By Lottie Buchanan
I don’t know about you but I am absolutely obsessed with Kpop the moment. The loud and proud fashion, the catchy pop tunes and the dances that follow, everything about it is unique, light and fun. Largely dominated by boybands (and we all love those, don’t we?) with a ethereal beauty about them. But the most interesting thing about kpop boybands is how they are redefining masculinity, with their costumes, perfect make up, smooth skin and colourful hair embracing a softer almost angelic, side. Affectionately referred to as ‘flower boys’. But times are changing and we are seeing a shift in the toxic ‘rules’ of masculinity all over the world and South Korea definitely has already, got it right.
A man wearing make-up out and bout may provoke unwelcome glares and hurtful questions about his sexuality and masculinity. But in South Korea, male beauty standards are changing attitudes and influencing others globally. Jamie Lovely, from the University of Maine says that The style of manliness, dubbed “soft masculinity” in Korea, is completely contrary to the rugged often narrow-minded concept of what it is to be a man in the United States. Toxic masculinity prohibits men from wearing makeup or taking extreme care of their skin.” This “soft masculinity” Lovely is talking about is definitely an unseen phenomenon in the western pop industry, with boybands such as one direction or The Wanted appealing to a western audience with a traditional rugged ‘manly’ look. Their stage wardrobe was full of checked shirts, plain white t-shirts, jeans and trainers. Never sporting purple hair, a frilled blouse, a beret or a pink trench coat.
South Korean ‘Idols’ – given this title because they are meant to be idolized over their looks, style and talents – wear make up, dye their hair bright colours all to create the image of a ‘perfect’ man. And unlike in Western fan culture Male idols are just as popular with men as they are with women, appealing to their fashion sense and influencing their style. This is very different to the artists we idolize in the west for example if you look at Ed Sheeran in his simple jeans and t-shirts or many of the other male pop stars of today to come out of the U.S or Uk, they all dress very similar. They are probably too afraid to get out of the traditional ‘boy’ box for fear of being called ‘gay’ or ‘girly, However Kpop idols have curated the perfect blend of soft and strong often giving performances that would be deemed very masculine with strong militaristic dance routines. Proving that you can look nice and care about your hair but also tear it up on stage to a dance tune.
It is as if nothing is off limits and this means that the damaging concepts and stereotypes, which we in the west would attribute to being a “man”, are completely redefined. The Kpop industry and its idea of masculinity are very encouraging and I hope we in western society can learn some valuable things and eliminate our own toxic masculinity culture. .