by AmandaMarta, April 21, 2013

The Origin of the 'Flower Boy Trend'

From the Past to the Present

Sometimes referred as “The Cream of the Crop”, “Pretty Boys”, “Flower Knights”, “Flower Four (F4)”, or “Metrosexuals”, they can be dubbed as “Flower Boys”. This reoccurring trend is continuously being portrayed in Asian dramas, media, and especially, in modern Asian society, since these so-called “pretty boys” are quite attractive to the Asian and Non-Asian female viewers. However, you may ask yourself:

          ◘ Who are these Flower Boys?
          ◘ Where does the term "Flower Boy" come from and why is it a popular trend?
          ◘ How do you classify a "Flower Boy"?
          ◘ What is it about them that appeals to 21st century females?
          ◘ Why are "Flower Boy" characters present in Asian dramas, but not in 
              North American or European media (or other)?

Who are these "Flower Boys"?

The term “Flower Boys” has several meanings depending on how it is used. It can refer to as a man who looks like a woman, acts like a woman, or both. According to Urban Dictionary; a Flower Boy is "a boy that looks and acts feminine/ girly, especially in the context of doing an “aegyo” or a “cute act”. In other words, it's a ‘pretty boy’ or a 'VERY pretty boy'.

Basically, these are guys who do not fit within the typical look of masculine, tough-looking men. Another definition of ‘Flower Boy’,  is men who are good-looking and pay much attention to their looks.

How do you classify a "Flower Boy"?

Flower Boys can be classified looking at the different terms in the chart:
Slim-FiguredFeminine FeaturesWell-groomedUsually Smooth SkinMay wear Circular Lenses
(Gray or Blue Lenses)
BeautifulGorgeous HairBeyond CharmingMakeup May Be WornFitted Tight Clothing,
Fashionably Dressed
May Be
Smelling GoodDelicate Features"Jocks" and "Preppy"
guys of Asia (according
to North American
Well-mannered and

Where does the term "Flower Boy" come from and why is
it a popular trend?

There are many arguments on how the “Flower Boy” became a popular trend. There are theories mentioning some of the possibilities on how this phenomenon still stands strong until this day. The “Flower Boys” or “kkonminam” in Korean, first appeared at the end of the 1990’s together with important social changes . Koreans, back then, were a patriarchal society where males were deemed as the “provider”, and the head of the household with the characteristics of “tough” and “dominant”. This is the total opposite of the Flower Boy of today. In the beginning of the 1990’s, metrosexuals, a phenomena which generated from the West, were labeled as “gay” by people with a more conservative point of view. Since Asian societies were more closed-off to Western influences, the delicate male image developed from there.

 During the ‘blamed’ financial crisis of 1997, women started to perceive themselves equal to their men. When companies reduced their workforce, this negatively affected the females, who were more laid off than the men. This theory states that women, who were sacked from their jobs, were disappointed in how men were treating them and abandoned their men in order to look for someone who had a deeper understanding of the female nature. 

Another theory suggests that Japanese manga was also a main influence in the “Flower Boy” phenomenon. The type of manga that features beautiful male leads (usually very feminine in looks, gentle and understanding in nature) who were in love with average girls — embodying the dream of every young girl. Many Japanese manga's became extensively well-known in Korea, which resulted in many manga being made into dramas.

Over time, Korean woman felt more conscious in choosing their men, and this, in turn, puts pressure on the males, which resulted in a lack of confidence. Males started to meet the women’s demand, and this resulted in what is considered a ‘Flower Boy’. As society underwent many changes, the media caught up and produced a trend of “Flower Boys” which started to appear on television, movies, and K-Pop. 

Many examples of dramas like Winter Sonata, where Bae Yong-Joon is introduced as a soft and gentle character. The Korean drama, Winter Sonata reminded the young female audiences of the beautiful male leads of bishonen manga, which soon became a wide success. This trend resulted in affecting Korean men of today, and outstandingly, the media fired up advertisements and images of the perceived image of the well-groomed man. All in all, this opened a new section of the cosmetic industry for the Korean men, and made it a success due to this phenomenon.

There is a huge amount of history on how feminine looking males came into play; however they are not new in Asian society and just a re-occurring trend from the past.

