How to become an Ikemen: The Evolution of Style in Japan

The evolution of sexuality and styles in Japan

Through the centuries, Japan had been known for their very distinct and unique fashion. Their ancient clothing is not like any other culture in the world. Their fabrics are made with specialized threads, colors, and patterns.

However, in the turn of the new century, it is quite observable that Japanese style and fashion had been going towards what they call as “sexless”. Boutiques, fashion runways, and catwalks are now home to androgynous looks – or styles that show no specific gender. It is not all about looking feminine or masculine anymore, it is about being comfortable while embracing style.

This genderless look is equally appealing for both men and women and it does not mean that these people are actually confused with their gender. This just means that a barrier in the fashion industry had just been broken. There is now a wider variety of products available for both a man and a woman – like genderless makeup, hair styles, hair colors and more.

Women can wear pants suits, coats, short hairs and other clothing items which were originally categorized as men characteristics. At this day and age, guys can wear make-up, have bold hair colors, wear softer colors in clothing or do anything which was deemed too feminine decades ago. Although this can be quite unusual for many foreign travelers, the genderless style is a bold move of the Japanese youth towards acceptance for a wider range of genders and equality.

The Different Fashion Styles of Japanese Men

In Japan, there are a distinct few who consider fashion styles more than just a way of clothing but as a way of life. There are a number of fashion styles which have been turned into what is known as “subcultures”.

For some Japanese people, it is not just about the way they clothe. Sometimes it is about creating a community with other people who have the same likes. Although they are much common in women than in men, there are still some very interesting subcultures for men in Japan. Among these are as follows:

Gyaruo Style

This particular style is quite popular for young men. They usually sport very expensive clothing, stylish haircuts, and expensive perfumes. They have very tanned skin and their hair colors are usually bleached blonde. It is unusually very trendy. What is interesting about this particular subculture is that a majority of them are employed as “male hosts” who make their living out of drinking or dating older women.


This kind of style is also more often depicted in TV shows, dramas, and anime. They are men who have dyed their hair blonde, orange or ant other gaudy colors. They are often seen smoking, drinking, or trashing about. They are often seen being rude and ill-mannered. Basically, these people are what you would call in the western culture as punks and gangs. They are not so common in Japan because their behavior is opposite the normal culture. These are usually seen in the hidden alleys of Tokyo.


Visual Kei

This particular style is heavily influenced by Victorian and gothic vampires. These men are usually powdered ultimately white, have dark eyeliners and red lips. Their nails are often polished black or dark blue. They sport unusually colored hair with hues of bright red or blue which are worn long to cover a part of the face. Most of their clothing is similar to costumes – like they are male versions of gothic lolitas. Although this particular style is not common, there are some J-Pop bands who used to have this kind of style. They are often found in comic and anime conventions since these kinds of characters are common in anime and manga.

Ancient Japanese Style for Men

There are a number of very iconic styles of Japanese guys. Among the most popular is what is known as the warrior fashion. These kinds of clothing can be found in the feudal era of Japan when samurais are being identified by the color and design of their armor. The more powerful a samurai clan is, the more elaborate and beautiful the design of their clothing become.

After the warrior fashion, men started looking for clothing that could bring about comfort. The western influence was clearly seen in the late 1800s to the early 1900s when Japanse men started sporting suits with coats and ties. These are also usually paired with trench coats which they usually wear when the cool weather comes in during September and top hats. It used to be a symbol of power and influence. Those persons who are adorned with western clothing are the noblemen who have received education abroad, have businesses with Westerners, or have very close relationships with the like.

What is Ikemen?

Ikemen meaning in Japanese Culture

It was only in the year 2000 when the concept of the Ikemen became popular in Japanese culture. This newly coined word literally means “good looking man”. It was originally derived from the word ikeru which means “cool” or “good” and men which mean “face”. The word men can also mean the guy word in English.

The word ikemen is literally used for metrosexual men. They are men who exert effort in looking good. They take good care of their hair and skin. These kinds of men are known to be very fashionable as they follow the latest trends. Most often than not, a majority (if not all) Japanese male celebrities are considered as ikemen.

Ikemen definition in Social Media

The concept of the Ikemen gained popularity through the wider internet use of individuals not only in Japan but in the entire world. What is interesting is the fact that ikemen were used as a pun to call very ugly men in chat forums at the time. However, through the years, the meaning of the Ikemen changed and became what it is now known today.                

What are the characteristics of Ikemen?

Although these men are considered as fashionable metrosexuals, they are actually very manly men. There are a few characteristics that describe ikemen that make a lot of young girls swoon. For instance, they are quite characterized by a very deep voice. This kind of low and deep voice always sounds very manly and mature. A lot of women consider this pitch as very sensual and attractive.

