Shenzhen: The Rise of China’s Metrosexual Capital

Shanghai and Beijing have long been recognized as China’s most sophisticated cities, but with booming tech, fashion and travel markets, the country is starting to see new cities emerge as cultural hotspots.

Known as the hometown of tech sales giants like Tencent and ZTE, Shenzhen has become China’s unofficial capital for “metrosexuals”—a term for well-groomed, fashionable men who live in metropolitan areas.

The international concept of the metrosexual closely relates to the Chinese internet term  “精致男孩”,which means a stylish boy who cares about his appearance. It’s a taste that echoes the Chinese millennial demand for “Little Fresh Meat”—a term for young, beautiful men in the entertainment industry.

The Shenzhen male’s spending power has shot up drastically over the last few years. A 2017 New Middle-class Men Consumer Report issued by the JD Research Institute outlined that Shenzhen men have emerged as one of the top-three highest spending groups nationwide. Also, in a Genderless Consumption Trend Report co-created by and JD, Shenzhen surpassed Beijing last year to become the largest group of male users of the Chinese online luxury outlet store VIP. Shenzhen was also named the top city for male fashion spending in the country, according to the report.

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So what has made Shenzhen the go-to place in China for metrosexual marketing? Here are three main reasons:

1. It’s culturally more progressive

Shenzhen is the kind of modern port city—like San Francisco or Amsterdam—that absorbs new people and ideas like a sponge. During the Chinese Economic Reform of the early 90s, Shenzhen was picked as one of four special economic zones because of its close proximity to Hong Kong. As a frontier city, Shenzhen has always been receptive to migrants from all over China, as well as international ideas coming from Westernized Hong Kong.

As a famous local saying goes, “everyone that comes is automatically a Shenzhen-er,” and, unlike other major cities in China where residents tend to keep their local identities, Shenzhen identifies as a migrant population. The mix of demographics has given this tech city an advantage in accepting ideas, especially progressive ones that still might be too challenging for more traditional Chinese cities.

Thanks to their migrant culture and techy spirit, Shenzhen locals tend to have a more progressive view on gender roles. Shenzhen men don’t just shop for themselves, but they are also generous shoppers for their partners. In fact, JD’s Genderless Consumption Trend Report notes that Shenzhen men are the most active male online shoppers for spouses or girlfriends.

2. It’s a center for high-earning tech guys

Shenzhen’s booming tech industry, with its accompanying high-income career opportunities, makes the city an attractive place for young workers all across Asia. A portrait of a typical Shenzhen professional is a young, high-earning programmer who’s savvy about technology and wanting to better his personal style.

“Straight guy makeover” series from Shenzhen-based fashion KOL Shenyefashi. Photo credit: Shenyefash/深夜发媸’sWeChat account

“Straight guy makeover” series from Shenzhen-based fashion KOL Shenyefashi. Photo credit: Shenyefash/深夜发媸’sWeChat account

A “straight guy makeover” series that went viral on Chinese social media is proof that personal style is in amongst young Shenzhenites. Months ago, the Shenzhen-based fashion KOL “Shenyefashi深夜发媸” launched the series, titled “straight guy makeover”—a WeChat version of the popular American Netflix makeover show Queer Eye.

In the show, viewers watch a typical Shenzhen-based programmer who doesn’t care much about fashion transform into a stylish, beautiful man. Ever since it launched, each makeover show has tallied an average of a million views and close to 100,000 reposts. Participants in this series generally excel in their careers, but they need a little push when it comes to finding confidence in their appearance. The show’s high engagement is proof that local audiences identify with fashion and self-care, particularly in Shenzhen.

3. It’s a young, avant-garde city

Muji hotel in Shenzhen.

Muji hotel in Shenzhen.

Shenzhen’s young, professional demographic (headlined by the influx of tech-bros we’ve outlined above) and its culture of innovation makes it a city more likely to embrace avant-garde ideas. And in fact, the stylish Japanese lifestyle brand Muji has recently chosen to open its first global flagship hotel in Shenzhen. The hotel’s minimalistic decor was a good fit for Shenzhen, where residents from all over the world are likely to pay premium prices for international luxury.


Market Analysis, Marketing