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Tokyo salon owners sound off on current state of male style

36 Comments
By Rebecca Milner

Are we supposed to believe that just because a cosmetic company aggressively markets mascara to men, guys actually want that stuff? And if they do, does that really mean that masculinity is on the rocks? You never know if you don’t ask, so we sat down with two salon owners to chat candidly about media hype and the world of male grooming.

At the height of the hysteria over "soshoku danshi," the so-called “herbivore male,” Ken Kawabata opened Ken’s Nail (www.kensnail.com) — a salon specifically for men. That was last year, when the media was fixated on skinny, supposedly undersexed guys with feminine habits. Habits like getting manicures, right?

Cue that old truism from science class: correlation does not equal causation. In fact, Ken’s customers are almost entirely alpha-male sorts. The salon’s regular clientele are predominantly company execs, doctors, entertainers and high-end service industry types, with a roughly even split between Japanese and expats.

Kawabata himself, in well-polished shoes and wire glasses that sit on the edge of his nose, is no slacker. The licensed nail-care technician used to work in the media, as a location coordinator for commercials. The idea to open Ken’s Nail came while watching the preparation for shoots, which often included nail care for the male stars. Once tuned in to the difference that a little trimming and buffing could make, he realized that there wasn’t anywhere that a guy could go for a manicure or pedicure without looking woefully out of place.

“Nail care just isn’t in most guys’ consciousness in Japan,” he says.

This is something that Kawabata would obviously like to change, noting that he cringes when he sees spreads in reputable magazines featuring models with ragged nails. “It’s not so much about fashion as it is about taking care of yourself and being healthy,” he says.

So who has nice nails? “Nobuhiro Takeda,” he answers, pulling out a salon trade magazine showing the former football star turned sportscaster with gleaming half-moons for fingertips.

Kaz Taira, the dude of Dude hair salon (www.dude.jp), has seen a lot of trends come and go in the 20 years that he’s been cutting hair in Tokyo. And anti-trends. Located on a Harajuku back street, Dude tends to attract customers looking for something beyond the mainstream. With the enduring popularity of the “Shibuya-boy” look—what Taira calls “Rod Stewart on his bad days”—Dude is getting a lot of requests for close crops or long, wavy “Jesus Christ hair” that can also be pulled back in a ponytail.

His customers do, however, continue to fall for David Beckham. Roughly 20% of Dude’s foreigner-heavy clientele arrive at the salon armed with photos demonstrating how they want their hair styled. And no single role model has appeared—or continues to appear—more frequently over the last decade than the famously image-savvy soccer player.

“Now he [Beckham] has a mullet, which I’m reluctant to do,” says Taira, who sports shoulder-length dreadlocks himself. “A slight mullet is okay, but I don’t like an aggressive mullet.”

The ethos of Dude, he says, is essentially “laid back and slightly grungy.” Though Taira’s personal tastes run towards the asymmetrical and avant-garde, he insists that he doesn’t push his aesthetic on customers. Still, about half of them give him creative license with their heads.

Taira once dreamed of becoming a hat designer, but opted for cutting school instead because the skills would allow him to work anywhere. He gets a kick out of enabling customers to achieve their ideal looks, and is convinced that a hair cut is a kind of high. “When you are really happy with your haircut, your body creates endorphins,” he says.

But what does this professed vegetarian have to say about the whole “herbivore male” thing?

“I think much of the male chauvinistic culture is created by a kind of sports team-like spirit, with ideas of 'sempai' [seniors] and 'kohai' [juniors] and a very gung-ho mentality,” he says. “But there are people who don’t have that experience and those ideas. Maybe because they like to play video games instead.”

This story originally appeared in Metropolis magazine (www.metropolis.co.jp).

© Japan Today

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.


36 Comments
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It appears that young Japanese men have moved towards a lifestyle and fashion statement that is parallel to Japanese women. They want to be petite and cute too! Thus, the level of testasterone in Japan is dropping rapidly. (smile)...

