Foreign women have to maintain their A-game while living among Japanese ladies with their petite figures, flawless skin and polished sense of style. But the pursuit of Sweet Lady Vanity is not solely for the fairer sex. Tokyo men have made a name for themselves as the world’s most lavish metrosexuals. They collect vintage designer duds, groom themselves immaculately and preen like 21st century peacocks—nothing to do with the salarymen in frumpy black suits getting drunk in Ginza. Foreign men have long-coasted on the “Charisma Man” appeal, but let’s face it: some young Japanese guys make us look like savage, hairy wildebeests in comparison.
If you are going to hobnob with the glitterati in Ebisu or meet a lovely lady for cocktails, try not to look like an anime geek from Montana. A wise beginning is your hair. Any Sloppy Joe can get a buzz cut, but a man’s haircut and shoes are often the first things women check on first meeting. Salons can be a hurdle when living abroad, so we hereby introduce a specialist to prevent you being stamped with the “D word”—“Dasai!” (cheesy/déclassé).
Australian stylist Howard Regner has plied his trade in Japan for nine years. A consummate professional, he is tight-lipped about the high-end clientele frequenting his Azabu-Juban salon, Gold (www.goldsalontokyo.com). Suffice to say many Hollywood types just might end up there. You don’t have to be a runway model though, and the English-speaking staff is a welcome treat. They might even serve you a glass of wine if you ask politely.
So what hair issues do you often hear about from your male clientele?
I guess a common one is that a lot of men are looking for some versatility in their look. They want a balance between something that gets taken seriously closing the deal but can be loosened up and personalized into something sexier/edgier for downtime.
Japanese men tend to be immaculate—what can foreign guys do to compete?
J-men have something that works for them but doesn’t always cross over. Gaijin need to celebrate their obvious differences in a refined way so as not to come off Neanderthal-like. Think Tom Ford rather than Tom Cruise’s character in "Days of Thunder."
Do you have any advice for Afro-Caribbean or other hair types?
Keep it tight or grow it out proud and big. The middle ground is the realm of the Blaxploitation films and ’70s sitcoms.
Yes, I suppose modern guys shouldn’t go around looking like J.J. from "Good Times." Speaking of media, which celebrities do people most wish to emulate?
British MTV presenter Alexa Chung. She is the queen of balayage highlights. James Franco. Prizes for finding any major men’s grooming magazine this guy hasn’t been on the cover of in the past 12 months. A personal favorite has got to be the hard man/shaved-head look of John Travolta in his recent films.
My regular request is still Simon Le Bon from Duran Duran. What are some keywords men might keep in mind when visiting a Japanese stylist?
"Eigo ga dekimasu ka?" (Do you speak English?), because if they don’t, and you are not a Japanese speaker, it might be more prudent to use visual aids, such as tearing sheets from magazines, print-outs from the Internet, that kind of thing. If language is a problem, take your iPhone or iPad and hope like hell they have wi-fi. Communication is key to a successful encounter with any stylist.
You must hear all the secrets of the fabulous women that frequent your salon. Do you ever hear complaints about foreign men’s grooming?
Never! My ladies are way too discerning to waste their time on the follicley-challenged and inept (laughs).
Beach season is just around the corner and my big issue in Tokyo is that I am pale—though I prefer “melanin-challenged.” How can foreign men get ready for the beach?
I know this is really un-PC, but I’m an advocate for careful use of sun beds. Just start really slowly—5-10 minutes per session—and build up. Once you have a nice base, after 3-4 sessions you usually only need to go every 2-3 weeks to maintain a healthy glow. Otherwise, you have to resort to spray-on tans or bronzers, which I’ve tried from time to time without any great success. I personally like “tan in a bottle,” especially French ones such as Clarins, but if you don’t do it properly it’s a travesty showing up to Shonan two-toned. What hairstyles are en vogue for men at the moment?
The scruffy unkempt look has run its cycle, and men are returning to a cleaner, groomed look. Think Cary Grant, not billy goat Brad [Pitt].
Many foreign men are befuddled by the vast array of hair products on offer in stores. Do you have any recommendations?
My advice is to use what your stylist uses and recommends, or quiz them on what they’re using and why. Search for something with the same qualities, effects, etc.
This story originally appeared in Metropolis magazine (www.metropolis.co.jp).© Japan Today