BEIJING — The other day I read Hou Hongbin’s article entitled, “Why are Chinese men so ugly?’ It harshly criticizes the generally unkempt appearance of Chinese men. I can’t help but admire the author’s mastery of words in describing Chinese men’s singular neglect of their looks.
Naturally, it also left me feeling like crying for Chinese women. Perhaps it also explains why so many mature Chinese wives, disgusted by their bedroom mates, are behaving like young groupies with those South Korean male television series stars who look so exquisitely groomed and fashionable. One rich Chinese lady even went as far as taking a whole page of the Beijing News to wish happy birthday to Kim Soo-Hyun, the leading South Korean actor of the successful series You Who Came From The Stars.
So is the reality truly so depressing? After all, the article mostly addressed the over-40 set. Perhaps the under-40 male generation is better groomed?
Wei Kunlin, a Peking University professor and a jury member of The Best Brain, a popular program of Zhejiang Satellite TV, offers hope for despairing Chinese women, not only with his curriculum vitae but also his good fashion sense. There are, in fact, suddenly more and more decent looking Chinese guys such as Wei — and not just gay men.
It’s well known in China’s publishing world that magazines such as Trends Health or L'Officiel Hommes used to primarily target homosexual readers. But this is gradually changing. Because of my work, I often need to buy or order men’s fashion magazines, and in the past two years I have often bumped into straight men at the ground floor of an office building doing the same.
A female friend of mine recently was so surprised by her public relations agent boyfriend who gave her a skirt from 3.1 Phillip Lim as a gift. The fact that he showed such great attention to fashion and knows even better than she does about brands made my friend wonder whether he is actually gay.
When she finally found the courage to confront him about her doubt, she felt ridiculed by his answer, “Are you still in the world of the 20th century?”
Lazy in looks
In the article, the middle-aged men over 40 are described as an unkempt bunch “with greasy hair, dirty face and a big belly, who dress like old men and never polish their shoes.” They completely neglect their appearance because there is another pressure in Chinese society much more urgent than aesthetics: to become rich.
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Old style — Photo: Kevinpoh
Instead, the under-40 Chinese men manage to both strive professionally and actually enjoy the fruits of their labor. The pursuit of success, in other words, is important but not at the cost of reducing one's quality of life.
The fact that more and more Chinese men have studied abroad and have returned home to work probably partly explains why Chinese men’s aesthetic sense is finally improving. This goes hand in hand with their taste, and this is brought back to China with them.
Certain of these men admiringly buy tailor-made suits, which even have made-to-measure pockets for their smart phones, or they fall in love with the particular sewing touch of a hand-made Kiton shirt.
Of course, you may say that they are just a few elite boys who don’t represent the Chinese mainstream. But that would ignore the fact that a new generation of Chinese women are also doing their best and contributing to transforming their partners’ look.
A straight friend of mine asked me to go shopping with him a while ago. I was originally prepared to be his clothes shopping assistant until I found out, surprisingly, that this old classmate of mine — who only knew T-shirts and jeans in the college days — now wears chic Brooks Brothers suits and would make a special trip to Hollisterjust to buy his casual wear and swimming trunks for an upcoming holiday in Thailand.
The saying that “There’s no such thing as ugly women, just lazy women” seems to apply to men as well. Rather than just complain about the scruffy look of one’s partner, Chinese women should initiate the aesthetic education of their men.
With some luck, Chinese people’s living standards will continue to rise. The new generation no longer consider themselves just breadwinners in life. With more patience and attention to their fellow countrymen, Chinese women should be able to look forward to a better future where Chinese men can actually teach each other the fine art of good taste.