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I bite my nails, but I trim my eyebrows too. Because as you get older, they really start to grow, and when they do that they interfere with your eye lashes and that gets irritating. I also trim my ear hair and nose hair, because there is nothing more disgusting than talking to some one and their ear and nose hair is doing a dance. What I would really like to know is do the chicks here really like the effeminate dudes? The more effeminate dudes they make, the less competition for the hot babes.

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Since when did taking care of yourself mean having your nails done?

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In fact, Ken’s customers are almost entirely alpha-male sorts. The salon’s regular clientele are predominantly company execs, doctors, entertainers and high-end service industry types, with a roughly even split between Japanese and expats.

No surprise here. The only surprise is that this article was written by a woman. Any 'high-end' alpha-male knows that sophisticated women care a lot about (male) grooming. If you don't have well manicured nails your chances with refined 'high-end' ladies are impeded. This article has nothing to do with herbivore males - on the contrary - as above quote illustrates so well. Please note also that half the customers of Ken's Nail are well-to-do expats (who can and do afford to be pampered).

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I basically think the problem in Japan is the plague of "Kawaii". Guys saw girls getting all this attention and fun for a couple decades of rampant Kawaii-ness. So they decided they want in on it too. That has turned into many young men in Tokyo becoming as feminine as local girls.

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The only man that is attractive is the real man. Real man do not care about nails and mascara/

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The only man that is attractive is the real man. Real man do not care about nails and mascara

I wish my wife would understand that. Man, she expects me to clean my teeth every day.

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And shower; even in winter!

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Take a quote from Keisuke Honda to see where this comes from, when im on the pitch its important to be the best player and the best looking! Sums up a lot of these lads in a nutshell. I have a shower, brush my teeth, cut my nails, wash my clothes = great personality, fit wife. Mascara, manicure, pedicure, facials - shallow, self absorbant = fit wife (maybe), shallow and as uninteresting as they come.

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A great way to have a Japanese woman lose interest in you is to have dirty nails or "fukazume," nails that are cut way too short. I once polished my own nails as an experiment. Believe me, the ladies notice.

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I don't mind seeing the young guys taking care of themselves, and looking good. I just hope they don't pull the old trick of shaving off all of their eyebrows and then penciling them back in again!

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I have absolutely no problem with homosexuals, but I always used to tell my wife that the guys out and about in Osaka town looked rather gay from a western point of view, at least mine. The Bon Jovi hairdos, the fluffy keitai attachments, the PURSES and MAKEUP. She just couldn't believe it. She thought I was crazy and horribly insensitive. Within a month of moving to Toronto, she changed her mind. And there are a lot of Asian men in Toronto, and almost all are more manly than the average Taro, from her point of view. I know the notion of manliness is cultural. I just find it amusing that so many Japanese men look very feminine to me. So, for solidarity, stop dreaming of Beckham and man up.

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Yup pretty limp wristed is how i summed the guys up in this place in the early 90's whne i first arrived here and it has not manned up at all since. Sometimes hard to tell if its a gal or guy the way they dress, do their hair and carry themselves sometimes. Personal hygiene aside i do not know why these girly guys want to become even more like their women, must be something in the genes or the spirit!

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“It’s not so much about fashion as it is about taking care of yourself and being healthy,” he says.

Yeahhhh.... ummm... sorry, but getting a manicure has absolutely nothing to do with good health, unless it helps you alleviate stress or something.

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Yeahhhh.... ummm... sorry, but getting a manicure has absolutely nothing to do with good health.

smithinjapan Here you are wrong. Just ask a dermatologist or google "health and manicure". Top hit is "How does manicure help nail health". I myself had an infected nail bed years ago and needed to have the nail surgically removed. Since then I occassionally enjoy mani and especially pedicure, because in my job I often have to walk all day. You may also find it interesting that many athletic runners get pedicures. They say that it gives them an edge and prevents injuries.

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“Jesus Christ hair”

lol even THAT is a trend

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bicultural-

A great way to have a Japanese woman lose interest in you is to have dirty nails or "fukazume," nails that are cut way too short. I once polished my own nails as an experiment. Believe me, the ladies notice.

fukazume is bad, but i don't like it when men have long nails!!!!! keep it short and clean :)

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You guys don't have to go for a manicure but I like it when your nails are nicely trimmed and short.

