The importance of looking pleasant: Reading Japanese men's fashion magazines

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Readers unfamiliar with contemporary Japanese media might be puzzled by the appearance of men in fashion magazines. This is particularly the case for images of Japanese young men whose strong concerns over their appearance and slender physicality seem to enhance their (hetero)sexual desirability. These publications suggest to their male readers that crafting fashionable looks through selection of the right clothes, cosmetics, fragrances, and maintaining a balanced diet is necessary to self-assurance and a successful life. Do Japanese men engage with fashion differently from men in Europe, Australia, and North America?

The co-presence of Asian and non-Asian models can make these publications seem even more confusing. Readers might wonder if these models are another reification of the “Westernized” nature of Japanese youth. This article shows that a rich study of subjectivity and aesthetics might be found in these Japanese men's publications. Male aesthetic sensitivities at a cultural level and notions of “the self” might be understood in different terms than they are in many Euro-American cultures. Likewise, the male aesthetics favored by some contemporary Japanese youth might imply an attempt to reject the more established, dowdy mode of “salaryman” masculinity. In short, I argue that Japanese young men's almost narcissistic concerns about appearance and fashion might offer a different, more “relaxed,” approach to understanding men's relationship with fashion.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)297-315
Number of pages19
JournalFashion Theory
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2012
Externally publishedYes

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