August 5, 2012

The Asian Man

Growing up in highly Americanized Manila, most of my role models were Caucasian.  I saw more Hollywood movies than local ones, and even the Philippines’ own film industry was dominated by actors with Western features.  With this post, I celebrate the familiar handsomeness of the oft neglected Asian man: with our noses not quite as high, faces not quite as sharp and chiseled, and eyes not quite as light or as deep-set—but not any less piercing or prepossessing.  Let these men of style teach us a nugget or two about how to work with our own features, and as for you, gentlemen, and ladies, of other colors, enjoy the inspiring photographs all rendered in grayscale for your harmonious viewing.

Inevitably, I must start with my own personal style star, Hong Kong actor Tony Leung. In his much-celebrated portrayal of Chow Mo-Wan in Wong Kar-Wai's "In the Mood for Love", he demonstrates how a man of relatively small stature can don a sharp, classic suit, slick back his hair, and break hearts across borders.

Tony Leung illustrates the importance of also looking good in one's down time, showing how an outfit comprised of a waffle-knit tank top and wet hair can be enhanced with healthy muscle tone and a burning look.

The Philippines' own Richard Gomez stood out during his time because of his darker skin and masculine Filipino features. He strikes the balance between smart and rugged, pairing his signature left earring and eyebrow scar with a white shirt so fresh and clean.

In Lust, Caution (2007) Leehom Wang, shows us that if we get over our hangups of perpetuating stereotypes (read: sushi chef or Chairman Mao), Asian men can look great in everyday versions of traditional Asian garb.

And even in versions fit for fighting under the Chinese Imperial Court, as shown by Takeshi Kaneshiro.

Akira Kurosawa's male muse Toshiro Mifune, fills my to-try list with these looks from his 1970's movies. To try (clockwise): a fur stole and a slim turtleneck indoors, tendrils, casually parted semi-long hair with a mustache, slicked-back hair and light tailored clothes with Clubmasters.

I like how George Takei's stark looks compliment the futurism of his Star Trek costumes. If you aren't following him on Facebook yet, I urge you to do it now.

Korea's Byun-hun Lee spins the much-feared bowl-cut on its head and takes it from Romulan to ruggedly handsome hit-man.

Jung Woo-sung, Kim Bum, and the merits of going to the gym, a cutesy tattoo, and an Elven ponytail with sideburns

Ken Watanabe shows that by embracing our distinguishing features (in his case, the mustache and the stern look) and dressing sensibly (close-cut, clean haircut, classic tailoring), we will only get better with age.

photographs via Tumblr

6 Comments

  • wcgut
    August 6th, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    this is a frigging awesome post. when i was like 12 growing up and stuff, tony leung was the poster boy on my wall. and after i grew up and had a chance to do a shoot with leehom in hong kong, i almost shit mah pants, :P

  • Izzy
    August 6th, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    K: I would love to see that shoot with Leehom! Can you e-mail me some of it? xx

  • Danny
    August 7th, 2012 at 5:28 am

    Very interesting!

  • wcgut
    August 7th, 2012 at 10:05 am

    in your dreams! that shoot from 12 years ago is all mine! :: screams ::

  • Syed
    August 10th, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    I know what you mean, I grew up watching Hitchcocks and films from the ’50s that definitely influenced my tastes. But at the same time I used to watch ’60s and ’70s Bollywood films (when they were stylish, unlike the garbage of today), so I had that coming in as well. Of course as a teenager I discovered ’80s Hong Kong cinema, so that changed my perspective as well. It’s odd though, I feel all of those different directions leading in quite a harmonious fashion to the same place – not necessarily connected by aesthetics, but rather an approach to style. I think costume designers had a far more creative input than they do now, or maybe it’s simply that the films are such a product of their times that they stand out so clearly when compared to films today.

  • Aki
    December 25th, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    That is so correct! I had the same problem when I was growing up in Sweden & if it´s hard to find inspiration for the asian girls , trust me it´s even harder for the asian guys. I love though how the asian man is more featured in campaigns, editoriials, etc. And…btw, Tony Leung is awesome!


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