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Male Cosmetics and Beauty Mags Change Face of Youth

June 22, 1998

Bookstore shelves are lined with increasing numbers of men's fashion and beauty magazines like the ones above.

One industry seems to be immune to the economic slowdown--purveyors of fashionable accessories and brand clothing for males aged 16 to 25. Particularly hot are brands created along lines of certain themes, such as the 1970s-inspired "cool casual" look and the showily effeminate "visual mode" pioneered by top rock bands. Partly because of the unprecedented success of these bands, the use of cosmetics and hair dye is no longer uncommon among young men.

Accessory Items Booming
Some of the hottest brands include Comme ca du Mode (with 35% sales growth from last year) and Takeo Kikuchi (63%), which have followed up on the success of their autumn and winter collections. They have managed to harness the popularity of the new "cool casual" style, which strikes a 1970s tone with bell-bottoms, wide-legged pants, tightly hugging thin V-neck sweaters and T-shirts, and square-tipped thick-soled shoes. The characteristic colors are black, gray, white, and navy blue. The look is labeled "cool" for its neat, adult appearance, which sets it apart from the recently popular "American casual" look, centered on jeans and sneakers and the vogue for deliberate scruffiness and used clothing.

There has also been a marked increase in demand for fashion accessories. Leather shoes, silver items, watches (Casio's chunky G-Shock is a major hit), and sunglasses have all seen booms. A veteran staffer with one brand-name company's planning department cannot recall a better market for fashion accessories.

Meanwhile, the menswear market is being shaken up by the current generation of males in their late teens wose trademark is the personal phone or pager, who are very keen to look both adult and attractive to the opposite sex. In addition to these "practical" considerations, many also revel in fashion for its own sake. This has blurred the sexual boundary in their approach to fashion. Many male high-school students now carry around brushes, facial cleansing wipes, and antiperspirant sprays in their bags. Some of them depilate themselves--many Japanese tend to dislike body hair--and use cosmetics.

Eyebrow-Raising Developments
In January 1998, a quarterly male-beauty magazine aimed at high-school students and young adults went monthly. The June edition had articles on cosmetics, face-cleansing items, and other beauty matters that appear more often in women's fashion magazines. In the supplement is a set of cut-out templates showing how members of currently highly popular "visual mode" rock groups shape their eyebrows, for the benefit of those wishing to imitate them. The "visual mode" boom, which was partly inspired by Boy George and glam rock and has produced record CD sales and concert attendances, is deeply involved with the spread of fashion consciousness among young men. The magazine's editor says that the male narcissism trend is likely to continue.

Looking beautiful costs money. However, demographics are working in favor of young fashion devotees. The proportion of children in the total population s falling, so that the proportion of total household expenses that parents put into their upbringing is high. Children are also able to tap the financial resources of their grandparents; hence the common reference to chldren's "six pockets," or wallets.

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Trends in JapanEdited 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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