For their actual look, they are usually characterized as guys with the very manly build. They have round eyes but some girls prefer sleepy or droopy eyes as well. The thing is that they should still look cool and give that aura of intelligence.

MTV VMAJ 2014 Exile (cropped)

Another very popular trait of the Ikemen, and probably what they are known best for, is how they carry themselves. Their clothing is usually well cleaned despite having that signature “woke up like this” look. Since not all men are very particularly fond of wearing perfume, it is usually from their clothing that fragrance comes from. They are known to draw attention by the scent of their hair and skin. Since they are considered very fashionable men, it is known that ikemen are very keen on clothing. The clothing should always fit right into their body – not too tight, nor too baggy.

When it comes to their personalities, ikemen are usually seen as very intelligent but not arrogant. A lot of girls like men who have substance, who can talk great lengths about things that they are passionate about. They are also deemed flexible with topics that can range from music to politics or history. They are often seen reading books and have good tastes in music.

Oftentimes, ikemen are portrayed as very mysterious men. They are usually reserved and quiet but very passionate. They are known to be gentle and generally desirable. They are often shown in a variety of media like manga and anime. However, there are some literary works and novels that have Ikemen characters like the Otome Games.

The Female counterpart of the Ikemen

There are actually no terminologies or subcultures that could be pinpointed to the female counterparts of Ikemen. But the nearest would be Bijin, or pretty women. These are the girl-next-door type of girls who are quite desirable as girlfriend or wife material. They are also very simple yet stylish, they follow the latest trends in hairstyle and fashion.

However, what makes these women special is the fact that they are known best to be independent and successful. These are the type of women who are empowered by their skills and careers. They usually are seen as “cool” because they can equal men in the industry. For the modern day and age in Japan, there are still some people who are quite conservative and consider that men and women cannot be equals.

However, the modernization and globalization of Japan’s society have started to change this image in women. Although these women still know their roles in homes and in society, it does not mean that they cannot add new impressive skills into their lives. Pretty and cool women are not just measured with looks but also with their personality and attitudes as well.

Ikemen in Japanese Pop Culture

The Bishounen

The Bishounen is often confused with Ikemen because they both mean beautiful. But the difference is the fact that a bishounen is more appropriate for someone who is much younger. This world literally means “beautiful boy” and is now a common trend not only in Japan but in most of East Asia. Bishounen men are usually depicted in manga and anime. The street fashion of Tokyo is also a great place to see people with the Bishounen lifestyle or fashion style.

These kinds of people are more appropriately described as androgynous because they are men who look pretty like young girls. Often called as “genderless beauties”, these are people who are found at the boundaries of sex appeal but don’t necessarily mean that they are gay. These are young men who wear makeup like light eyeshadows and eyeliners to give emphasis and make their eyes look larger.

They wear softer colored clothing and wear their hair in interestingly soft colors as well. They are very slender. They have very clear skin. They have stylish hair. Most of their facial features are soft and feminine. However, their bodies remain strictly manly. They are tall men with very broad shoulders. Basically, they are neither female nor male – they are genderless.

The good thing about this is that it provides opportunities for the wide spectrum of genders to be widely accepted in the conservative society of Japan. With the availability of products without classification, men and women can buy and wear something that the older generations might find too bold.

Ikemen Vs. J-Pop

It is not difficult to compare Ikemen and J-pop artists because the two are quite distinct from each other. J-pop is more versatile with a lot of different styles. These are young men who usually set the trend for hairstyles, clothing, accessories and more. Each artist usually has their own style some can be quite extreme and lean towards the costume side of the spectrum while some people can be much more mellow and lean towards the more relaxed side of the spectrum.

Ikemen, on the other hand, is much more casual and relaxed compared to the varying styles of J-pop, although some J-pop artists can fall under the ikemen category. More like a George Clooney, Hollywood vibe, Ikemen is more mature and fashionable. It is like everyday clothing made even more fabulous.

Ikemen in Anime and Drama

Most ikemen characters in anime and manga are the princes of the story. They are quite comparable to the prince charmings of fairy tales with impressive backgrounds, good looks, and romantic personalities. They are usually written in romantic dramas or romantic comedy stories. They are usually the hunky male leads and main love interest of the story. Some examples of these are the F4 or Boys over Flowers which are four young boys of very wealthy backgrounds. They have impressive cars and gadgets. Their overall look is finished with stylish and trendy hairstyles and up-to-date clothing pieces. They are sure to make any fan swoon.