Real and fake facial hair trends for Japanese men

While not exactly known for being able to grow even partially-full beards, facial hair is in for Japanese men, both young and old alike. Those on the young end of the spectrum tend to be with a hipper crowd, are students, or simply don’t care about looking like a clean-shaven salaryman. After all, most Japanese men who enter companies are forced to stay smooth per company policy. However, once they retire (or get off of work for the weekend) there’s a whole new world of goatees and mustaches that only need some patience….or a little adhesive!

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Having facial hair (hige in Japanese) takes a bit of work for most men, and the older guys who can pull it off and look good doing it are called choiwaru oyaji (ちょい悪おやじ), meaning “cool old man”. You can spot guys like this all over Tokyo these days, looking sharp in a modern suit with no necktie and sporting a neatly trimmed beard. For young guys, a beard is the perfect counter-action to the mainstream feminization of Japanese men, a la Kat-Tun. It separates the men from the boys, so to speak.

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There’s an entire facial hair culture now, with websites like Hige Club, a portal and salon that’s all about the facial hair lifestyle. Tips on how to kiss with facial hair, dye it, or even eat natto without making a mess are included in their column section, with lots of other resources available to members. For those with money to spend, salons like Fujii in Tokyo offer high-class beard coloring and trimming with modern style, but still with a barber’s touch. After all, there’s nothing manly about growing a beard and then having it “styled”. Fujii does “base design” for facial hair, creating a good look for customers so they can go home and maintain it on their own.

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Of course, not everyone is blessed with a beard that can be worked with beyond a few sprouts on the chin. For these unfortunate (lucky?) fellows, companies like Propia have had great success in marketing fake facial hair that isn’t over-the-top, but is just enough to create the look their customers want. The word for “fake beard” in Japanese is tsuke hige (ã?¤ã?‘ã?²ã?’), and they’ve been a surprise hit for both retired salarymen and and current ones who want the look for just a couple of days. We’ve seen some around town that we suspected were fake, but it’s nearly impossible to tell as far as we know. At about $30 for a goatee, they’d better look pretty real.

Pictures via the above links

About the Author

Michael is founder and director of the Mandalah Tokyo trends and innovation consultancy.