Matthew Cheung, above, models his unique fashion sense which combines Hong Kong style with Toronto fashion.
Matthew Cheung a 20-year-old student at the University of Toronto strolls down St. George Street, his black trench-coat unbuttoned and flaring against the brisk November winds. He is an average height and weight, but what makes him stand out is his fashion-sense. Sporting lemon-yellow sneakers, a white-button down shirt and a pale blue cardigan, Cheung turns some heads on campus.
To Cheung, looking good at all times is important, despite how long it takes him to get ready.
“It is important to look fine whenever I go out,” Cheung said. “Usually I’m unwilling to leave my house until I wear my contact [lenses].”
Cheung, an economics major, says it usually takes him 35-40 minutes to get ready for the day. His daily routine includes styling his hair with products he gets from his hometown in Hong Kong and occasionally using skin care products if time permits.
“For my skin, I leave it to my make-up artist roommate, so I’m not really sure what she puts on,” Cheung admits.
Young men like Cheung, are becoming increasingly more interested in self-grooming products such as facial/ skin care products and hair gels, mousses and lotions.
According to a market research report released by Global Industry Analysts Inc., male beauty products are on the rise all over the world, but increasingly higher in Asia. This is partly due to the fact that there is a significantly higher female population than male population in Asia and there is competition between men to secure marriages.
Cheung feels that there is definite competition amongst men in Hong Kong to be better than each other.
“I think [appearance] is quite important. Many people in Hong Kong care about money, power, status and physical appearance of course. Asian women want men who have these things, it leaves us men no choice but to deal with it,” Cheung said.
Cheung cited his home city as a place where physically beautiful people are beginning to thrive. But Singapore is a city that has long been concerned with beauty. Manhunt Singapore, is an all male pageant that has been around for 23 editions and is steadily growing popular. According to Dr. Lao Chai Ling, a doctor in Singapore who works on cosmetic surgery, men are finally grooming themselves the way women have always done.
She told the Jakarta Times that “men also see the benefits their female counterparts have achieved with such procedures and are more accepting of them.”
A report from The Singapore Association of Perfumes and Cosmetics Distributors said the men’s skin-care market grew 12.6 per cent from 2008 to 2009.
While skin care products may be popular in Eastern Asia, Mike Ma a third year student at the University of Toronto, originally from mainland China, says he prides fashion sense more than good-looking skin.
“I’d say [looking good] is pretty important. The majority of teenage or mid twenties guy or girl in my country tends to dress fairly well on their part. The average person usually knows a fair deal about fashion sense and clothing brands,” said Ma. “I usually try to dress well even if I’m just going to the library to study.”
However, spas for men’s skin care seem to be popping up all over the GTA. There are 5 all men’s spas in the GTA, 2 of them being in Toronto. But it was Asia that first introduced the concept of an all male day spa to the world.
Hong Kong was one of the first cities in Eastern Asia to come up with the concept of a spa that offers manicures, pedicures, facials, body waxing and much more for an all male clientele.
Now Toronto is following suit.
A spa dedicated just for men called Metrosexual spa located in Toronto opened in March 2011 and has since seen a steady increase in the amount of regular customers.
Spa owner, Daniel Rodrigues says he was surprised to find out he would be opening one of the only male spas in Toronto.
“I was shocked that the city of Toronto didn’t have an all encompassing facility for men,” Rodrigues said.
While market trends show that self-grooming is on the rise particularly in Asia, Rodrigues says it’s not about cultural background, but being successful in general.
“Men are getting facials and waxed to keep up their A-game. It’s a competitive market both for dating and for job opportunities,” Rodrigues said.
Cheung admits that his sexuality has been questioned a few times based on his fashion sense and grooming habits.
“In the sense of how I walk and present myself, YES I have been questioned often,” Cheung said, with a shrug.
Fashion magazines in China, have seen a 30 per cent increase in sales since 2006. While a Chinese version of Esquire and GQ magazines have always been popular in China, a recent all male edition of Elle in China has been outselling these popular reads that have been around for years. A survey released by KY-Research, a marketing company in China says Elle China has received the top share ratings out of all the men’s fashion magazines.
While market research on men’s fashion and beauty magazines in China is still underway for the 2011 business year, there is an indication that beauty products targeted towards young men are on the rise in Toronto and increasing in demand in Eastern Asia.
So could it be that men in Toronto just don’t care as much about their looks? Nizam said he would never enter a spa, and Ma said he would never go to one in Toronto.
“I have zero interest in that [spas]. I believe there is a fine line between everything,” Ma said.