Buy a New Lipstick and Chop That Straight Guy: China Buzz Report

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Welcome to China Buzz Report, part of Elephant Room's project to explore the know-hows of China's internet-native consumers.

For each week, we:
▸Focus on one or a group of trending buzz words on Chinese social media
▸Explain, research and investigate the many social, cultural and psychological nuances behind them
▸Dig into the minds of real Chinese consumers to help you make sense of the layers of contexts, from big to small

Buy a New Lipstick and Chop That Straight Guy

It all began with a random conversation the other day-

(Me grabbing out a lipstick to apply)

Yan: (curiously stares) Isn't this the famous Straight-Guy-Chopper color?

Me: ...this is? I have no idea! (*pause for a second*) so I am wearing a Guy-Chopper on my lips right now? how do I look? Chop-yyy hard enough?

Yan: ...(*Eye rolling*)

Me: But why is this particular color Guy-Chopping? From what I recall I picked it only because it is a sheer wash of pink, which I liked at the time...

Yan: You just answered yourself! It is sheer and pink, that's what chops straight guys the most, duh!

Biyi: Who said that? I thought red is supposed to be more chop-yyy? you know, like Marilyn Monroe that kind of bright bold red?

Yan: Hum....

Are Monroe's classic red lips chop-y enough for today's Chinese straight guys?

So for the sake of our own curiosity (and an excuse to plant weeds, aka do some online shopping for ourselves), we decided to spend some time researching about this whole Straight-Guy-Chopping thing: for millennial Chinese netizens like us, it is a trendy term that's used frequently in chit-chatty conversations between girl friends and within female-dominated online communities; yet what does it mean exactly? What chops, why and how does it chop?

Let's see what we could find out.

After typing in "Guy Chopping Color" in Baidu, the watchword for this secretive world will emerge right in front of you:

"YSL 12".

I am not sure who you are (yes, you!), but just in case you don't know much about lipsticks or China's female consumer market in general, here are some catch-up points:

- Chinese female consumers have been buying hella a lot of cosmetics over the past two years. (2015 and 2016 both seen an around 20% market growth.)

- Within cosmetics, the most popular product category was for sure lipsticks. In 2016 alone, Chinese sales for lipsticks grew 5x faster than the overall cosmetics category (which means an almost 100% growth for lipstick sales, cray cray).

- Like any trends in today's digital world, China's lipstick frenzy was driven by a mixture of celebrity influence (actresses in Korean dramas in particular), marketing strategies (YSL did a highly successful Chinese campaign last Christmas declaring"if you love your girlfriend, buy her lipsticks" ), and social media discussions (beauty bloggers/gurus/influencers are increasingly followed and sponsored by consumers and brands). And like we discussed in the previous Report, Chinese consumers, especially females today like to talk about what they buy as much as buying itself.

Set of 6 YSL's Star Clash lipsticks selling at up to 4700 RMB ($670) on Taobao. 

"Kneeing down to the almighty YSL..." A Chinese boyfriend's reaction to the Lipstick marketing craze.

In the world of lipsticks, YSL's Vernis À Lèvres Glossy Lip Stain in color 12 "Coril Fauve" (YSL12) is considered as the legendary mother of all Guy-Choppers: with a "strawberry pink"/ "watery red" color and a lightweight, dewing consistency, it won over China's lip-obsessed girls because of its hyped up Guy-Chopping power": I mean, we still don't know what that means exactly, but judging from comments online, it seems to be widely recognized as either "the-only lip-color my-boyfriend-praised", or  "the-one-lip-product-straight-men -would-be-able-to-tell-a-difference (when putting it on)".

YSL slips out easily as you search for "Guy-chopping lipsticks"on Taobao.

From a Taobao store: "No.12 is the hot guy collector, it helps you to win over the hearts of guys within seconds."

Are you...chopped? (photo from Weibo anonymous user)


As much as we'd like to continue talk about lipsticks (and bore you to death perhaps), it is time to dig a step further into the system:

You see, Guy-Chopping is way more than just about lipsticks: browsing through female-led threats on China's popular social platforms, be it Weibo, WeChat, Zhihu, Douban or Baidu Tieba, one would quickly spot discussions on the "Man-Chopping power" of eye shadows, foundations, perfumes, jewelries, lingeries and bags...basically everything appearance related.

Perfume from Narciso Rodriguez is widely recognized as having the "Guy-Chopping smell".

A website article titled "What is Guy-Chopping style? How to put up the best Guy-Chopping outfits?"

A thread on Douban, "let's talk about all kinds of Guy-Chopping equipments!"

So where are the Chinese straight guys? Are they all chopped up by now?

Well, some of them could still be busy hunting lipsticks for their girlfriends :

A meme mimicking 2 boyfriends begging the centered guy for exchanging his giant, limited-edition YSL lipstick.

Some are diagnosed as having "Straight-Man-Cancer"and are busy fighting with or escaping from online criticisms-

"Straight-guy-cancer" has been heavily mocked by Chinese netizens in recent years. 

"How's your day? Are you wearing make-up? I work in a top company in town $#%^%$W$#" - a typical cancerous straight guy's way of initiating a conversation with girls.

Some are being laughed at because of their careless appearance and insensibility towards beauty products. Under the trending Weibo hashtag #StraighGuyColorblinded, many Chinese girls openly mocked straight-guys' incapabilities to identify lipstick or eyeshadow colors - "they can't even tell I changed a lipstick shade!" (I know, poor guys...)

"Two straight guys trying to find the Guy-Chopper color in 80 lipsticks" - a video reposted for more than 72,800 times on Weibo. 

Left: "Asking my dear straight guy at home to guess lipstick colors"

Right: "Just forced a straight guy to play the impossible game of naming lipstick colors!"

Some of them are working very ,very hard to deal with the ever-increasing pressure of urban life in today's China.

“House, job, city residency" - pressure sources of today's Chinese men.

Wherever they are, one thing seems to be pretty clear in this case: Guy-Chopping, in the context of today's China, is a female-dominated discourse that reflects Chinese women's' relentless enthusiasm towards self-betterment. With capital and technology in hands, consumerism has became both the shield and the weapon for young, urban, internet-native female consumers to construct their beliefs in a prettier, more powerful, more confident life path.

"If a new lipstick couldn't solve your problem, just buy another one".

But it is still a story of contradiction. "Guy-Chopping", in essence, is preconditioned by a pitfall of male gaze: by positioning themselves as the objects of male sexual desire, Chinese women of this day is still confronted by a standardized view of beauty deeply embedded in patriarchalism. As much as wearing colorful lipsticks would make a woman feel happy and attractive, in the end, whether consumerism could help altering the discourse of gender relations is a serious question that needs to be carefully examined in a historical and transnational context.

During WW2, lipsticks were used as a tool for promoting patriotism and encouraging women's participation in boosting the war's morale. Beauty hence became a duty, and lipsticks in the shade "military red" became so popular among American female consumers that it was constantly out of stock. (image via)


 “When there was government intervention in every part of your life, when everything else was in flux, your appearance was the only thing you could control.”

Just a Small Quiz...

Can you guess which one of the four shades here is the Straight-Guy-Chopper? Leave your answer down below!

One thought on “Buy a New Lipstick and Chop That Straight Guy: China Buzz Report

  • January 11, 2018 at 5:24 am

    I love your posts. As a (straight) guy in China, this is really helpful for understanding what’s going on in Chinese culture.

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