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I have some advice for the japanese male:

Going to a nail salon & using eyeliner is not cool !!!! Save the money for flowers or wine !!! This nail salon guy overchargesanyway. Just buy some nail clippers and clip away.

from my observations on the train in the morning Japanese men are lacking:

1) A SHOWER- please i do not want to smell your body odor on the train so early in the morning ESPECIALLY SUMMERTIME ) PHEW !!!! Please take a shower/ and above all else use deodorant. I heard a rumor that japanese men don't take showers in the morning. BAD BAD BAD No No No

2) Brush your teeth in the morning/afternoon -- If you ate a Natto/ pickle sandwich for breakfast please brush the teeth before heading out the door/ your wife/girlfriend must love you for not brushing your teeth but the rest of the passengers on the train do not.

3) Smoker's breath on the train-- really nobody wants to smell your breath mixed in with your natto sandwich you had 30 minutes ago. Bring breath mints please.

4) Newspaper Folk--- It's not cool to read newspapers anymore STOP-- save a few trees invest in a smart phone or tablet please. Your not cool !!!! You've destroyed a few furns please STOP. It's more stylish to have a smartphone use it you old coot/whiper snapper. I hate navigating in the the train dodging newspaper boys & old baglady women.

5) Super Tight Jeans only look in the 1980's headbanger groups & good for women please STOP a few months ago I seen a short man with tight pink jeans, with a matching pink back pack, and a matching pink mobile phone.

6) Holes in the jeans are not cool, now it's winter time save it for the summer. J Men stop it please !!!!!

7) Loud noises farts while walking, especially men with dress suits. Please stop it. I was walking in nihonbashi and a young man in a suit cut one in front of a group of ladies and me. It's not cool. You lost alot of cool points for that and who knows your co workers my nickname you fartboy for now on ???? who knows ??? I heard Japanese guys don't take showers in the morning or brush the teeth.

About the " High End " ladies, high end ladies are shallow and care for the money don't worry about them. The Price is money so show it off, it doesn't matter if you look like a gremlin you'll definitely get a piece of tail don't worry. Just show off your platinum card !!!!

7) Be yourself-- take care of your teeth, smell good, take a shower, be polite,ask her for coffee, be outgoing and smart. You will get your girl !!!!

You don't need your nails done and pay some overpriced fee.

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Actually, nails DO matter. I don't expect or want varnished nails on a potential date, but is always a pleasure to see a man who goes to the trouble of keeping his nails short, neatly clipped, and impeccably clean. Grimy nails are definitely a turn-off (imagine those hands on your body ... ew!). So Japanese males have a big advantage in that respect, if not in others.

Too bad they don't spend as much time and attention on their teeth. Speaking as a foreign women, bad teeth are a big no-no, and may even reflect negatively on a man's intelligence level (let's face it, anybody who spends more money on his nails than his teeth is probably an idiot).

Also, what's with the stupid haystack hairstyles? They look ridiculous. My policy is, if a guy looks like he spends more time and money that I do on haircare, then give him a miss, because he'll be too busy preening in the mirror to pay any attention to me.

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Speaking as a woman- I like a guy who grooms himself! Taking care of your looks, including your nails, is a definite plus-point in my book! I don't care if you put polish on them or whatnot,but definitely trim and possibly polish those nails please!! ^^

And tight jeans are a definite plus!!

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Good grooming habits and that includes nails is very attractive.

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Is it men doing other men's nails? hmm..I always thought men liked(those who do anyway) their nails done by women, who let's face it, are a bit more savvy about it? And I'm talking about manicure, not glitter by 'nailists'.

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It's all about balance. Caring about your appearance is not "gay" or "feminine." But I have seen a lot of guys in Japan who were on the feminine side with their hairstyles, clothes, and even body types. I don't like super skinny guys.

But guys in the U.S.? WAY too macho! God forbid they ever wear something nice or trim their nails or be seen doing something women normally do for fear of being called gay. America's macho, cowboy attitude is too far in the other direction.

