides dispensing tips on wardrobe coordination, beauty treatments, and applying basic makeup, the magazines also run special features on becoming cool from within through fasting, proper etiquette, and refined leisure pursuits. Some men who follow these prescriptions say they not only look more stylish but are also feeling more self-confident, performing better at work, and getting healthier as a result.

Refined Gentlemen
A growing number of products and services are targeted at men aged from their early forties through early fifties. The driving force behind this trend is the slew of high-end fashion magazines targeting men of this age group. The front runner of this genre is Leon, which debuted in September 2001. In the wake of Leon's success, Straight and Gentry came out in fall 2004 and Uomo in early 2005.

With moteru oyaji ("sought-after middle-aged guys") as its keyword, Leon offers product information, fashion advice, and other articles for middle-aged men who want to turn heads. In a summer-oriented feature article, the magazine showcased leather sandals as the ideal shoes to complete a sexy look.

Meanwhile, Gentry (subtitled "The Gentlemen's Kingdom") recently ran a feature on "How to Master the Power Face." This included how-to's on face-washing and basic skin care. Although the products promoted in these magazines are invariably quite expensive, sales are growing.

More Than Just a Pretty Face
The magazines' advice to middle-aged men on making themselves more cool extends beyond external appearance to such areas as table manners, asking women out, and leisure pastimes. And apparently the benefits of following the advice in the magazines go beyond the superficial. One man who underwent the "color diagnosis" described in a magazine article, for example, said that the experience gave him the confidence to pick out the colors and styles that suited him by himself. This confidence carried over into his work, and he has become more successful at his job as a result.

Then there was the man in his fifties who participated in a fast after reading about the physical and mental restorative powers of fasting. After a three-day course, the man reported that he felt cleansed from within and physically fitter.

An Appetite for Luxury
Various industries are cashing in on this trend. In 2003, seeing an opportunity to increase business among male consumers, the Isetan department store opened the Men's Annex at its Shinjuku store offering products exclusively for men. Sales have been brisk.

Meanwhile, the Hotel Okura Tokyo has introduced luxury packages called Gentle Time. For prices starting at ¥26,500 ($240 at ¥110 to the dollar), a style-conscious man can lounge at a cigar bar and partake of sommelier-selected wines and specially made hors d'oeuvres. And the next morning he does not have to get dressed and walk downstairs for his morning meal: A room-service breakfast comes with the package.

All in all, middle-aged men are shelling out considerable sums of money to look and feel good. But is this trend anything more than a marketing ploy by magazine editors? Some think there may be a deeper explanation. Men in this age group experienced the consumer heyday of Japan's economic bubble when they were in their thirties. Some attribute the sharp increase in consumption among middle-aged men to the fact that these well-trained consumers have reached an age at which they have ample purchasing power. Whether this theory is right or not, the population of stylish older men is likely to keep on growing.

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Copyright (c) 2005 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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