china fashion menswear The Fashion Dragon: Beijing

Grooming, Griming and Priming

Here’s one originally written by me for the ultra-abfab menswear/style/lifestyle/anystyle site MNSWR.COM; check it out! Viking Chinese, yep — they exist, makeup artist Kristoffer Liu shares his views on the modern China Man’s grooming tactics.

Fact: male grooming has been around just as long as the female version, albeit more understated (with the exceptions of tribal tattoos, Spartan shaves…). Fact: European male skincare sales now add up to some 500 million Euros per year. Fact: This also suggests most men are far more susceptible to a stab of slick advertising – AXE anyone? – than any other species on the planet. Fact: By my knowledge, there are few Viking Chinese, but I’ve managed to hunt down the ultimate one: Swedish-born makeup specialist and hairdresser at Beijing’s Tictac Salon Kristoffer Liu, who has gracefully obliged to my request to shed an eye-opening light on the grooming and griming trends among the China male anno 2014.

China's male grooming, griming and straight-up priming revolution is well on its way. Copyright@MNSWR.COM
China’s male grooming, griming and straight-up priming revolution is well on its way. Copyright@MNSWR.COM

The global groom-boom
A spot of googling goes a long, and at times jaw dropping, way. A quick peek teaches us that gentle skin cleanser, deep-hydrating skin cleanser, intensely moisturizing lip balm and oil-free facial lotion are the must-have products to take you (‘our’ men) from Neanderthal-rugged to Armani-creamy in the 21st century. Add too that every DIY tool men could think of to remove the final millimeter of bodily hair and you’re set to go.

It’s a universal phenomenon; 80 percent of women across the world may be jumping and shouting for a bit of caveman action on their men, but the husbands/ boyfriends no longer listen, as they have often been AXE-ified.

Kristoffer Liu, who first moved to Beijing in 1986 but was sent off to attend Swedish boarding school in 1996 before once again returning to the Chinese capital in 2008, is by far and above a first-hand witness of the Asian man’s grooming evolution over the past decade.

Yet before we get to the men, we must briefly discuss the women. China’s female beauty regime has been picking up since the 1980s, after the country was once again opened up to the world in 1978. Bright red lipstick signaled the start of a whole new era back in those days, but the traditional preference for snowy white skin marched through – as it still does to this day. Especially, according to Liu, the makeup worn by Korean soap stars – read: dewy, soft-glowing, white-skin natural makeup – is a much-requested one. Skin care even included the use of creams made with pearl-powder which supposedly deeply revitalized the skin and at the same time would whiten the skin tone. Over the past decade, Chinese (wealthier) women have started to buy skincare products abroad and “embrace them with open arms” as Liu puts it. No. 1 product on the wish list of Chinese females? “Sunscreen; the higher the better!” he replies. So what is it then the China man wishes to add to his morning ritual nowadays?

Liu working with a model. (Kinda goes without saying, actually.. oh well.)
Liu working with a model. (Kinda goes without saying, actually.. oh well.)

Basic priming to full-on griming
The preppy-kinda-nerdy-dressed Liu now really gets his grooming groove on. “Chinese men are looking more to international and local stars for inspiration, for example actors Wu Xiubo, Huang Xiaoming and Chen Kun. Fashion and lifestyle magazines for men – Chinese GQ and so forth – also give ideas for those men who truly possess that passion for the latest global trends.”

Local designers who fuse traditional with modern, graphic prints, pants slim-tailored to the ankles, traditional Chinese getups with a modern twist, such as Shanghai Tang, and summery flower patterns turn Beijing into a huge melting pot of different styles, he adds.

Whether people in China dress preppy, nerdy, skater, sporty or smart casual; all the aforementioned share an ever-evolving interest in the male personal care, Liu continues. Fair enough, it’s not just the women who are spending more and more on their appearance; once you’ve figured out your look of the moment, the hydrating lotion and enticing fragrance can’t lag too far behind to complete the cycle.

As Liu recently came back from a trip to Korea, he brought along entire lines of skincare products and moisturizing face masks for the guys at work, “wondering if they’d just hand them over to their girlfriends.” Instead, the guys put on the masks, dabbed the creams around their eyes and diligently moisturized their own skin after showering.

There is an extensive array of skincare products targeting men on Chinese convenience/ department store shelves today and some tend to get carried away when faced with that myriad of choices. As Liu tells me, “I do know guys that spend lots of money on an entire line of skincare products, including oil cleansers, face washes, toners, eye creams, night creams, etc.

The Art of Makeup.
The Art of Makeup.

Then there are of course those men who use makeup for their everyday look. Some fill in their eyebrows a little or use eyeliner.” Well, to be cool with a jagged edge yet smoothly balmed skin requires extensive maintenance. I know and support the use of moisturizer for men, but combined with the occasional gym and trim, that will suffice. The world of (China’s) male makeup is a whole other, and often better applied than its female counterpart, ballgame.