BEIJING - Recently in London somebody had the great idea of putting out a call for people to take mobile-phone photos of handsome men on the citys Underground and then post the pictures on the Internet for everyone to enjoy.
Within just a few days, tens of thousands of pictures were up on display: a debonair older man reading a novel, a dreamy-looking guy with his eyes closed leaning against the door, a young Apollo playing video games, a short-haired bloke with well-formed muscles. In brief, it looks as if London is a paradise full of only the most handsome chaps.
The concept was soon picked up by Douban.com, the Chinese social networking website. Yes, thats right, someone thought it wise to put out a similar online Call for handsome Chinese guys on the Underground. Lets just say that photographs most certainly did not come streaming in.
However, a most passionate response was elicited by a very different subsequent appeal to the plugged-in masses: Please send in photos of the most horrid men on Chinas subways. Soon there was a digital display of wonders: a man picking his nose, another digging out his earwax, yet another man spraying saliva while talking loudly on his cell phone, and one particularly relaxed fellow putting his belt on in public. One wonders about the pictures that were not taken.
Whats wrong with the world!? Have the cute guys all really gone to London, leaving the unsightly ones behind in Beijing?
I must admit that its probably true that handsome men concentrate in London. Once when I was crossing a street there, a tall blond lad ran past me. He was wearing an Oxford shirt and a pair of tight-fitting blue pants. His tie flew in the air while he ran. His brown postman-style messenger bag hung diagonally over his shoulder.
And when I boarded the train, I saw another guy leaning next to the automatic door with clean and neat short hair. He was wearing a windbreaker and a brown check scarf, simple and elegant.
Back in a Beijing station, a man in front of me was talking to his girlfriend. When he turned around, I saw a whole layer of dandruff on his jacket. Next to him, a portly man grumbled He Pei! and spat a clot of phlegm under the seat.
Now I do believe that some British men have dandruff and also have to spit sometimes. I also believe that Chinese men can look smart in an Oxford shirt, a pair of nicely cut pants and a trench coat. The question is Why dont we see them?
Now, properly dressed and smartly dressed are two different notions. If many men in London look smart, most Chinese men dont even qualify as properly dressed. Personal upbringing and cultivation are the fundamental reasons. But having a single value system in Chinese society probably also explains why.
Boys next door
In every Chinese boys youth, there's always a rival the boy next door. This other peoples son was always at the top of the class and artistically gifted. When he grows up, he is bound to make big money, have a wonderful wife and raise a genius son just like he him
On the other hand, tall good-looking, nicely-mannered and physically endowed boys are often used as a negative example. If you look up to him and care about your looks, youll never make it to the university !
In short, we are brought up to think that professional success is the unique value. A stylish image, appropriate manners, and smart appearance are never real concerns.
Wang Fong, the editor-in-chief of Chinas GQ magazine, says: Chinese men care very much about their career and family, while they have difficulty in accepting the idea that somehow men also have to dress up.
A survey conducted before the launching of LOfficiel Hommes, a new Chinese mens magazine, revealed that for most Chinese men, fortune and social status are the sole priorities. As for their build and looks, who cares!
Queer eyes for straight guys
Although the female fashion and beauty industries are both booming in China, they have a relatively short history in China and mens fashion, even shorter.
Only now are male fashion magazines getting their Chinese editions -- beyond GQ theres also Esquire and Mens Health and it may begin to have an effect on mens appearance and grooming. Still, its undeniable that most of these magazines readers are either those rare few who are stylish anyway, or those who are gay --though these magazines will deny it.
There is hope. The American TV show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy is now broadcast in China, and is slowly climbing in the ratings. In each episode, five tasteful gays come to the rescue of a hopeless straight male.
Guan Zhong, an ancient Han sage, said Only in a wealthy society are there people of good manners. But I dont feel like waiting any longer. I wish there were a local version of that American reality show. Id like to see how those picky gay friends handle those guys picking their noses on the subway.
Read the original article in Chinese
Photo - Jonathan Kos-Read