What is it about them that appeals to 21st century

Korean and many other Asian women tend to like a boy who is well-mannered, slim-figured, has delicate features, fashion sense and intelligence. When an Asian woman looks for a man, she tends to have one crucial requirement: the man’s height. This element may put down other Asians who do not meet these standards.

Let’s look at the reasons why women are attracted to the Flower Boys of today.

Firstly, the “Flower Boy Looks” must be well-defined in order to differentiate the word “handsome” and “pretty”. It may seem that in context, metrosexuals (men who take care of their physical appearance including everyday habits that are deemed “feminine”) is the word to describe the Flower Boys of today. Including popular “Flower Boys”, Jang Geun Suk and Kim Hyun Joong are known for their well-groomed, and polished looks. This is why paying millions in order to advertise these beauty products for their so-called “Flower Boys” looks is acceptable. The embarrassment of putting on face masks, and BB (Blemish Balm) creams is erased from Korean society and are accepted today. This attracts the Asian woman who likes their men clean, shaven, and smelling nice. In the recent movie, “You’re My Pet”, Jang Geun Suk has been criticized for being overly “Flower Boy” (stepping to fashion-styles that are more appropriate for a woman), and degrading men of today.

Secondly, the “Flower Boy Acts” also known as a “cute act” is receiving high praise from Asian women of today’s society. The term “aegyo” is where idol stars perform actions that they are not necessarily comfortable with. In Super Junior’s MV, “Rokuko”, Kim Heechul masters this term, but he is not the only one, as many K-Pop groups such as Shinee in “Hello”, B2ST, Jo Kwon from 2AM and Teen Top in “No More Perfume for you" also got the "aegyo" role in their repertoire.

Another reason for this “Flower Boy” phenomenon, is that the fans loves it, and there is a mysterious urge to pinch Flower Boy’s cheeks every time they do their “aegyo”. These acts are solely meant for entertainment.

Thirdly, “Flower Boys Charms” are some of the attributes that women look for in a man. This is a man who is unafraid to explore his cute, soft, and lovable side and also admits it! The biggest problem with the “Flower Boys” is to convince the girl that he is not a playboy, since he looks and acts “too good to be true".

Why are “Flower Boy” characters present only in Asian dramas, not in North American dramas?

Where are those masculine, tough-looking male figures in the Western world of today? Take a look at the male icons in the North American society, which are portrayed exactly the same in the media: The Overconfident, James Bond, The Womanizer, Chuck Bass (Gossip Girl), The Sporty-Masculine Attributes, Jay Pritchett (Modern Family) and The Physically Athletic, Muscular, Jacob Black (Twilight). With the abandonment of the Korean tough-looking male roles, the male-centered, patriarchal society decided to settle with many “Lee Min Ho’s”, “Jang Geun Suk’s”, “Jung II Woo’s”, and “Kim Hyun Joong".

There are tough-looking and demanding male characters in Asian dramas, but they aren’t as emphasized as the “Flower Boys” in dramas. Most female viewers are used to the male-dominated characters through American television shows and influences. However, most of them rather have the ‘Flower Boy’, over the fearless, strong male character.

Similarly, in successful Korean and other Asian dramas like “Hana Yori Dango”, “Boys Over Flowers”, “You’re Beautiful”, “Flower Boy Ramyun Shop”, “Me Too Flower”, “Flower Boy Next Door”, and more recently “Heirs” invest heavily in the term, “Flower Boys".

Coming in early October 2013, “Heirs” will be staring with our all-stars, Lee Min-Ho and Park Shin Hye, in another “Flower Boy” drama depicting the friendships and love lives of high school students from wealthy families. It is rumored to be a mix of “Gossip Girl” and “Boys Over Flowers”. Not only has the “Flower Boy” trend continued on until today, however it seems it will last for a while.

Flower boys are what every sane woman has  her hopes and dreams: men who are beautiful, gentle, kind, understanding, and cooperated rather than the tough and demanding. This is all about the hopes, dreams and needs of a woman around the globe. Women’s tastes have changed. This is no surprise to why the demand for ‘Flower Boys’ around the globe is continually rising.

Lastly, check out your EatYourKimchi youtubers’ video on how Westerners perceive the ‘Flower Boys’: