Clean-Cut: Men's fashion magazines, male aesthetic ideals and social affinity in Japan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference paperChapterpeer-review


What makes Japanese men’s fashion magazines striking is their almost full focus on men’s bodies and appearance. Such magazines are largely absent in Euro-American heterosexual men’s culture. With the exception of certain European titles, Anglophone men’s magazines such as GQ and Esquire, even with their inclusion of fashion contents, could not really be considered “fashion” magazines. Anglophone men’s magazines are indeed rarely referred to as fashion magazines due to the importance of appearance and dress in definitions of femininity and the feminine gendering of fashion. Therefore, magazines with fashion contents that are primarily targeted at men (and/or at unisex readership) are instead called “lifestyle magazines.”

What significance can we then derive from looking at these Japanese men’s fashion magazines? In this chapter, I argue that the significance of analyzing magazines primarily targeting male readership lies in the possibility that representations of “masculinity” found in magazines might both reflect and shape certain ideals and ideas of gender, which are consumed by their readers. Fashion discourse, as produced through media texts like fashion magazines are themselves shaped by, and dependent on, wider social forces and their relations with other fields. We can then deduce that a collection of Japanese men’s fashion magazines at least allow calibration of the ways in which Japanese conceptions of masculinity are manifested.

This chapter begins with a brief history of men’s fashion magazines in contemporary Japan and explain how magazines correspond with various, subtly nuanced styles. Then it examines how magazines deploy male models to help create a social affinity between readers, magazines, and models. These models can represent a slender, boyish, and kawaii (cute that implies vulnerability) male aesthetic, which, along with more muscular male ideals found in other sectors of Japanese culture, may be indicative of Japanese popular culture’s elastic approach to the representations of masculinity. The chapter then explores an amalgam of three desires these men’s fashion magazines evoke in readers in relation to men’s fashionability: 1) to attract women’s admiration, 2) to compete and emulate other men, and 3) to simply indulge in their own pleasures. Since fashion media are constantly evolving, it is important to observe how these magazines, which aim to create and maintain a close social affinity with their readers, are respond to changing notions of masculinity and publishing.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIntroducing Japanese popular culture
EditorsA Freedman, T Slade
Number of pages8
ISBN (Print)9781138852105, 9781138852082
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


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