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like Bart Simpson says "Homer........"

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BlackWidow

Is it men doing other men's nails? hmm..I always thought men liked(those who do anyway) their nails done by women, who let's face it, are a bit more savvy about it? And I'm talking about manicure, not glitter by 'nailists'.

I think you are on to something here...

I usually have my nails done in Bangkok (second home) in a reputable(!) saloon. While I lean back and relax one lady does the pedicure and massages my feet while 2 others left and right do the manicure on the outstretched hands. Pampered, flattered and getting spoiled by three ladies (rolls eyes) - nothing unmanly, effiminate or herbivore about that. I wouldn't discard a mani/pedicure done by a man on principle, but definitely prefer the situation described above.

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I really respect Japanese men for taking the time and effort to look good, and putting some thought into style, fashion and grooming. It makes them so much more attractive than the average South African guy who just rolls out of the house in a free T-shirt he got at some sporting event, board shorts and flip flops.

Sure, there are some fashion trends that are a bit much, but generally I love to see guys that use some product in their hair and wear interesting clothes that fit nicely. I would take groomed eyebrows over a unibrow any day, and I think for most women, hoso-macho is way better than gori-macho.

However, I have to say no to those pointy shoes. Enough is enough!

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Men getting their nails, hair and eyebrows done to attract women is ridiculous. What a bunch of pathetic girlie men.

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Hearing a man who runs a nail salon tell you how you need good nails to get women is like having a real estate guy tell you that now is the best time to buy.

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Men getting their nails, hair and eyebrows done to attract women is ridiculous. What a bunch of pathetic girlie men.

And what if it works and they score a lot?

Ditto for cleaniness around the house, there are some rooms and areas that need to be spotless, other can be messy.

Knowing what attracts women and vice-versa is an important tool in the dating game. ;)

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The dating game isn't so hard. If you really want to score that hard and think going to a nail salon will mean the difference between scoring or not, then they probably need to lift their games.

Spending money at nail salons to "score" in Japan? What's wrong with just keeping your nails clean and short? If a woman was that impressed with the difference between a guy with normal clean nails, and a man who had obviously been to a nail salon, she probably is probably not worth the effort.

Put it the other way, would you accept or reject a woman on the basis of whether she's been to a nail salon?

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Depends on what I am after and there is always room to improve your game. A person that has extra cash to look after their body & image tends to be more attractive to others.

Always good to tip the scales a bit in your favour, everyone else does it too.

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Fair enough Mr Zenny.

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It's funny, but most Japanese women I talk to can't stand how emasculated J-guys have become. These guys are not just interested in proper grooming, but they end up looking like pre-op Transsexuals. If a woman is going to date a Herbivore, she might as well just go completely lesbian!

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I have to say one of the first things I noticed about my obstetrician was his nice nails.... :0 !

I like men who look like they have taken the time to look after themselves - but there is a line and if my obstetrician for example had turned up in mascara I would probably have gone elsewhere!

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Takeaway Lessons from These 9 Nail Salon Instagram Accounts

Here’s what you should be copying from these 9 Nail Salon Instagram Accounts:

Click Your Art: With nail salons, if you’re good at your work, you’ve got stunning pictures. You don’t have to schedule your Instagram account a month or two before. Just take a daily picture of nail art and put it up on Instagram. To up the game, plan your background to go with your brand image. Use the same colors or elements in your background as your brand image. And there go your branded posts on Instagram. Set yourself apart from other nail salons by creating your own unique look using colors, backgrounds, etc.

Get Your Audience to Help You: Ask your customers to take pictures for you. Start a campaign where if your customers click great pictures for you and post them on Instagram along with your hashtag, they could win coupons or discounts on their next nail appointment.

Behind-the-scene Pictures: Occasionally, offer a sneak peak of your behind-the-scenes. What your team is doing. Celebrate a staff birthday by doing up their nails. This gives your brand a human element. They don’t appear as yet another nail salon. Plus, this gives you another chance to showcase your nail art.

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